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'Red Rising' trilogy author talks book 2, reveals cover of book 3

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Morning Star

If there’s a void in your life that can only be filled by a sci-fi adventure book reminiscent of Star Wars, Ender’s Game, and a dozen space operas in between, fill it with Pierce Brown’s endlessly exciting Red Rising trilogy.

Brown kicked off the series in 2014 with Red Rising—in which readers met Darrow, a low-born miner in a color-coded caste hierarchy who joins a group of revolutionaries intent on bringing down the Golds, the highest level of society. In this January’s Golden Son, Darrow is fully embedded in the Golds and sets his sights on turning the society’s most prominent families against each other. (Read EW’s reviews of Red Rising and Golden Son here.)

Now, the third and final chapter of Darrow’s hierarchy-hopping trilogy is at hand, and EW has an exclusive first look at the cover of the last book: Morning Star. We chatted with Brown about what’s to come in the book three—and what he was thinking about that ending in book two. (Warning: spoilers ahead.) 

EW: Morning Star is the next title—but Pierce, what does it mean?!

PIERCE BROWN: Each title has pertained to Darrow. In Red Rising, he was the red rising, but it also talks about the overall rebellion. In Golden Son, it reflects his place in society as he interacts more with Gold culture and politics. With Morning Star, it reflects Darrow as he evolves into the leader that everything has prepared him to be. Morning Star is the light that many sailors would use to guide them. But it’s also referenced twice in the Bible—once for Lucifer and once for Jesus. So there’s an internal dichotomy in Darrow’s character which, depending on your perspective, he’s either the hero or the villain, and that’s really what I wanted to bring out in Morning Star. Because this is the end of the road for the Rebellion, and everything that has happened comes to a head. Can he lead? Can he be the hero he was meant to be? Can he lead them to rebellion? Can he evolve past revenge and become the leader he needs to be?

Book two was action-packed to the extent that it almost felt like, Well, how are you possibly going to top this? Was it always the plan to pack so much into Golden Son?

I usually dislike second books in series. The only second installment I ever loved was The Empire Strikes Back, and I think that was wonderful because it evolved the characters while not seeming like a bridge. It told its own story, which is what Golden Son did. And so I didn’t set out to make Golden Son huge; it got huge based on the decisions of the characters. Where do I go from that? It’s simply the consequences of action. There’s no choice but for Morning Star to be even larger because the consequences grow exponentially. If you look at Golden Son, it was just a focused, isolated battle for Mars. Really, just several Colors involved. But imagine the sort of warfare that’ll take place when it’s many Colors going against the establishment. The summation of humanity attacking the establishment. Imagine the French Revolution on a grander scale. You might get close to book three.

This is already stressing me out.

My favorite quote so far is, ‘Shit escalates.’ That’s what Sevro says in book three, and it’s so true.

How much time has passed between books?

There will be a time jump. Some stuff has to happen offstage in order for the final book to be one book instead of three. Having only Darrow’s perspective focuses the emotions of the rebellion, but it also makes it more vast because you realize—how much difference can one man, even a man like Darrow, make? And Morning Star is about him not necessarily taking down a ship by himself or conquering the enemy singlehandedly. It’s about leading, so events have to be set up so that he can lead.

Are all the people who betrayed Darrow in Golden Son now considered straight enemies? Or is it not that simple?

Book one, to me, was always about revenge versus justice. Book two is about trust. Book three is about hope and faith. Darrow knows things aren’t black and white, and no matter what his own emotions may make him feel, he has to understand that he has a goal and he has to accomplish it, so if it means having some enemies who used to be allies along the way, so be it. But if nothing else, he’s extremely practical. So many characters still have to find out their own allegiances, and book three is where their choices finally stick. Their fates will be sealed at the end.

How did the story you set out to tell at the beginning of Red Rising change by the time you finished the first two books and started writing Morning Star?

The size of it changed. The size of the world kept expanding. In book two, I had it all in my head, but then when it got on paper, the scenes and the emotions kept growing. Book three became a much more difficult task. I always thought book three would be the easiest to write, and it seems, in order to do justice to book two, particularly the velocity of storytelling as well as the brevity of words and maximum amount of emotional impact as possible, it seems like a lot to live up to in order to do these characters justice.

What surprised you most about Golden Son?

I did not expect to have so many intelligent characters who are independent actors around Darrow. I always thought it’d be a little more Darrow driven, but in reality he’s just the game-changer, but they’re all playing the game, and that’s what makes Golden Son so fun, I think, is you can realize that these people all have their own goals, all have their own independent actions, and for book three, that makes it very difficult because how do you line all that up? Also, think about how intelligent Mustang is supposed to be. She’s five times more intelligent than me. Already more intelligent than Darrow, and I already had to rewrite Darrow in order to get him as intelligent as he needed to be. He’s way smarter than I am. So imagine trying to plot in her being intelligent plus him being intelligent and Sevro’s also intelligent, but then there are the Telemanuses who are loyal and also more intelligent than they seem, and the Jackal’s really intelligent, so it’s kind of hard when you have that many intelligent characters. I really should have put some dumb Golds in there.

No one’s a fool. They’re all trying to outthink each other.

Darrow obviously trusted the wrong people, and his hubris got in the way. That’s what made him be an idiot in a lot of ways in Golden Son. He was Achilles. Then you have people that aren’t as proud like Mustang. She’s completely practical, but she has to make mistakes too, so you have to plant the emotional seeds of why she would make mistakes. They’re all fallible in the end. Their emotions have already been planted, but book three is where they all flower.

You pissed a lot of people off at the end of book two, in the best way possible. Do you promise a satisfying ending to the trilogy? What can you tell me about how this story wraps up?

Absolutely nothing.

Nothing.

Here’s one thing I can tell you: Sevro gets a girlfriend. It’s someone you know. When I discovered that it would happen for him, I just started giggling.

Okay, so what if I ask: What’s not in Morning Star?

Here’s what I’ll say. I think almost all of us exist in a world where we can try and do anything we want in the world, and whenever that fails, we can go home—but what if the very thing you’re trying to accomplish destroys your home? To win the rebellion, Darrow can never go home again, and if our lower class wins, if the Reds win, what society do they build off of that? How can they, in a power vacuum, create a better world? These are the struggles. You’re not going to see Ewoks partying at the end of the novel. There are so many complexities, they can’t simply be solved by martial means. You can defeat your enemy by martial means, but can you create? Can we build while destroying? And I think that’s the question for every rebellion.

It’s very in vogue to do side perspectives. Are any of these characters such darlings for you that you contemplate telling their side of the story?

Pax’s story would be hilarious. “PAX AU TELEMANUS! Pax is hungry! Pax likes kangaroos!” Sevro would be fascinating to do a thing like that. Particularly seeing Darrow from other people’s perspectives, because he would seem like much more of a villain. Mustang would also be utterly fascinating. That said, I don’t want to do it just because it’s in vogue. I’d have to have a reason for the story to exist. I wouldn’t want to just retell the same story.

Morning Star will be released in spring 2016.