Book Reviews

Book Review: Morning Star

Title: Morning Star
Author: Pierce Brown
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Space, Adventure

What It’s About: Since being captured at his Triumph, Darrow has been kept in a pitch black box along with his thoughts and regrets by the Jackal. The darkness is occasionally broken by torture at the hand of the Jackal and antagonizing voices, most of which Darrow has begun to believe are his own imagination. He has no idea how long he’s been kept in the box and tortured, but he is aware that the torture and isolation had been enough to coerce him into giving up intel on the Sons of Ares and his own family.

Because of this intel, he is teased by the Jackal with the details on the state of his family’s torture and demise, leading Darrow to decide to commit suicide before he can give up any more information in the next torture round. He begins to smash his head against the side of the box, when the floor begins to move upward and a silver of light appears above him. It’s the first light he’s seen in who knows how long, leaving him blinded and disoriented, but as he rises into what sounds like a dinner party, he makes out the familiar voices of Aja au Grimmus, the Jackal, Antonia au Julii, Thistle, Lilith and Cassius.

Darrow recognizes the Jackal’s estate in Attica and it dawns on him that he has been enduring torture and isolation mere feet below the Jackal’s dining and entertaining room. From the mere conversations he hears, he is able to gather that the Howlers and the Sons have not been found, but instead are hiding in a city known as Tinos. Further sensing the tensions, he learns that the Jackal is now the Arch Governor of Mars and that he has kept Darrow captive for 9 months. Now Darrow is to be handed over to the Sovereign so that the Sovereign’s contingent may dissect him and learn how a Red managed to turn Gold. Those loyal to the Sovereign are disgusted with Darrow’s circumstances–he is now a husk of his former self, covered in scars, malnourished and naked, resulting in Cassius covering Darrow in his own cloak.

Due to his physical state, the Sovereign’s contingent want him to be checked by a doctor to ensure that he is well enough for travel. After a painful hosing and more torture by the doctor, Darrow watches as the head of the Yellow doctor and the Grays around him explode, expertly assassinated by two Greys in the group, who in turn reveal themselves to be siblings–Holiday and Trigg ti Nakamura. Believing that it’s another trick by the Jackal, Darrow refuses their help until Holiday contacts Sevro, who now wears the mask of Ares, and Sevro assures Darrow that Holiday and Trigg are there to help him. Sevro also confirms that Darrow’s family is safe and has been the whole time. Holiday and Trigg inject Darrow with a “Nakamura special,” a concoction that can raise the dead, and gives Darrow a boost.

The three of them escape, only to find themselves stuck in an elevator with Vixus au Sarna, one of Titus’ men from the Institute who was responsible for Lea’s death, who in turn taunts Darrow that Victra au Julii is still alive. Underestimating his strength, Darrow attacks him, and Holiday and Trigg end up having to subdue Vixus, but this makes Darrow very adamant on getting Victra out. Despite Holiday’s protests, they find Victra being subjected to the opposite form of Darrow’s torture–bright lights and constant noise–resulting in her being extremely distrustful of everyone and everything. This forces them to tranquilize Victra, and Darrow kills Vixus, leaving his body in Victra’s cell.

The team escapes using plan C, having alerted the Jackal’s men. Holiday and Trigg use their expert marksman skills to lead them through Attica towards a landing platform towards whatever plan C would be, where they are cornered by Aja and Cassius. In the ensuing fight, Holiday is gravely wounded, and Aja kills Trigg, while Cassius gives an unconvincing plea for Darrow to surrender. Still conscious out of the whole group, Darrow hears the recognizable hum and growl of a clawDrill, and as Cassius and Aja move closer, he grabs Holiday and Victra. Then with them in hand, he jumps off the platform, telling them that they will never understand that what they do not know. As Darrow jumps, the ground opens up and the Sons of Ares pour up through the hole made by the clawDrill, saving them in the nick of time. Sevro catches Victra, and Ragnar catches both Darrow and Holiday, escaping into a hole, where Darrow passes out.

