This one picks up exactly where we left off in Red Rising. Darrow has become a student at the Academy and is training for war under ArchGovernor Augustus to Mustang's dismay. She tried to get him to stay with her but he knew winning at the Academy would get him a fleet and one step closer to helping the Sons of Ares, although he still hasn't heard from them in all this time.
It is down to only Darrow and Karnus in space and whoever destroys the other wins this game and a place of highest honor with their house plus of course their own fleet. Darrow pulls a tactical move but Karnus outsmarts him and Darrow loses.
Since Darrow didn't win, Augustus tells him he will be auctioned to another house since he needs to keep tensions with the Bellona's at bay and it's costing him precious trade agreements from the houses who honor Bellona. Darrow tries to change his mind, knowing that if he is not under Augustus protection the Bellona's will find him and kill him, or the new house will give him to them as a gesture of good will. Darrow has heard repeatedly that Cassius, Karnus, and their mother want him dead as soon as possible. Augustus doesn't listen to him however and tells him he will be sold at The Summit, the gathering and party where all houses discuss important and frivolous matters.
While Darrow is trying to come up with a plan, Victra (Antonia's sister and one of Darrow's fleetmembers) comes to him and tells him she has a solution. He goes with her and they meet up with Jackal of all people. He tells Darrow that since he has been exiled in dishonor due to the incidents before, he has taken control of 30% of all media in the system and can use that 30% to poison the other 70% with what he wants it to see.
Darrow doesn't understand where he's going with this, but Jackal tells him he's ready to gain his father's favor back, and he will do that by bringing down the Sons of Ares and the Sovereign (she's pretty much head honcho over all Society, like a queen would be except the Society sees her as we would a President and not a queen: she governs everything but goes with the votes of the people).
ArchGovernor's advisor is a man named Pliny, and Jackal tells Darrow that Pliny is the reason they've both been cast out. Pliny picked Leto (a warrior that Darrow liked in Augustus house while he was there) because he knew Augustus would be reminded of Jackal's dead brother Claudius. Pliny began shaping Leto to become the ArchGovernor's heir when Darrow showed up, and just as he pushed Jackal out he has done so to Darrow now too. Once Leto rules, Pliny will be right there whispering in his ear, same as with Augustus but he will have more control since Leto is his vessel.
Jackal goes on to tell Darrow that Octavia au Lune (the Sovereign) has a fetish for dirty politics (assassinations, rigging appointments, etc), and she and her Furies (3 trusted advisors to the Sovereign) selected the mob who currently run Lost City where Jackal is hiding out, and he's found out that lowColors within the mob despise Octavia and want to overthrow her so he's helping them move up in the world and once he does that they can take down Ares and broadcast it through the media he now controls and he will gain favor with his father again. When Darrow asks where he fits into this picture, Jackal tells him he is to be the figurehead of this "revolution" since no one likes Jackal. Darrow will show that Jackal is his equal while they take down Ares and the Society will stand by him once again. Jackal says when Darrow goes up for auction he will buy him so the Bellona's won't get him and their plan can go forward. Darrow agrees.
About this time a Pink enters the bar and Jackal tells Darrow that he will buy her for him to seal the deal. Darrow is surprised when he realizes it is Evey, a member of the Sons of Ares. She recognizes him too and they agree so that they will be able to talk in private. She tells Darrow that she planted a bomb in the bar to kill Jackal for the Sons of Ares since Jackal has been snooping for information about them. Darrow rushes to save Jackal and manages to but many other lowColors die at the bar.
Evey finds him and takes him to Harmony, another leader of the Sons. Harmony tells him Dancer died during the war they are waging, but Ares still has a plan for him. They have many bombs set to detonate throughout Society on the evening of the Summit, and since Darrow is now trusted among the Golds he is to set off a bomb at the event since he's the only one who can get close enough to kill all the leaders. He tries to reason with Harmony and tell her that this is not the way to bring down Society, that Dancer had a plan to rise without killing lowColors in the process by him infiltrating the Golds, but Harmony tells him it's too late for that now, and convinces him to do it by showing him the tape of Eo's death and her last words to her sister; to hide the crib, that it would kill Darrow if he knew.
Darrow is just about to set off the bomb at the Summit but sees that this is not what Eo wanted, and it should not be Ares plan. She did not want war between the colors, but for the lowColors to rise up and be equal with the Golds and everyone else. He realizes he knows how to accomplish it without lowColors dying to the Gold's power. The thing the Society most fears is Civil War among themselves and he knows how to instigate it, so he goes back into the Summit with a new purpose.
