After being accepted into the Institute, each of the students are required to battle one another to the death. No mercy is permitted, and only one student may leave the room alive. This is not a new change to the institute, or policy, and no student is exempt from the contest.


some of the contests are intentionally unfairly matched.

Darrow wins his match, not knowing who his opponent is, or anything about him.

He later realizes that his opponent/victim is

the brother of Cassius, his staunchest ally during the game.

and intentionally hides/skirts the question of who he fought in the Passage.

When the information becomes public,

Cassius turns on Darrow, for having killed his brother.

This feud carries over into the second book, as

The House Bellona still seeks vengeance on Darrow.

Parents and family of any student in the Institute know that half of the students going into the Institute do not come out. I understand the anger regarding the death in the Passage, but why is this taken as a personal slight - seemingly well above and beyond all of the other deaths?

2 Answers 2


Darrow does know his opponent. He's even reluctant in actually killing him (because it will be his first kill and because of this person he's fighting with).

The thing is, the person's family is very traditional and tightly knit, so the kill will be taken as a family feud.

With more details, but with significant spoilers:

Darrow meets Cassius and Julian before the Passage (Cassius in the Quality Control and both Julian and Sevro at the transport to the Institute) and worse, he kinda likes Julian after this first contact.
So, when he takes on Julian in the Passage, he knows what he's doing. He already knows he'll get into trouble with Cassius and his House, Bellona. But for different reasons- at least, in my interpretation.
Cassius loves his little brother and cares for him more about himself. He believes in his brother and, even knowing he'd break the Institute rules, he wants to know who killed Julian to avenge him.
The House Bellona take the death more as a political statement and ego hurt. "How come a Bellona does not get to the Institute, being killed in the Passage?" Later this will have ramifications... but no spoilers. :-)

  • 1
    Also worth noting that not all Bellona take it so personally, Karnus specifically doesn't seem to care.
    – Servitor
    Oct 1, 2018 at 19:00

Obviously, spoilers.

Darrow actually does know Julian. I don't have the book on me right now, but Darrow marks him as "the kindest of the Bellona" (taken from the wiki.) He, Julian, and Cassius converse before the Passage. They're actually all friends, because the Passage is the final step before the Institute. While Darrow, up to this point, has described all of the golds he's met as intimidating, powerful creatures, Julian is described as ""A slender boy with an open gaze and pretty smile".

When the Passage begins and Darrow realizes it's Julian, he feels awful. He knows that he can and must kill Julian. Julian tries to tell Darrow that because he is of a lower house he must die. It's unthinkable for one of a basically unknown house to kill someone of house Bellona, yet Darrow does.

In the Institute, Cassius and Darrow become best friends. Cassius is obviously destroyed by the death of his closest brother. Keep in mind that Cassius had been defending Julian from their older brother, Karnus, their entire lives. He had been scared that Julian was too weak for the institute.

So when it was revealed that Darrow killed him, it wasn't only the shame and anger of losing a brother to a low house, Cassius also lost the closest thing he had left to a brother.

This turns into a family feud between house Bellona and Augustus as part of the political game for ArchGovernership of Mars.

Okay, I just went and found my book. Julian is the first gold Darrow meets on the shuttle to the Institute, and he describes him as "the sort who still laughs at butterflies". Their conversation is lighthearted and full of laughter. In comparison, Sevro is described as offensively as one would imagine, and his entire first conversation is him insulting Julian. Pierce tries very hard in this passage to paint Julian as a soft, sweet gold, so that Darrow's unwilling execution of him is that much harder.

  • 1
    Being unfamiliar with the work, I wouldn't know what is the spoiler part exactly, but just so you know, you can hide part of your text by putting the markdown code >! before it: >! Vader was actually Luke's father.
    – Jenayah
    Sep 30, 2018 at 15:25
  • Yes, I understand that it's unheard of for someone as relatively low as Darrow to defeat a Bellona. Where it falls apart for me is why the Bellonas, knowing that only one person is allowed to survive each duel, take the defeat so personally. Was there some sort of unwritten rule that Darrow (or any non-Bellona) was supposed to throw the fight? You can flip a coin hoping for heads, but you know that tails is a very real probability.
    – phantom42
    Sep 30, 2018 at 23:09
  • I think there is some sort of unspoken rule. I re-read the passage earlier today, and it's clear Julian was certain Darrow would just let himself die. Also, as Darrow was essentially Augustian after the Institute, it only made the hate worse. Bellona and Augustus already hated each other, and the feud between Cassius and Darrow specifically set off the reaction. I think that Bellona took it more offensively so that they could use it as a an excuse to wage war or use Cassius to kill off Darrow. Oct 1, 2018 at 1:11

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