Two days later, Darrow wakes up in Tinos, the City of Ares, to find his mother and his uncle, Narol, alongside Dancer. Dancer tells him that Harmony was responsible for the raid on the Sons compound, not the Archgovernor, and so Dancer managed to escape. Darrow then learns that he was with the Jackal for almost a year, and three months into his custody at the Jackal’s , they ‘executed’ him on the live streams. Only Sevro held out hope that Darrow was alive, and had been searching for him all the time even while everyone else had given up on Darrow’s life and told Sevro to move on. It was Sevro that five days prior got intel that a ‘package’ was being moved from Attica, and believed the package to be Darrow, so he organized the rescue. Dancer wants to do a full debrief with Darrow, who tells him to come back tomorrow, as he wants to spend time with his family. Then Sevro and Ragnar take him on a small tour of Tinos, where he finds out that Ares has been busy extracting Reds and other Sons sympathizers, which were then relocated to Tinos. Things unfortunately are not as good as they could be because Tinos is growing more populous and the resources are becoming more scarce, resulting in poverty and crime gripping the city as people are getting hungry. Sevro indicates that Cassius killed his father, Fitchner, the original Ares, and he’s taken the helm.

Dancer then has the official briefing with Darrow, where Darrow learns that not only Golds and Sons are fighting, but so are Golds warring with each other. Aside from Darrow’s Triumph, the Sovereign also targeted her rivals among the outer rim, killing one of the members from the Rim, knowing that she had many of their children as hostages on Luna. Unfortunately for her, the children escaped and the Moon Lords declared their independence. Darrow finds out that his friend, Roque au Fabii, has been making quite a name for himself controlling the Sword Armada, as he engaged the Moon Lords’ fleet; Mustang in the meantime had been helping the Moon Lords, but after their crushing defeat at the hand of Roque, she has seemingly disappeared. On Mars, the Jackal had been purging any Red mines that have any hint of insurrection, and a new faction, the Red Legion, has started in the North, with Harmony as their leaders, and the Red Legion has started killing any high colors they come across. The last piece of information that Darrow finds out is that after Darrow’s death, all seemed lost and Sevro was losing the control of the Sons, so he released Darrow’s carving to the entire Solar System. In effect, he made Darrow a martyr, and while he stands behind his decision, the news upsets Darrow deeply.

Darrow speaks with Victra, telling her that Mickey, the carver will fix them, but that he thinks she could play an important role within the Sons and that he trusts her completely, like a family member. He gives her the chance to leaves, but Victra makes the decision to stay, swearing to only get her revenge.

As promised, Darrow and Victra are made whole again by Mickey, and to get back into the swing of things, they join the Pit Vipers, an elite Sons force second only to the Howlers. The two Gold’s natural leadership and razor skills quickly bring them back up to speed, mission after mission making it possible to do the work. Then one night, Victra, Darrow and Holiday are inducted into the Howlers in what appears to be a hazing fashion just in time to start their first mission.

The mission turns out to be a kidnapping of the financial head of the society–Regulus ag Sun, known as Quicksilver. Darrow learns along the way that Sevro intends to blow up Phobos, the moon, where not only Quicksilver has his headquarters, but also a large portion of the Society’s Helium-3 is mined and stored. The destruction would kill millions of lowColors living on the surface while also plunging the entirety of the Society into economic turmoil. This plan, Sevro’s brash tactics and his own experiences from the torture, has Darrow doubting Sevro’s ability to lead. After the group scales the glass building, entering Quicksilver’s home, and making their way through several rooms, when they find Matteo, the Pink who taught Darrow about Gold culture when he was first carved. Darrow realizes that something is wrong and convinces Sevro from killing the pink, but when he raises his concerns, he is overruled by Sevro, who tells him that they cannot let the chance pass and the group storms the conference room.