When he goes back in, he challenges Cassius in front of everyone to a one on one battle to settle the feud between house Augustus and house Bellona once and for all. The Sovereign accepts, thinking Darrow will never beat Cassius since Cassius is the strongest around now after training.
Darrow has a trick up his sleeve though, and has secretly trained with Lorn au Arcos, one of the last great Knights. He is about to kill Cassius when the Sovereign interferes and says that there are new rules and that the fight can be to death or yielding. She reveals her favoritism to the Bellona's in this way as Darrow suspected. When Darrow tells her the laws of Society cannot be changed she says she is the law, revealing to everyone that she thinks she is a ruler rather than a leader.
All heck breaks loose and the Bellona and Augustus house battle when Cassius lunges at Darrow to try to kill him and Tactus interferes to protect him. Knowing they are outnumbered, the Augustus house flees but Darrow is taken by the Sovereign into custody. She tells him she wants him to be a part of her house but he must pass a test.
She reveals a box with two vipers in it who bite if they sense a lie is told. The Sovereign tells him that they will ask each other questions and if he is truthful enough to be in her house without being bitten she will make him a great leader. Darrow doesn't even want to be a part of her house but he has to agree since he knows there's no other option.
They begin asking each other questions and as his last question Darrow asks her if she planned to allow the Bellona to assassinate Augustus and all those at his table at the gala this evening. She says no and the viper immediately bites her.
Mustang is in the room when this happens (she had been dating Cassius and has formed an allegiance with the Sovereign and Bellona's, making them think she no longer cares about house Augustus), and she yells at the Sovereign saying that she promised they wouldn't be hurt. The Sovereign tells her that her father is a danger to everyone. He executed Eo and created this spark of revolution in the lowColors, and they have retaliated tenfold setting off bombs in public Gold locations and using him as their villain for this war. She says if they kill him they can end the revolution by placing the Bellona's in power and showing the lowColors they don't tolerate unnecessary killings and wish to make peace.
Mustang contacts Sevro and the Howlers on another planet and they all help Darrow escape the Sovereign's house. They find the rest of House Augustus and escape with the Sovereign's grandson as a hostage (but not before Aja, the Sovereign's head soldier and another student of Lorn's, kills Quinn in retaliation as they take the boy and board the ship) and they take to the skies to try to get back to Mars and recuperate to battle against Bellona and the Sovereign. Tactus betrays them though and takes the grandson back to the Sovereign to gain favor with her (Tactus is ever only loyal to whoever he thinks will win though Darrow had hoped differently since he considered him a friend).
Darrow knows the only option they have since they won't make it back to Mars before the Sovereign comes after them is to do something they won't expect, so he and Sevro attack the Sovereign's largest ship by rocketing themselves through the windows. They take command of the ship after Darrow manages to convince the lowColors on board to fight against their Gold commanders for him since he will be a better leader, and after that they escape the Sovereign's armada chasing them.
During this time, Sevro tells Darrow he needs to talk to him alone and Darrow finds out that Sevro knows he is a Red in Gold disguise. Ares apparently had been watching Sevro for a while and deemed him trustworthy, so it was he that sent for Sevro and the Howlers to rescue Darrow from the Sovereign, not Mustang. Darrow breaks down knowing that he finally has someone on his side who is a highColor that believes everyone should be equal.
The next part skips in time: a lot of House Augustus allies have left them fearing the Sovereign's power, their bannermen on Mars are under siege by Bellona and Sovereign forces and they are unable to return home to gain additional forces.
We pick up while the remaining members of those loyal to Augustus are in council about what to do: keep running until reinforcements can help them, or stand their ground and fight back against the Bellona's and Sovereign. Pliny, of course, says they should continue to run until the time is right, but Darrow reveals he has a plan.
He says there is a ship on Ganymede even better than Pax (the ship he just captured from the Sovereign) and when Augustus asks him why they should take the ship, Darrow tells him they need to take all the ships on Ganymede for starters. A huge argument ensues with Pliny stating this will put the war as more than just the Bellona's/Sovereign and Augustus house, it will start war with the Society. Darrow convinces Augustus that it is either war or extinction of their house if they do nothing. Augustus agrees, but tells Darrow they will need Lorn's house if they hope to ever win this war.
When Darrow goes to Lorn for help, he knows it is a futile cause, as Lorn has now sworn to stay out of conflicts in Society. Lorn takes Darrow out to the fields at his house to show him his pet griffin, Icarus, and tells Darrow to look to his ship above. Darrow sees it surrounded by the Sovereign's ships and knows Aja is coming for him. Lorn tells him that although he wants no part in the war, he will allow Darrow to take the griffin and run so that he isn't captured since he thinks of him as a son.
