Catching the Reaper doesn't mean you can keep him.
There exist numerous shades between black and white.
Few stand out so clearly as those rendered in color.
Darrow was a Red, once. His metamorphosis began when he was sixteen; when his wife Eo was hung in front of her people for singing a subversive song about their Gold rulers. Darrow wanted to die with her, back then. And, depending on your point of view, he was fortunate enough to be given another choice: to rebel from his lowColor Red status and infiltrate the mighty Golds who rule all, or die. Darrow chose life.
To infiltrate the Golds, Darrow had to lie down on a table and endure the torture of being Carved into one of them.
In Morning Star, we find Darrow again on a table; again being tortured. The betrayal of a close friend put Darrow in the Jackal’s hands, and, after torturing Darrow for valuable information he can use to put down the rebellion Darrow began, the Jackal encases Darrow inside a stone table for his own amusement.
Unbeknownst to Darrow, he was unmasked as a lowColor Red months ago; his Carving — the exquisitely painful reshaping of flesh, bone, and muscle into that of the larger, more powerful Golds — shown freely among the worlds by the rebels who followed him in his former Gold guise. Back then, Darrow was known as the Reaper.
But Darrow doesn’t know any of this, as he’s pried out of the table he’s been entrapped in for nine months. He’s known indescribable pain. He has no reason to expect anything but more of the same.
Darrow is afraid.
His fear follows him even when his own people locate and rescue him. Fear that he can no longer be the Reaper; a confident, unbroken man who knew only what it was to be powerful. A Gold who led his friends into great battles. A winner.
What Darrow didn’t realize before, in his relentless push forward to overthrow the Golds, was how much he relied on the strength of his friends. How much their belief in him gave him the will to keep fighting. That their belief hasn’t collapsed in light of discovering that Darrow is a lowColor Red is the only thing, after his rescue, that gives him the will to overcome the pain of his rehabilitation.
As Darrow regains his strength, he learns that the battle is not going well. The Jackal is pinning every attack that takes civilian lives on the rebels. He and the other Golds deem them terrorists, all hellbent on tearing apart the careful order Golds have maintained for countless centuries.
Despite the Jackal’s claims, the rebellion continues.
In an attempt to wrench the teeth out of the uprising, the Jackal had executed a look-alike Darrow shortly after capturing the real one. His approach didn’t work. Now the Jackal hopes to put down the rebellion by bombing the population on Mars and blaming the genocide on Darrow’s people.
Darrow must stop him. And as he strives to do so, it is inevitable that he will be caught out; that in his offensive against the Gold regime, a glimpse of his face will be seen by the public. He knows it. His trusted confidantes know it. So Darrow carefully plots his reappearance with the same level of detail his friends did, in pulling him off the table he was destined to die on. His goal is the same as theirs once was: to restore the hearts of those who have the power to build a better world together.
Hearts are restored with Darrow’s reemergence, but the fight still rages on. Hearts, too, are emptied of their precious lifeblood in the push forward to gain upper ground. Blood is the price of war, and bodies the temporary trophies victors stand over to cement their triumph. Darrow desires no bodies to stand over. All he wants is a world where all colors are equal.
To get it, he must fight.
Having read Red Rising and Golden Son, I was familiar with the furious pace of Brown’s work, but in this, the final installment in the trilogy, Brown ups the ante considerably. So much so that at times, it felt as if my eyes were tripping over one another to get to the next sentence. In large part, this was due to Brown’s lack of sentimentality.
No one is safe in Morning Star. Any character, beloved or despised, might meet an ugly, or noble death. No battle is a guaranteed victory. Strange bedfellows are made, then betrayed. Best friends side with the enemy. Sister maims sister. Sons plot their mothers death. And, through it all, the greatest accomplishment on Brown’s part is that he sustains this level of ignorance and suspense throughout the entire book. There is no predicting where the plot will veer next.
It is a most welcome gift. And because of it, I found myself vacillating from unmitigated joy to the blackest desire for vengeance, all the way to the very end of this stellar book. Darrow may have wished for a colorless society, but in the end, it is his colors I can’t forget.
The Red blood he sacrificed that others might be free.
The heart of Gold that pumped it.