Dark Age has arrived. We’ve waited well over a year for the fifth book in Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series to release, and I feel confident in saying that Dark Age is worth every extra day it took to get here, and then some. Four books in, I feel like I should be used to this rollercoaster of emotions, and yet nothing really prepared me for the ride Pierce Brown took us on with the latest installment.
No Major Spoilers Ahead
I want to preface this by assuring you that I won’t be getting into any plot specifics. If you want a description for the book, you can find the official synopsis here.
However, I will be dropping some of my general reactions and feelings about Dark Age, so if you’re really only looking for the bottom line, read no further than this paragraph and know that I loved every page of this book. Iron Gold reset the stage with the next part of the Red Rising story. Dark Age takes that stage and runs with it, hard and in many directions. Dark Age is so many things, among them, thrilling, suspenseful, and excellently paced. It also packs an emotional pulseFisted punch. If you’re caught up through Iron Gold and haven’t picked up Dark Age yet, get on it, my goodman.
Now, for the five biggest things I bloodydamn loved about Dark Age.
The Story Feels More Balanced Among Its POVs
Iron Gold had a lot of heavy lifting to do. Not only did the fourth book in the Red Rising series have to reintroduce us to the story ten years after the events of Morning Star, but it also introduced us to three new POVs and asked us to become invested in them, if not enough to love them as we do Darrow, but to — at the very least — follow them far enough into their stories to see how everything would fit together. Dark Age delivers the dividends of that investment, as the stakes are raised for all of the POV characters.
Darrow is still near the center of the story, but since Iron Gold, he’s no longer dead center. The added points of view force us away from his perspective and into other parts of the book’s universe. As the stories begin to close in on one another, Lyria, Lysander and Ephraim are much closer to the action in Dark Age. With every shift of POV, I found myself temporarily frustrated to leave the last one behind and then almost immediately enthralled in what was happening with whoever’s piece came next. With so much going on, not a chapter is wasted in bringing us to its conclusion.
And then there’s Mustang, the newest POV character, who really deserves her own place on this list…
When we learned that Mustang would be a POV character in Dark Age, I was fairly certain I was setting my expectations impossibly high for her chapters. I was wrong about that, as it turns out. After four books of seeing Mustang mostly through Darrow’s eyes, Dark Age finally gives us a look into Virginia’s mind and it’s pretty spectacular. We’ve gotten glimpses of her brilliance, her compassion, her love for Darrow and Pax and her determination to be the leader the Republic deserves, but Dark Age offers a much better view and a deeper understanding of how she thinks and feels about what’s going on around her.
As long as Dark Age is, I would’ve been totally content to read chapters of filler from Mustang’s perspective. But Dark Age has no time for filler…
The Pace Is Perfect
At more than 750 pages, Dark Age is no joke. And yet, the story manages to maintain fantastic pace throughout. As we jump around the Core between Darrow, Ephraim, Mustang, Lyria and Lysander’s points of view, the book never loses its stride. There’s so much purpose to every step Dark Age takes. Shit escalates, then escalates some more.
Fortunately, we do get the occasional breather here and there, as this book delivers some big emotional moments…
It Inspires A Lot Of Emotions
I’m going to be vague here, because talking about how I felt about anything is going to cause me to want to talk about literally everything. Instead, I’ll just drop some of the emotions I felt throughout this book, in no particular order: Excited, afraid, awestruck, devastated, enraged, enthralled, intrigued, elated, disturbed and thrilled. More than a few of those feelings are repeated in different spots throughout the book.
With its twists and (occasionally brutal) turns, Dark Age runs most of the feelings gamut. And yet, I wouldn’t say I was emotionally drained by the end of it. If anything, I feel more ready than ever to find out what happens next…
It Sets Up So Much
The second book in the original Red Rising trilogy expanded the story’s universe. Golden Son not only took us into the next stage of Darrow’s efforts to free his people, it also gave us a better view of the players on the board, many of whom had their own personal or political objectives. Dark Age has a similar effect in spacing out its heroes and villains, developing new and existing characters with their own interests amidst shared goals. In doing so, it not only gives us more to understand and love about the heroes, it also gives us better insight into who and what they’re up against.
This has never been a simple story of good vs. evil. People are a bit more complex than that, and from the way he writes his characters, I’m guessing Pierce Brown is well aware. Of all the things I loved about Dark Age, what stands out most is how many directions my mind went when it all wrapped up. Dark Age develops numerous new and existing character arcs across the board, many of which are tied together in intriguing ways. The story is undoubtedly primed for whatever conclusion awaits in Book 6.