Morning Star by Pierce Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I read only three books in the last month. Which is sad. But two were from this trilogy, so there's that. This book was read during some really testing times for me. And it has grabbed five stars, all deserved ones.
I am not going to comment on individual character or world building here. Suffice it to say they are really good, especially for a first trilogy from an author. The author acknowledges the influence of roman culture and history in this trilogy, so I will not hold that as a grudge against him.
This book started off with some intense violence, sometimes sexual, in the first book. In the process of getting to the third book though, it has matured extraordinarily. I can justify the violence without having to stretch the reasoning to accommodate anything anomalous. Though this is classified as sf, there is nothing that even remotely resembles science in some of the sf elements. I guess it is normal, since this is not Asimov we are talking about. Science took a backseat to the narrative.
And the narrative is very smooth with few bumps, nothing too conspicuous. Darrow makes some mistakes through out the trilogy and it makes the book all the more my favorite. I want my heroes to be human, blood and sweat, gore and pain, mistakes and glories, failures and victories, all in a loosely held package, punctured at places by betrayals, supported by friendships, taught by life, laughed at by the same life. Somehow, that brings the hero closer to me, not because I am arrogant enough to claim to have seen all those things, but because, on a fundamental level, it tells me the hero can fail and it is OK to fail.
Darrow fails, sometimes embarrassingly enough, but he fails gracefully. He takes the beating and rises, humbled by the experience. This book can wrench your heart, make you jubilant and induce you to cry out, "HIC SUNT LEONES" and then look at the ground sheepishly because everyone is looking at you, wondering what fell out of your head.
Another important aspect of the book I liked a lot is the way it chose to portray friendships. Roque's betrayal hurt me as much as it would have hurt Darrow, but it also made me sympathise with him. There was a honour, even in Roque's betrayal. Mustang's friendship and it's later mutation, was a very important anchor in the plot. Characters mature with the plot.
Characters like Sevro, Ragnar, Dancer make you want to wish you had people like that in life. And grateful for the ones you have already. There is a good sprinkling of Twists, good amount of humour, albeit somewhat insipid, but there nonetheless. You end up longing for more. And that is more than what you can ask for.
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