At the end of the Red Rising trilogy, Darrow broke the chains of an empire, ending centuries of slavery and exploitation. He’s now celebrated as a war hero, while his wife Virginia is the Sovereign of the fledgling new republic. The old world is dead, but what will rise from its ashes?
Iron Gold is narrated through four POV characters – Darrow, Lysander, Ephraim, and Lyria.
A lot has happened in the ten years since the ending of Morning Star, when Darrow killed Olivia and Darrow’s wife Virginia was declared as the new Sovereign. After Luna (Earth’s Moon), the Republic has conquered Earth and Mercury as well, but it has come at a steep price. Several millions lost their lives, while a significant portion of the Republic’s fleet got destroyed. The only enemy left is the infamous Ash Lord, the former ArchImperator to Octavia, who had nuked an entire moon, Rhea several decades back. After his defeat in Mercury, he has retreated to Venus made it an impregnable fortress.
The book begins with Darrow, Sevro and several others being given a hero’s welcome at Luna after the successful Iron Rain Darrow inflicted on Mercury. Since this was against the Senate’s orders, he is called in for a hearing. Darrow justifies his actions and asks for more men to defeat the Ash Lord and end the war for good. While it initially seems likely that he will get the majority, Dancer (the former Sons of Ares lieutenant) and his Socialist party, the Vox Populi argue against the motion and bring in Julia au Bellona (Cassius’ mother) as a witness, who informs the Senate that Darrow had ignored the Ash Lord’s peace treaty. This turns the favor against Darrrow and the Senate orders for him to be placed under house arrest.
Darrow fears that this is an elaborate ploy from the Ash Lord to ignite a civil war. He calls his faithful legion of Howlers and explains his plan to escape and kill the Ash Lord. Sefi and Holiday refuse to join Darrow, but the others agree to his plan. Darrow and Sevro set off to see their children one final time before they flee from Luna, but they run into a squadron of Republic soldiers, led by the obsidian Wulfgar. A melee ensues, in which Darrow accidentally kills Wulfgar, who is much beloved among the people.
Darrow’s plan is a reckless one, involving a jailbreak at the underwater Marvel Raft-like prison Deepgrave to release the Minotaur, Appolonious au Valii-Rath, elder brother to Darrow’s old friend Tactus. Darrow uses the Ash Lord’s betrayal against the Valii-Rath family as the means to unleash Appolonius and his dwindling army against the Ash Lord.
Darrow leads the Howlers in infiltrating the Ash Lord’s island stronghold at Venus while Apollonius strikes with a full-frontal assault. Despite the distraction, the Howlers are almost overwhelmed by the Ash Lord’s superior strength in numbers, but are eventually saved by Apollonius. When Darrow, Sevro, and Appolonius confront Magnus, they find that he is now a sickly old man confined to his bed. Appolonius reveals that he had poisoned the Ash Lord three years beforehand. As Darrow realizes the futileness of his reckless plan, the Ash Lord further reveals that it was his last surviving daughter Atalantia, the Last Fury, who has been fighting Darrow at Mercury all these years and that Darrow’s son, Pax and Sevro’s eldest daughter, Electra, have been kidnapped. After dishing out a painful death to the Ash Lord, Darrow resolves to confront Atalantia’s armada, but Sevro has had enough and refuses to follow Darrow. Darrow’s POV ends with Darrow and his few remaining Howlers setting off towards Mercury.
Lysander, Ovtavia’s grandson and heir to the Republic before she was overthrown by Darrow and Virginia, is currently being mentored by Cassius, Darrow’s former best friend. Cassius seeks redemption as he and Lysander patrol the Asteroid Belt trade routes – the expanse between the Rim and the Core – which are besieged by Obsidian rebels. In of their rescue missions, they save a Peerless Scarred Gold, who unbeknownst to them, is Seraphina, the daughter of Romulus au Raa, the Sovereign of the Rim dominion. They save her from Obsidian pirates and go to asteroid S-1392, where they are captured by her father’s soldiers, led by her brother Diomedes, the Storm Knight. It is revealed that she was on a covert mission for her mother, trying to gather proof of Ganymede bombing. She manages to hide the recording inside Cassius’ razor before capture. The three of them are taken as prisoners to Romulus for interrogation. Dido, Romulus’ wife, orchestrates a coup places Romulus under arrest. The Raas pretend to accept Lysander and Cassius as guests, all the while knowing the true identity of Cassius.
At Sungrave, Io’s greatest city, when Cassius refuses to give up his razor, which has Seraphina’s proof inside, Dido forces him to fight against Rim champions. The honorable Diomedes, the Rim’s greatest swordsman, refuses to fight and Cassius kills several warriors in single combat before Seraphina eventually defeats him and leaves him for dead. Lysander finally relents and declares his true identity. When the safe is opened, it is revealed that it was indeed Darrow who had destroyed the Ganymede dockyards ten years ago, leading to the deaths of ten million people. Since Romulus hadn’t acted on this information, he is found guilty and killed. Before his death, Romulus requests Lysander to unite the Golds and ‘save the worlds’.
Ephraim and Lyria
We are introduced to two new characters, Ephraim and Lyria, whose paths overlap with each other.
Lyria is a Red of Lagalos, a former Gamma from the mines, whose family is murdered by the Red Hand, a terrorist organization on Mars that targets Gamma clans. When help from the Republic arrives, Lyria saves one of the knights from drowning in the river. When it turns out that the knight she saved was Kavax au Telemanus, she begs him to take her and Liam, her blind nephew, away from Mars. Kavax agrees and appoints Lyria as a valet for House Telemanus.
Ephraim is the husband of Holiday’s brother, Trigg who had died at the hands of Aja au Grimmus during the mission to save Darrow. A former Son of Ares, Ephraim became disenchanted with the Rising, after Virginia had set many guilty Golds free, and turned to a life as a professional thief. Ephraim and his team are recruited by the Duke of Hands, a member of the Syndicate to kidnap Darrow and Sevro’s children.
When Lyria goes on a sightseeing trip to Hyperion, she is befriended by Ephraim who introduces himself as Philippe. He gifts her a necklace, which when activated paralyzes everyone in the plane in which Lyria is traveling with Pax and Electra. The plane crashes and Ephriam and his crew kidnap Pax and Electra despite Kavax putting up a good fight. Ephriam cannot bring himself to kill Lyria and takes her with him. Lyria escapes when Ephraim delivers the children to the Duke of Hands and turns herself in. It’s Virginia who believes that Lyria was used by Ephraim and sends her with Holiday to track him down. Virginia makes a deal with Ephraim asking him to gain an audience with The Duke of Hands, find the Syndicate base and save the children if he wanted his obsidian sidekick, Volga alive. Ephraim manages to escape with the children, but is badly wounded. At Luna, Lyria agrees to help Virginia but is later kidnapped from her room by a Brown claiming to be with House Barca.