Inside, they are surprised to find a meeting between Quicksilver, Cassius au Bellona, Moira au Grimmus, Death Knight, Mustang, Kavax au Telemanus, and Daxo au Telemanus. Darrow does not want anyone at the negotiations to be hurt, especially Mustang. Processing what he is seeing and trying to make sure nothing breaks out, Darrow tries to tell everyone to stay calm, only to have Sevro cut off his microphone so no one can hear him. This results in confusion in which everyone in the conference room prepares to fight, which in turn confirms Darrow’s suspicions about Sevro–he does nothing to stop the fighting and seems to even welcome it. In the ensuing fight, Moira and the Death Knight are killed, Kavax and Quicksilver are captured by the Howlers, and Mustang, Daxo and Cassius escape–only after Mustang crosses blades with Darrow. During that attack, Darrow’s helmet breaks open, Mustang recognizes him, and tells him that Orion and the Pax are alive and well, giving him hope that they can be reunited.

Sevro plans to fight their way out, but Darrow knows that there is no chance to do so, so he takes control of the Howlers and starts implementing his new plan. They secure the entryways and they are all bound together as Holiday is ordered to bring the ship up to their level. Quicksilver’s security forces and a killer robot enter the room, turning on the gravity, and forcing everyone to flatten on their stomachs, save for Ragnar, who uses his pulsefist on the window to blast it open. This results in everyone being sucked into the vacuum of space, but Holiday catches them before anyone is seriously hurt. Onboard, they interrogate Quicksilver and find out that he was a founding member of the Sons of Ares with Sevro’s father. He was the one who funded nearly all the Sons’ activity, which surprises them a lot, and he reveals that he believed in the same mission as Fitchner, because of his relationship with Matteo, with whom he is in a long term relationship. Quicksilver asks after Matteo, and they tell him that he’s safe at home. An argument then breaks out between Sevro and Darrow because Sevro wants to blow up the moon. As the argument continues, the two of them make up and Sevro reveals that the responsibility that has come with the Helm of Ares has been too much for him, at which point he accepts that Darrow should take the reins of strategy for their rebellion.

Darrow’s plan starts with taking control of the moon, rousing all the lowColors to take control of every tower, ship and armory, and with the lowColors already controlling the vital controls, it’s easy for them to take control of the moon. While the Golds escape the moon, the Howlers set off on their new missions. Darrow and Ragnar are about to leave on one of Quicksilver’s ships to do their own portion of the plan, only to find Mustang in their way, and she joins them, explaining that she was pursuing peace with the Sovereign so that together they could get rid of the Jackal. She claims that there was no other option to go forward with Darrow dead.

Their mission is to bring Ragnar to the South Pole of Mars, where the bulk of Obsidians live so that he may convince his mother, Alia Snowsparrow and the rest of the Obsidian leaders to join the uprising. Along the way, they are attacked by Cassius and Aja in their ship and their ship is hot down. Ragnar manages to hit Cassius’ ship with a shoulder-fired rocket launcher, and after a close call on the ice caps of Mars, when their ship slips under the water, Darrow, Holiday, Mustang, and Ragnar go in search for the other ship. They do find it, only to encounter cannibalistic outcast Obsidians already taken over. They chase them out, and camp inside the ship for the night, to stay safe from the elements. The following morning, they begin to follow the trail of dead bodies that Cassius, Aja and their contingent left behind. Darrow has the idea of ambushing them, and asks Ragnar if he can take on Aja while he fights Cassius. Ragnar confidently answer that he can hold her off, and they plan out the ambush. The Grey with Aja and Cassius gets killed instantly, and as Darrow attacks Cassius, Ragnar goes for Aja. In the ensuing fight, Mustang manages to hit Cassius with an arrow to the throat, but Aja mortally wounds Ragnar before escaping down a ravine. Ragnar’s Sister, Sefi the Quiet, arrives just in time for Ragnar’s final words after investigating the crashes herself.

