One of the reasons the Red Rising series is so satisfying is how layered the story is. On the surface, it might be easy to see one good side and one evil, but zoom in a tiny bit and the pieces quickly begin to separate into something much more complex. The same could be said for Lysander au Lune. He’s probably an easy character to dislike at this point in the story, but he’s also fascinating, with a trajectory that’s impossible to predict.
Spoiler alert: This article contains MAJOR SPOILERS from Dark Age and the books before it. If you’re not caught up, please kindly take your leave.
After reading Dark Age, there was so much to unpack from Lysander’s story that I had to do a full reread in order to process all of it, and frankly, I still don’t think I’m there. But I’m ready to talk about it, specifically focusing on two questions. Is Lysander a villain, and can he be redeemed? Spoiler alert: I don’t really have the answers to either of these questions, but as you’re about to find out, I have a lot of thoughts between them.
Is Lysander a Villain?
Lysander obviously serves as a major antagonist to Darrow and some serious opposition to the Republic. He could prove to be their biggest opposition. He had a decade to grow into adulthood away from the war, only to land in the middle of it with outside perspective and inside connections. He’s pro-Society and he certainly did enough damage in Dark Age. But is he a full-on villain at this point?
Lysander’s resume is substantial. He’s the heir of Silenius and House Lune, not to mention the grandson of two extremely powerful Golds (Octavia au Lune and Lorn au Arcos). He was raised by Octavia and trained by Cassius, so he’s bringing both brains and brawn to the table. He’s got that Mind’s Eye ability and some major strength behind him, thanks to the Praetorians. And now he’s engaged to one of the biggest bads presently in the worlds (Atalantia au Grimmus). Also, he’s secret pals with Apollonius au Valii-Rath.
On paper, Lysander seems primed to go full villain in the next installment of this story. But it may be too early to brand him with that title, and I’m not convinced he’s going to earn it by the end of this series.
I do wonder if I’m more inclined to want to give Lysander the benefit of the doubt because we’re following him on this journey. If he weren’t a POV character, would it be much easier to view his actions from other perspectives, brand him a villain and be done with it?
That brings me to the next topic…
We Need Lysander’s Perspective
As frustrating as it may be to follow a character who’s working against our heroes, looking at everything that’s going on with Lysander, it’s impossible to imagine this story fleshing out quite so well without understanding everything that’s going on around him. So, let’s zoom in a bit and see all of the pieces that have developed for Lysander by the end of Dark Age.
He’s a Gold Hero
Right now, the Golds seem thrilled to have Lysander back among the fold. The heir to Silenius is not only alive, but he managed to secure Mercury and face off against the Reaper, somewhat successfully. Atalantia may be feared, but Lysander is beloved. There’s a sense of reinvigoration among the Society by the end of Dark Age. Lysander recognized that advantage in time to leverage it to avoid assassination.
Cassius is Alive
…and Lysander knows it. Lysander saw Cassius rescue Darrow. He now knows his mentor is alive and working for the Republic. He’s sitting on that information right now. He also seems unhappy to have to go against him, but willing to all the same. He’s also pretty sure Diomedes had a hand in Cassius’ fake death, but he doesn’t know why. That’s an interesting piece to all of this that will hopefully come to light in Book 6.
As for his relationship with Cassius, has Lysander completely steeled himself against any remaining feelings of fondness for him? Or could Cassius still have influence over him? (I’d probably pose a similar question about Mustang, should she cross paths with Lysander at some point in the future.)
He’s Got the Broken slingBlade of His Childhood Idol Hanging on His Belt
It’s awful, I know. Lysander’s face-off with Darrow is one more major badge to wear in his rise to massive popularity and adoration among the Society. It’s also a pretty devastating blow to Darrow, who fortunately did manage to survive, albeit with a punctured lung. Lysander is unlikely to ever underestimate Darrow, having adored him and studied his Institute holos as a kid. Unlike some of Darrow’s other foes, Lysander seems to have a solid read on the Reaper.
He Found Out Octavia Had His Parents Killed
Thanks to Kalindora’s deathbed confession, Lysander now knows that Octavia had his parents killed and then erased his memory of them. Unsurprisingly, Lysander seems to have soured toward his grandmother and recognizes the depth of her cruelty. Is there some way he can get those memories back? Will any of them be relevant? Maybe the point of this was only for him to see what Octavia was truly capable of.
He’s in Bed With An Enemy-ish
Is Atalantia actually Lysander’s enemy? She’s certainly not the ally she appears to be on the surface, knowing what he now knows about her. And he seems willing to offer her up to Apollonius in exchange for his help. Atalantia may be Lysander’s fiance, but just how solid is the foundation of a relationship that blossoms from an attempt to avoid being assassinated? It doesn’t help that he now knows Atalantia was involved in his parents’ death. He has to pretend everything’s all fine and well.
How much resentment will brew as he continues to sleep with the woman who helped kill his parents. And is it possible that Atalantia will detect Lysander’s true feelings for her at some point?
He Just Lost Kalindora
Lysander seemed a bit bitter toward Kalindora at the end of Dark Age, having learned that she was also involved in the assassination of his parents. While this probably won’t have major ramifications toward the future, given that Kalindora died, she was a rare source of genuine affection for Lysander and now she’s gone.
Ajax Hates Him
Ajax already had issues with Lysander before he went and secured Mercury then stole his girlfriend away. The last we saw of Ajax in Dark Age, before he went off to Earth, I’m pretty sure he was drunk and seething with rage. A situation is brewing there and it seems like Lysander knows it.
I really don’t think we should discount Pytha or her choice to stay at Lysander’s side, even after she learned Cassius was alive. Is she sticking around because she genuinely cares about Lysander? Did she really come to that decision all on her own, or is it possible she had some contact with Cassius? That’s pure speculation. Regardless, Pytha is a piece of Lysander’s life from before all of this. Her influence could have an impact on him down the line. Or she’s just trying to spy on him on behalf of Cassius. Maybe both.
He’s Got a Secret Alliance with Apollonius
Honestly, if this were a ranked list, this item would need to be near the top because there’s so much potential for this pairing to go somewhere interesting. Let’s face it, anywhere the Minotaur goes is going to be interesting. At the end of Dark Age, Lysander staged a secret meeting with Apollonius to offer him his enemies on a platter (and the Mind’s Eye), in exchange for his blade and cunning mind.
I can’t help but wonder if this alliance is legit on either side. They have their own grudges and their own objectives, but their interests may be parallel enough for this team-up to cause some serious damage.
His Mother Was A Reformer
Lysander has no memories of his parents, but Kalindora told him his mother, Anastasia, was a reformer. She was planning a coup with Nero au Augustus and Revus au Raa before she was killed. We don’t get any more information, other than that Lysander’s mother loved him dearly.
What were her ultimate objectives in her planned coup against Octavia? Was she simply trying to remove a tyrant from rule and restore Society to its original Compact? Or did she have a deeper vision for the future of humanity? Maybe it doesn’t matter. But it could.
Can Lysander Be Redeemed?
I think that covers the major factors surrounding Lysander right now. Given everything we know about him, is Lysander even meant to be redeemable at this point? It may very well be a hot take to pose the question at all. Are we watching the slow rise of what could be the Republic’s most formidable foe? Someone who’s smart enough to learn from the mistakes of the Golds who came before him, eliminate the weaknesses on his own side and push forward toward a more sustainable, revamped Society? Or is he going to realize that there is no version of a Society that isn’t run by ruthless Golds and switch sides?
I can’t decide.
I kind of love that.