It's the moment you've all (not actually) been waiting for - what did I think of the conclusion to Pierce Brown's Red Rising trilogy? Drumroll, please.
Okay, it was amazing. What did you honestly expect?
Morning Star picks up shortly after Golden Son left off, with Darrow imprisoned by the Jackal and slowly going insane. Fortunately, the Sons of Ares, now led by Sevro, Ragnar and the Howlers, show up to break Darrow out. From there, the book races around the solar system, from the polar caps of Mars to the moons of Jupiter and back to Luna, as Darrow forges alliances and fights battles - culminating in a showdown on Luna with the Sovereign and the Jackal that you won't soon forget.
Brown does a lot of excellent character work here. We have Darrow, recovering from his brush with death and insanity, no longer invulnerable and no longer as ready to die as he once was. His friendships were one of his major struggles in the previous book, and here we see Darrow finally getting it right. He has it out with Sevro to save his friend from a destructive path, he re-builds his relationship with Mustang and he gets re-acquainted with his family. At last, Darrow's friendships build him up instead of tearing him apart internally (and, in the case of Roque, externally).
Speaking of Roque - whew, talk about a tragic character. Roque is the mini-boss of this novel, if you will, framed by the larger villains of the Jackal and the Sovereign. Not surprisingly, then, he is dealt with about midway through the novel in brutal fashion, and his end is tragic, heartbreaking and somehow honorable - a fitting demise for the man with the poet's soul.
Sevro is also a big focal point, in part because of what he becomes after his father's death and Darrow's capture - a semi-suicidal, end-justifies-the-means war leader. After Darrow and Sevro hash it out, Sevro relaxes back into the devil-may-care attitude of previous novels - and he even gets a happy ending. I've said it before and I'll say it again - Sevro is Darrow's most loyal friend, and this novel will leave you with no doubt of that.
But perhaps my favorite storyline was Cassius. Yes, Cassius is back, and he is forced to acknowledge that Darrow isn't the monster he so desperately wanted him to be. Darrow rescues him from death and manages to rekindle the dregs of their friendship, enough for Cassius to redeem himself and play his part in the rebellion. Like Roque, he too is a tragic figure, but more world-weary and tired. I was overjoyed that he didn't fall flat into another obstacle for Darrow.
The girls are still here, though unfortunately the story doesn't focus on them quite as much. Mustang's connections and diplomacy open a lot of doors for Darrow, and Victra is still as badass as ever (maybe more so). Seriously, that chick is my hero (and if a movie of this does get made, I will cosplay the hell out of her).
The character work isn't perfect though - Darrow begins to grate about midway through the novel as he second guesses himself and doubts in the world he's building. It gets somewhat redundant, but the action sequences usually rescue him before it gets too depressing. And damn, can Brown write action sequences. Man's got a gift.
I won't spoil anything, but prepare yourself for some sucker punches. There's one about halfway through that made me tear up a little, and you'll get another (happy) one near the end. They're well-spaced and well-written, and there weren't any events that seemed out of character or made me raise an eyebrow.
Overall, it's a fitting conclusion to the series. I did, however, find myself preferring Golden Son - I think the middle book had more power and more weight because Darrow had everything to lose and everything to prove. Here, he's come out of the bottom of his arc and, while he still has plenty to lose, his actions feel a bit like a foregone conclusion - I know he will win, and I know he will end up with Mustang. The stakes don't seem as high, for some reason.
Don't mistake me though - Morning Star is an EXCELLENT book, one of the best I've read this year. The flaws it does have are minimal and easily overlooked. Brown delivers in a big way, and you'll definitely be satisfied with it.
P.S. I've heard Brown is working on a sequel series to explore how the effects of this one ripple through the solar system...so YAY.