Series: Hierarchy #1
Published by Saga Press (5.23.2023)
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Format: Audiobook, 639 pages
Length: 28 hours, 14 minutes
Narrator: Euan Morton
Source: I own it
The Catenan Republic – the Hierarchy – may rule the world now, but they do not know everything.
I tell them my name is Vis Telimus. I tell them I was orphaned after a tragic accident three years ago, and that good fortune alone has led to my acceptance into their most prestigious school. I tell them that once I graduate, I will gladly join the rest of civilised society in allowing my strength, my drive and my focus – what they call Will – to be leeched away and added to the power of those above me, as millions already do. As all must eventually do.
I tell them that I belong, and they believe me.
But the truth is that I have been sent to the Academy to find answers. To solve a murder. To search for an ancient weapon. To uncover secrets that may tear the Republic apart.
And that I will never, ever cede my Will to the empire that executed my family.
To survive, though, I will still have to rise through the Academy’s ranks. I will have to smile, and make friends, and pretend to be one of them and win. Because if I cannot, then those who want to control me, who know my real name, will no longer have any use for me.
And if the Hierarchy finds out who I truly am, they will kill me.
In the first half, this book really had me. It had a VERY strong Red Rising vibe, and the narrator was amazing, and I was HERE for it. I loved the hierarchy and the world and the idea of Will.
However, about halfway through the book, it started losing me. The comparison to Red Rising got stronger and stronger until it was almost uncomfortable how similar they are. Because this book is a straight rip off of Red Rising. And while I can appreciate a new take (the Will part was cool), I don’t think this came anywhere near living up to the glory of Pierce Brown’s masterpiece. First of all, the writing isn’t nearly as engaging. Second of all, I didn’t give a single shit about any of the characters. Pierce has a way of making the characters seem so realistic that they feel like family. Almost every single character that dies in the Red Rising saga hurts. This book was sorely lacking that emotional connection. One of the more important characters died and I didn’t bat an eyelash.
I also wasn’t a fan of the main character, Vis. This was also where the parallel to Red Rising fell short. Just like Darrow, Vis is a plant to infiltrate the hierarchy. He hates them, too, and wants to see the hierarchy fall. However, he had none of the depth and none of the flaws that Darrow had that made him realistic and relatable. In fact, Vis was insufferably perfect.
He was good at everything he did – excelling in every class, answering everything correct (when his classmates didn’t know any of it, despite them being in the academy for longer), and pretty much mastered everything he did almost immediately. He kept crediting his aptitude to all the training he received growing up, but from my understanding it was when he was basically a child, making it around a decade before his current age of 17. Yet somehow, despite all the time that had passed, he still managed to retain every. single. thing. And wasn’t rusty at all. It started grating on my nerves that he was so perfect, and he was constantly thinking of himself as better than his peers. He was super arrogant about it, actually. He would casually answer a supposedly hard question, and act all surprised that his peers didn’t have the same level of education as he did. It was absolutely insufferable. He faced hardly any adversity because every “struggle” he had was overcome swiftly and easily. And that is probably the biggest thing that dragged this book down for me, because once I start to get annoyed and fed up with something, negative emotion override grips me and then everything becomes annoying. Which is likely why the glaring Red Rising similarities eventually turned me from enjoying the book to not enjoying the book.
I also have a minor gripe of wanting more of the Will system. I’m not 100% sure how it actually works because it was glossed over.
Despite all of that, I still gave this book 3 stars. I can’t sing the narrator’s praises enough! He really saved this book for me. His voice reminded me of a mix of John Curless (Ephraim, Red Rising) and Daniel Ratcliffe. I would definitely like to seek out other books that he narrates. I also still enjoyed the vivid, cinematic setting of the book; and while I don’t know if I entirely grasped the ending, I found the concept intriguing and I may still read book 2 just to see more of that (and to listen to the FANTASTIC narrator). I do see why so many people loved this book, even if it fell flat for me.
If I had to break this down into two halves, my ratings would go as follows:
First half: 4/5
Second half: 2/5
Writing style: 4/5
Overall rating: 3/5