Brown presents the second installment of his epic science-fiction trilogy, and like the first (Red Rising, 2014), it’s chock-full of interpersonal tension, class conflict and violence.
The opening reintroduces us to Darrow au Andromedus, whose wife, Eo, was killed in the first volume. Also known as the Reaper, Darrow is a lancer in the House of Augustus and is still looking for revenge on the Golds, who are both in control and in the ascendant. The novel opens with a galactic war game, seemingly a simulation, but Darrow’s opponent, Karnus au Bellona, makes it very real when he rams Darrow’s ship and causes a large number of fatalities. In the main narrative thread, Darrow has infiltrated the Golds and continues to seek ways to subvert their oppressive and dominant culture. The world Brown creates here is both dense and densely populated, with a curious amalgam of the classical, the medieval and the futuristic. Characters with names like Cassius, Pliny, Theodora and Nero coexist—sometimes uneasily—with Daxo, Kavax and Sevro. And the characters inhabit a world with a vaguely medieval social hierarchy yet containing futuristic technology such as gravBoots. Amid the chronological murkiness, one thing is clear—Darrow is an assertive hero claiming as a birthright his obligation to fight against oppression: "For seven hundred years we have been enslaved….We have been kept in darkness. But there will come a day when we walk in the light." Stirring—and archetypal—stuff.
Comparisons to The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones series are inevitable, for this tale has elements of both—fantasy, the future and quasi-historicism.