Darrow turns the tables though by telling Lorn that he already knew of the attack that was to happen and he has ships waiting outside the view of the Sovereign's ships. He tells Lorn that he is a part of the war whether he likes it or not, as unless he joins house Augustus the Sovereign will come for him and his house next, thinking he is the one who told Darrow Aja was coming.
As Aja, Tactus, and the other Golds come through the castle gates towards them, Darrow calls the Howlers and his ships, led by Roque, and Aja thinks they are about to fight, but Darrow sets off land mines that he had dropped on the path while walking towards the griffin and blows most of them up. Aja and Tactus survive and take off while the Howlers give chase. Tactus can't be found, and Darrow and Lorn realize that he has been given orders by the Sovereign to kill Lorn's children and grandchildren at the castle in retaliation. When they find Tactus, he admits that he wishes he hadn't abandoned Darrow. Darrow tells him he forgives him and will welcome him back if he lets the children live. Tactus agrees and he and Darrow embrace as friends again, but Lorn stabs and kills Tactus to hurt Darrow since he gave him no choice in this war and betrayed him.
Upon returning to the rest of the fleet Darrow learns from Mustang that Pliny has betrayed them and told the Sovereign of their plan to take the ships, so her fleet was waiting in ambush when they had arrived and Augustus and Jackal along with other loyal house members were taken prisoner. While coming up with a plan, Darrow and Ragnar have a long talk and Darrow tells him he is free. Ragnar tells him he has pledged himself to him and doesn't want to be free, but Darrow tells him he pledged himself to a Gold, and he is not a Gold. He then tells Ragnar his story and plan for this war and Ragnar joins him as a free man. Darrow knows he has found a new general for this revolution.
Darrow leads them on a rescue mission by hiding in one of the food transporting ships, and when they arrive on the ship the Sovereign has given Pliny he heads straight to the war room. Lorn, Mustang, and the Howlers back up Darrow as he tells Pliny he's taking back control of this ship and releasing all prisoners. He tells the Peerless Gold's in the room that they must either join or die. As Darrow turns to leave he hears the sound of razors and knows the other Peerless are killing Pliny. Jackal and a few other loyal Augustus followers on the ship are realeased from their confinement, and Darrow has Jackal spread the word through his media links that Darrow has called for an Iron Rain. Houses from near and far begin flocking to Darrow's side after seeing how powerful he has become and knowing there is a chance they can take down the Sovereign.
A lot of fighting ensues, but the Sovereign has one trick left up her sleeve. Darrow had the Sons of Ares dig a hole under the wall before their arrival back on Mars that would bring them up through the river and into the town. He doesn't realize that the Sovereign found it, and when they come up out of the river a young girl is standing there rather than soldiers and sets off an EMP that disables their armor and gravboots and sends all the soldiers on Darrow's side plummeting to the ground. They are picked off one by one but Ragnar saves Darrow and Sevro along with the other remaining Howlers who weren't killed in the initial fight when they first arrived on Mars.
Darrow sees the Sovereign and knows he's about to lose his only chance to take her down before she regroups with her forces so he launches himself at her ship as it's taking off and lands inside. He puts up a good fight but is overwhelmed by the Sovereign's forces including Fitchner, but is surprised when Fitchner holds him as he lay dying and whispers to him that he had it under control and Darrow should have left it alone. Coming back from the brink, Darrow sees Fitchner launch grenades behind him into the plane as he grabs Darrow and jumps out. Darrow realizes Fitchner is Ares at this moment.
Upon coming out of his coma like state, Mustang is in Darrow's room and catches him up on what has happened the past few days. Roque managed to capture 70% of the Bellona's fleet and is being hailed as a hero, Augustus was saved, and although most of the Bellona's were killed, Cassius and his mother escaped and are in hiding. Darrow also remembers Ares (Fitchner) bringing him to the Carvers to fix him up and although he doesn't remember it, he assumes Ares dropped him off where he is now, and Mustang states that afterwards Sevro took off with Fitchner somewhere. Darrow wonders how long Sevro has known about his father.
Darrow goes to meet with Roque in the gardens to try to patch their friendship again, but their conversation is interrupted by Sevro who says he needs to speak with Darrow in private. Roque tells him to go, that they can talk later, and Sevro tells Darrow that Harmony and other Sons have been captured by the Jackal.
