Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society's mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within. Finally, the time has come. But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied - and too glorious to surrender.
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The story of Darrow and his compatriots has been one of the purest pleasures of my recent memory. It is at once literary on the grandest of scales, comparable to Tolkien or Herbert, yet manages to encapsulate pulsating and driving action. There is an inaudible, but extremely present, heart thumping beat throughout this series and this finale.
I have long been a fan of the third act in a trilogy- for example I am more of a Jedi fan than Empire, even though I know Empire is objectively the better movie. I feel similarly about this book. Golden Son was, I feel, a better book. But, I love Morning Star the most because we have, in its words, the conclusion and driving point of the sword. It has hit its mark, deep in our souls. I, for one, am a better person for having heard this story. The message contained within is not one of violence for violence's sake, but rather one obsessed with the perils of humanity. What drives us. What makes our souls weep in joy and sadness. This is not to say that vengeance isn't part of the story- some of the most important moments in history and humanity have been fueled by vengeance. As it is with violence. But also love, forgiveness, and the capacity to change. Honor. Loyalty.
Brown takes us on a journey that tries, and succeeds, to balance these ideas masterfully. We are plunged into sadness and taken to the heights of victory, only to have the two become one in the end. Death begets death, begets death.
I was afraid, ever so slightly, that Brown would lose the momentum in this third book, that he would fall into some trap of writing or storyline inconsistency. This was, thankfully, a deeply unfounded fear. The storylines merged seamlessly in the end, to a truly satisfying conclusion. Please notice that this does not spoil anything- only that I thought the ending fit. There were many options and I am content with the one Brown chose.
At the beginning of this review I spoke of Tolkien and Herbert. I am going to say something which many may find offensive or wrong- I believe Brown has beaten them both, as well as many others. This series is, in my most humble opinion, the pinnacle of science fiction or fantasy. It does not matter in this listener's opinion if others agree since I have had the absolute joy of experiencing this story; for this I am quite thankful.
My highest marks possible, the book (and series) against which all others are judged. Magnificent.
Split the atom's heart, and lo! Within it thou wilt find a sun. -Persian Mystic Poem
Not great, but good enough. Finished the series. It was popcorn with butter. And, sometimes, what you want is popcorn with butter. This isn't Isaac Asimov or Philip K Dick. Pierce Brown isn't aiming for great SciFi lit. He's aiming for movie rights, readers, and finds an unplowed row between Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, Divergent, Star Wars, and Game of Thrones. It is a steroid Space Opera with the subtlety of a freight train filled with frat boys.
I think the strength of Brown is his characters and his occasionally artful phrase. His weaknesses is he sometimes runs into SciFi cliche, his plots are fairly predictable, and the whole set-up is far too clean. It was written to be a large-budget movie more than a novel. It was written to sell, too option, and yes read, but not to feed or inspire.
When I remember they are written more for my teenage kids, I am more forgiving. Not everyone can write with the messy heart of Philip K Dick or the control of Dan Simmons. Brown can write about death and suffering and still make it feel warm and sunny. His prose lacks the gravitas to REALLY pull off suffering. When Brown writes about death, it feels like a teenager writing about sex or a white man writing about racism. I know I'm probably taking this review and the whole series way more serious than I need too. I don't think it breaks any new ground. I don't think the stakes are huge. It is entertainment for the masses. It is SciFi bread and circuses, and I guess that is fine for a couple days. Watching gladiators battle in space is always good for a bit of blood and even made me forget Trump for a couple minutes every day. And that IS a good thing.