Morning Star was an amazing conclusion to the epic Red Rising series. And while there are parts I liked more and didn’t like as much as previous books, I still gave it a perfect score in the end. Because books can have flaws and still deliver an amazing story. But there is one part of Morning Star that really stuck with me as being a mistake and I can only discuss it while spoiling some things. So this is your warning. [WARNING: AFTER THE BREAK WE’VE GOT SOME MAJOR MORNING STAR SPOILERS SO GO READ THE BOOK ALREADY AND THEN COME BACK.]
Morning Star begins with the painfully long section of Darrow’s imprisonment and torture. It’s uncomfortable to read and I should know because I read it twice (the first few chapters were released early but I reread them when the book came out). I believe they were intentional, both to drive home why Darrow is not the raging war beast of Golden Son in ability and desire and also to help set up the slower, more deliberate pacing of the final book.
One aspect of Darrow’s torture that is revealed to us is that the rest of the Society believes Darrow to be dead. The Jackal created a false video showing Darrow killed and even his friends believed it to be true. Sevro didn’t, but that’s because Sevro is the exact lovable goblin bastard who wouldn’t believe that video. Everyone else saw the video and trusted it to be true. But now they know better because Darrow is waging war.
In the middle of the war we’re told that even though Darrow’s army is comprised of members from all colors, things are a bit tense between the old factions. This comes to a head when the Jackal broadcasts a video showing the execution of Darrow’s beloved Uncle Narol. His army sees the video and it so upsets the Reds and other lowColors that they want justice on Golds and other leaders, even if those are allies belonging to the color.
Wait, did you say a video?
It seems the entire galaxy has forgotten that the Jackal knows how to fake videos. Or that in a technological age of interplanetary ships and terraforming the population no longer has access to Photoshop. The moment was important for the story in how it fractures the army and leads to a reforging of their bond (and gave Sevro one of his best moments in the series), but the instigating moment felt strange to me. As I was reading the passage I thought it was fake just like the Darrow video was fake–and yet not a single character asks if it was fake. It is accepted and everyone freaks the Hel out over the video. To me, that’s a flaw.
Here’s how I would have fixed it. The book establishes that even though giant armadas are mobilizing for war you can still fire a single torpedo across a long distance. Roque’s body is put into a torpedo and launched for the sun–that makes sense because it’s a big enough target and the torpedo might be avoided if another ship sees where it’s heading. So on that note, what if instead of executing Darrow’s uncle and putting it on future YouTube, the Jackal had instead loaded Uncle Narol into a torpedo and launched him toward Darrow’s fleet? Maybe he makes it move slowly, fitted with a transponder to make it obvious. Maybe he even decorates it with war paint saying Narol has a message for the Reaper.
Cautious, Darrow and the fleet bring the torpedo on board. They are wary of a trap, but they see it is Narol inside. So they decide to take the risk and open it. At the last minute, Sefi steps forward and insists on opening the torpedo. She says she knows Ragnar would have done it for Darrow, so she takes the duty. They open the casket and Narol wakes up. But he’s panicked–he knows it was a trap. And all he can manage is a pitiful “Sorry, Darrow. I’ll see you in–” before the bomb embedded in his gut explodes. Sefi is injured, which helps push her over the edge to declaring war on all Golds, and everyone knows for sure that Narol died because it happened on their shuttle deck.
Same result, better process. At least to me. But what do I know–I sure as heck didn’t write three awesome books comprising the Red Rising series.