18 July 2014

Red Rising and the Double Reversal

Don't read further if you wish to avoid spoilers from Pierce Brown's Red Rising.

I've been thinking a lot about Red Rising.  One of the things that most fascinated me with it was the character of Mustang, and her double (or, depending on how you think of it, quintuple) reversal.

In Robert McKee's Story, he talks about reversals as one of the prime ingredients of storytelling.  Given any specific trait, plot point, character, or what have you, you can apply a positive or negative value to it.  Story happens when that value reverses.

Mustang first enters the story as an unnamed girl riding a horse, making fun of Darrow's inability to ride.  I think it's fair to say we could start her relationship with Darrow at a negative value, though not a strong one.

When next we see her, she is at the Institute with Darrow.  Again, nameless, but this time less haughty.  Did her relationship value change to positive?  Maybe.  At the very least, the needle flickered.

When we come across Mustang in the game (blurgh - forgot the proper name of it), she's the Primus of House Minerva, and an enemy of Darrow.  There's a little sexual tension there, sure, but it's pretty safe to put her strongly in the negative zone for her big Named debut.

Eventually, Darrow and Mustang part ways for a while, but circumstances force them back together.  Now, Mustang, considering herself in Darrow's debt, actually rescued him after he was stabbed, and has watched over him as he healed.  A pretty strong positive swing, yes?  Now she's his friend, partner-in-crime, confidant...and of course, more sexual tension.

Things proceed in this vein through most of the book's third act, but right toward the end, we're thrown a huge curve-ball.

It turns out Mustang is the sister of the Jackal, one of Darrow's enemies.  And Darrow just sent her to her brother with half his army and weaponry.  Betrayal seems certain.  Negative!  Just when we thought things were going to turn out okay...

But then, they actually do.  Turns out Mustang was loyal to Darrow, and captured her brother just as she said she would.  So that's back to positive, then.

So...negative-a little bit positive-negative-positive-negative-positive.  Whew!

I think the character of Mustang is what impressed me most about Red Rising.  It shows a grasp of the craft that stood out to me.  It was really exciting to read.  And damn, I wish I had come up with something like that!