She takes it upon herself to take Darrow, Holiday, and Mustang as well as the still-breathing Cassius and Ragnar’s body back to her mother. Mustang and Darrow find Alia difficult to convince, and Mustang quickly comes to the realization that Ragnar was going to kill Alia. Darrow, at first is resistant to the idea, promising himself to spare lives, but ultimately, he realizes that there is no other choice. Alia commands Sefi and her group of Obsidians to take the prisoners to the Gods, who are really the Gold overlords of the Obsidian domain. These Golds pose as Norse Gods in order to control the Obsidians and their customs. As Sefi takes them up the steps to the Gods, Mustang and Darrow convince her to allow them to show her that their gods are false–which they do by killing them, and taking over the mountain. They then bring the Gold’s bodies back to Alia, which have no effect on the Queen. Darrow, Mustang and Sefi suspect Alia to have known about the false gods from the beginning, and Alia does reveal as much shortly after, unbeknownst to her that Sefi is listening. Sefi kills her mother, claims her crown, and tells everyone that The Valkyrie (her group of warriors) ride to war.

In the meantime, back at Phobos, Sevro’s mission was to take control of the Jackal’s fleet when they attempt to take back the moon, which Sevro completes successfully when the troops unload from the ships, leaving them empty. When they return to Tinos, Darrow finds his mother and Mustang sharing a moment, talking to each other, which abruptly stops when he walks in. Wondering what it’s about, he later asks Mustang about it, and she tells him that they were talking about him.

With the new fleet, and the Jackal’s attention on Phobos, the Rising evacuates the Obsidians from Mars, taking many of them to Tinos. This further strains the problems already present in the city, and the sudden increase of the Obsidians in the Rising’s army along with Ragnar’s sudden death, worries a lot of people of all the Colors of Society. During a conversation with Cassius, who is a prisoner of the Rising now, Darrow finds out that the meeting with Quicksilver was about finding a common ground because the Sovereign’s stockpile of nuclear weapons was stolen, supposedly by the Jackal.

Now that Darrow has ship and soldiers, he turns his focus on the Sword armada in the Outer Worlds, commanded by Roque, and his Lieutenants, Antonia and Thistle. They meet with Orion on their journey to the Moons of Jupiter, and then Darrow and Mustang meet with the leader of the Moon Lords, Romulus au Raa, who also has Roque as his guest. As part of the rules–so long as they are Romulus’ guests, they will not be attacked and this is neutral ground. Romulus invites the two factions together so they may bid for the Moon Lord’s support.

At first it appears like Roque has the better chance and better terms to Romulus au Raa, despite Darrow’s promise to leave the Moons out of the Rising and give up the name of any Sons of Ares cells in these regions. But then Darrow wins the bid by bringing up the fact that Romulus’ own niece was killed at Darrow’s Triumph, where Roque betrayed him, and reminds Romulus of the destruction of Rhea. He then shares the intel that he got from Cassius–that the nuclear warheads are in the asteroid belt between the Core and the Rim. Roque seems to be unaware of these weapons, indicating that Sovereign had trusted very few with this information, and Romulus assumes that the Sovereign stored these weapons there so that they may be easily grabbed by any fleet on their way to put down a rebellion in the Rim. Even though Roque does not have these warheads, he ends up paying for their existence as Romulus joins Darrow against the Sword Armada.