Darrow goes to visit the Jackal and Victra, (who has now formed an alliance with Lorn and his house after the battle; where her mother turned on the Sovereign to help them and turned the tides on them winning). He is visiting under the pretense that they need to discuss their next moves in this war but it's all for show, as Sevro, Fitchner and other Sons burst in with masks on, act like they are attacking Darrow, the Jackal and Victra, and rescue Harmony and the other Sons. This makes the Jackal think Darrow is still on his side since Darrow tried to help protect him (again, all for show to gain his trust) against the Sons, but it helps Darrow get the other Sons members back from Jackal.
In the next chapter, Darrow has gone to meet with Dancer, Sevro, and Ares to discuss what their plan is. Dancer wasn't dead after all, and it turns out that Harmony had betrayed the Sons. She had been sent to watch some Senators whose house the Sons had bugged. They thought they would get revealing info on the Society from them but it turns out all they found was "some depraved shit" in Dancer's words. Harmony still assassinated the Senators and took off on her own with a few of the Sons who believed killing all the Golds would be the solution. The headquarters was raided by lurchers because of her and she assumed Dancer dead, but she had taken off already to Luna.
Dancer and Ares tell him that now it's a given that Augustus will make Darrow his heir and they want him to accept. They know Augustus will not be satisfied with just being ruler of house Mars if the Sovereign is taken down and he will want to be Sovereign himself. Darrow is to help him do this, and later on Augustus will be assassinated and they'll make it look like another Society house did it, maybe even the Jackal since he is trying to build his own empire. The houses will look to someone strong to lead them, and that will put Darrow in a perfect position to be that person.
Darrow tells them he will do what they want, but after 4 years of this he is ready to go home and see his family since he has no idea when he will see them again after this. He also tells them one of his conditions is that he take Mustang too so that he can show her the truth. They reject the idea, but he says it has to be this way, and that if she of all people can't accept him for who he really is, then there is no hope for the Society at all once this plan has become a reality and the highColors will never merge into a peaceful union with the lowColors. They ask what he will do if she rejects him, and he can't say anything, but Sevro says if that's the case then he will kill her.
Darrow meets with his mother, not expecting her to recognize him but she does and tells him that what he's doing will not help. All the Reds and other lowColors have ever known is this, so even if he shows them that there are other worlds they will not leave since this is home. He tells her he still has to try so that they won't be slaves any longer.
While he went to visit his mom he gave mustang a holotape where he explained everything to her, and told her to either join him in the house or leave after hearing it, that he would understand either way. He sees from the tracking device Sevro placed on her ship that she has left. Sevro and Ragnar are following her waiting for Darrow to give them word so they can strike her down before she tells her father.
To gain a moment of peace before going back Darrow goes to the mines but Mustang is there waiting on him with a gun. Ragnar apparently didn't follow Darrow's orders and he shows up too when Mustang is about to shoot Darrow. Darrow and Ragnar both take off their weapons and tell her to go ahead and kill them since they know that if she can't change no one will. She walks away.
The next chapter shows Darrow being christened as a hero by Augustus and the ArchGovernor has offered Darrow the grandeur of being his heir and Darrow has accepted. At the feast held in his honor Roque is to present Darrow with a gift of some sort in an ivory box (I don't remember what it was supposed to be; something to do with the Gold tradition), but as he starts to hand it to Darrow he sticks him with a poison needle and tells him (not word for word) that he is a "bloodydamn" traitor. Darrow knows that Roque knows he is Red.
All hell breaks loose as Augustus is captured, Victra is killed, and Aja and Cassius show up with several other Sovereign warriors. Jackal is standing by smiling and Darrow knows he has become a traitor too. Jackal goes up to Lorn and finishes him off and comes back to Augustus. He asks Augustus if THIS is something worthy of a son of the ArchGovernor and reveals that he paid Cassius' older brother to kill Augustus favorite son and his other brother many years prior in order to try to win Augustus' favor.
Augustus tells him he is not his son and he should have smothered him in his crib, and Jackal is so consumed with knowing his father hates him that all humanity leaves him entirely and he shoots Augustus.
Cassius comes up to Darrow and tells him that his brother was one thing, but killing his whole family and the children is another and he now has his revenge. Darrow doesn't know what he's talking about with the children. I guess that will be revealed somewhere in the next book. Cassius then opens the ivory box to show Darrow what's inside and it is Ares head. He tells Darrow that this still isn't over and that he will hunt down and kill every last member of these opposing houses; Mustang, Sevro, Ragnar....everyone Darrow loves will die.
The book ends with Aja telling them to bring Darrow to the Sovereign so he can be "dissected". I'm assuming this is so that they can figure out how a Red was made Gold? Not sure on that part. All will be revealed in the finale I'm sure.....End of Book 2