Darrow knows Roque and knows that he will be expecting a head strong plan of action from Reaper of Mars, so he uses that against his old friend as he starts the attack on the sword armada. Darrow copies Sevro’s tactic on Phobos to an extent, by hiding a number of clawDrills hidden inside the pax, which he releases into the air as they get close to Roque’s main ship, the Colossus, with Sefi’s Valkyries and melt their way through the ship. Darrow, Victra, Sefi and Holiday enter the Bridge of the ship after fighting their way through the halls, when a Pink betrays Roque by opening the door for them. Darrow is unable to talk Roque down, and Roque kills himself referring to the enduring honor of the society. Before broadcasting their control over the Colossus, Darrow orders the ship to target the docks of Ganymede, the economic and militaristic center of the Moon Lords. He receives a call from Romulus through his intercom, telling him that Roque is attacking Ganymede, and imploring Darrow to do something about it, who in turn tells Romulus that he will try his best. Nothing happens and Ganymede gets destroyed, with Romulus believing that the destruction was Roque’s last, desperate act on behalf of the Sovereign before Darrow was able to capture and control of the ship.

This attack on Ganymede effectively destroys any ability of the Moons to wage war, which Darrow believes will be for 50 years or so, protecting the core and the rising from having to fight a two-front battle. At the same time, it is the sacrifice of millions of people. As Darrow has taken over the Colossus, it is renamed the Morning Star, in honor of Ragnar. The fate of the Sword Armada is sealed when Sevro’s trap is sprung and Antonia retreats with her mother’s ship, enabling them to capture her as they head back to Mars. Victra is the one that captures her half-sister’s escaping ships.

They throw Antonia and Thistle in cells side by side to see if they can get information out of them, and watch as the two women bicker over the information. Antonia ends up bashing in Thistle’s head in hopes of securing her own future as the knowledgeable prisoner. In response, Victra beats Antonia to within an inch of her life before she is pulled off. In the meantime, the Jackal broadcasts the capture and execution of Darrow’s uncle, Narol,while Sefi’s Valkyries instigate a riot onboard the ship over the excuse of not executing the Golds. In his usual dramatic fashion, Sevro wears the Helm of Areas, mocks the trial of Cassius by doing backflips from the gallows after pushing Cassius off, and as a result Sefi cuts Cassius down, ending the insurrection. The budding romance between Victra and Sevro has over the course of their time together budded into something serious, and the two are married onboard, joined under the house Barca name.

Instead of going to Mars, they change course for Luna in hopes of catching the Sovereign and the Jackal unprepared. Once they arrive, Mustang, Sevro and Darrow approach Cassius, telling him that they are prepared to let him go as long as he swears to never take up arms in this conflict. Cassius agrees, and is released, only to grab Sevro’s gun, shoot Sevro multiple time in the chest, and forces Darrow, Mustang and Sevro into a laundry basket. He releases Antonia, and the two escape to the ship that Darrow already scheduled for Cassius’ escape. When they arrive on Luna, the Jackal forces Cassius to cut off Darrow’s sword hand in return for Darrow’s gift at the Institute, and then he takes Sevro’s scorcher as a token of his slain enemy. They all then go to the underground center of the Sovereign’s impenetrable fortress, where the Sovereign, her grandson Lysander, three Olympic Knights including Aja, and a bunch of elite soldiers are hunkered down. The foot soldiers are asked to leave and secure the area, as the Sovereign does not trust any non-Golds. She then turns her attention to Antonia, who expects praise and commendation, but is met with the consequences of her actions. The Sovereign believes that Roque did indeed fire on Ganymede but also knows that he died honorably in battle by ending his own life before he could be used by the Sons for anything. Antonia, on the other hand, left her Imperator to save her own skin, fleeing the battle, and as a result she is executed by Aja. The Sovereign then sentences the Reaper to death, asking that the act be carried out live on the TV.

The cameras start rolling and the Jackal begs to have the honor of executing Darrow, which after a long-winded speech, Octavia grants. When the Jackal pulls Sevro’s gun out to kill Darrow and pulls the trigger, the gun clicks and in the same moment, Cassius kills the Sovereign’s Praetorian Guards in the back. The cameras then capture the moment as Cassius slays the Truth Knight and releases Darrow and Mustang. One-handedly, Darrow battles with Octavia, and ultimately fatally stabs her while also then pinning the Jackal to the ground with a razor through the arm. He then kills the Joy Knight from behind, leaving Ragnar’s killer–Aja–the only one standing. Aja manages to hold out despite the three-on-one odds, and Darrow rushes over to the dead Sevro, injecting him with the Nakamur special, which is also enough to counter the effects of the haemanthus oil he was given prior to Cassius shooting him. Sevro shoots up from the injection, and launches himself at Aja, ultimately turning the tide and slaying her.

Before she dies, the Sovereign tells them that they must stop Adrius, the Jackal, who even while pinned to the floor, starts to laugh maniacally. He reveals that he’s able to be so brazen around Octavia and Aja because he had stolen the nuclear weapons and hidden them all around Luna. He claims that he will have Lilath detonate one nuclear weapon per minute until Darrow kills himself. After a few detonations, Darrow rips out the Jackal’s tongue, taking away his true weapon. He then contacts Victra who is leading the battle in the skies in hopes that she will be able to destroy Lilt’s ship, but Victra cannot because she is too far away, and more nuclear blasts rock the surface of Luna. It is Lysander, Octavia’s grandson who was spared from the bloodbath, who suggests the they reach out to his Godfather, the Ash Lord, saying that Rhea haunts the Ash Lord, and he will surely help prevent another destruction of a planet. Sure enough, the idea works, the Ash Lord shoots Lilath’s ship down with the help of the Rising’s forces, but not without Lilath detonating 12 nuclear bombs, killing tens of million people across Luna.

Mustang severs Octavia’s head, and grabs the Scepter with the other, which allows her to walk directly to the Senate, and she is declared the new Sovereign with all Senators kneeling to her, except for 50 of them. In the wake of her crowning, the Ash Lord retreats to Mercury after many of his allies retreat to their own strongholds or join Mustang. The Jackal is hung for his crimes in Mars, where custom dictates that loved ones pull the legs of the condemned, which Mustang does for the Jackal–showing that he was always loved, even though he was cruel. While there are food shortages and riots griping many cities around the solar system, Mustang goes to work by dismantling the color hierarchy, dissolving the Board of Quality Control, disbanding the Senate. Many people are tried for their crimes, and Sefi travels to the Poles to resettle her people around Mars, while Cassius leaves with Lysander. Darrow gets his hand reattached by Mickey, and the Helldiver of Lykos heads to help the migration of the Reds to the surface.

Not too long later, Mustang takes Darrow to a beach on Earth to spend some time together. While there, they are visited by Kavax, Dancer, Sophocles, Darrow’s mother, Kieran, Sevro, Victra and a baby boy. Mustang reveals to Darrow that the baby is their son, whom she named Pax, and that she kept the pregnancy secret while he was in captivity to keep the child safe from enemies. Not only that, she kept Pax a secret from Darrow so that he could do what needs to be done but also to see if he will be a re-builder of worlds with her, to make sure that he can be the father that little Pax needs. This was the conversation that she had with his mother when they returned from the Obsidians.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this story, and particularly seeing how Darrow’s journey has continued and he has continued to develop as a person, leader, and hero in the story. One of the things that I am not really comfortable with is Sefi and the Obsidians, because even though they have been very helpful throughout this book, the fact that there was a riot is concerning to me–it shows that they will be causing problems for Darrow in the later books and that they don’t understand what is really going on and why. Of course, I’m really happy that Mustang and Darrow are together, though I am very surprised by the fact that they have a child–9 months sure is long enough, but the there is a bit of a lack of explanation on how that happens because from the story that we hear about Sevro’s conception, two individuals of different colors cannot have a baby, and fundamentally Darrow still is Red (at least that is what is lead to believe based on the story) though outwardly he is Gold. For me, also Victra’s and Sevro’s relationship is a surprise because they are very different characters and person, which makes it difficult for me to imagine how they would work together as a couple. Great read, and I’m looking forward to see how these characters develop in the next stages of the books.

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