Author: Pierce Brown
Series: Red Rising (#2)
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Dystopian, Fantasy, Young Adult
Publication Date: January 6, 2015
Publisher: Del Rey
With shades of The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, and Game of Thrones, debut author Pierce Brown’s genre-defying epic Red Rising hit the ground running and wasted no time becoming a sensation.
Golden Son continues the stunning saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom from the overlords of a brutal elitist future built on lies. Now fully embedded among the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his work to bring down Society from within.
A life-or-death tale of vengeance with an unforgettable hero at its heart, Golden Son guarantees Pierce Brown’s continuing status as one of fiction’s most exciting new voices.
Reviewing Golden Son six months after I've read it has given me an opportunity to distance myself from my feels (of which there were many, yes) and instead examine the book on more stable ground. That being said, let's dive in!
In Golden Son, the story unfolds on a much larger scale. Unlike the first book, which was set mostly in the confines of a remote valley on Mars, in GS we are able to see the society in its entirety, experiencing all aspects of Gold culture and Darrow's world. I especially liked finally getting a chance to see how other colours behaved, namely Blues and Obsidians. The broader perspective gives us a better understanding of the setting and therefore the story, and it was fascinating to read about how far the society really stretches. Unfortunately, Darrow and company choose to travel really quite a long way between different parts of society, so we spend quite awhile reading about him and his crew sitting around in a spaceship for months on end.
I was expecting to see more of Darrow's Academy education. I am quite glad that Pierce Brown chose to exclude that, because I expect that it would have been more of the same thing that we saw in Red Rising. In the few chapters that we had to read about the Academy, I was delighted to meet Karnus and his Bellona buddies. Perhaps below is my favourite description of this wonderful young gentleman:
"Of all the Bellona children, Cassius is the favourite, Julian was the kindest, and Karnus is the thing they let out of the basement to kill things."
Isn't he charming? In addition to being all-around likeable chums, Karnus and co. managed to provide some really excellent character building for Darrow. I think that it's fair to say that Darrow had become a bit arrogant after all his success, ("I am their ArchPrimus," honestly) so losing to Karnus, being disowned by Augustus, and getting pissed on allowed him to deflate his head a bit and return to being the Darrow we all know and love. I'm feeling so warm and fuzzy on the inside right now.
Golden Son also gave us an opportunity to see more of our favourite characters develop, because really, where would you be without yo friends Darrow. I was hoping to see a different side of Nero, but unfortunately, he's a brick wall most of the time and a dick all the time. It was nice to hear about Nero's youth and how he ended up as ArchGovernor, but all the same, I would've enjoyed Nero's passages a lot more if he showed a bit more character.
I did end up crying a couple times in this book, unlike in Red Rising, because there are times when Darrow stops trying to be an untouchable object and just lets his emotions show. (highlight to show spoiler)So when Darrow breaks down after confirming to Sevro that he's a Red, I just had to sniffle a bit too. I think that Darrow became so much more real when he finally showed some feelings like most other functional beings. And the thought of Sevro trying to comfort a much-taller-than-him sobbing Darrow is just hilarious. *pats back awkwardly*
I'm pretty sure I don't have to mention how much I loved Sevro in GS, because obviously everyone loves Sevro and anything I say here has probably been in the back of your mind already. Tactus, on the other hand, was unexpectedly likeable in this book. Tactus has shown so much loyalty to Darrow, and I expect that the only reason he later abandoned him was because of what his family thought. The things Tactus does to prove his worth... It was such a tender moment when he and Darrow patched things up, and I ended up crying there too. So yes, I was very ticked off when Lorn decides to kill him a few pages later. I feel like Tactus is obligated to act ruthlessly in order to survive and keep a reputation, which is really unfortunate because he's not all that bad.
Plotwise, I have to say that the whole war on Mars thing didn't play well with me. I know that this war is supposed to "bring down society from within", but I honestly did not see how that happened. I mean, society was still very much intact after the war, still being run by Golds and everything, so in my perspective, that war didn't achieve very much. One of the downsides about planning a war is well, the planning, which I found terribly boring. I actually stopped reading GS for a few days because things were moving so slowly, in contrast to the glued-to-my-hands read that was RR. Eventually I did continue and things did get a little more interesting, but not by much. This book did redeem itself when I was presented with this passage:
"No, Darrow," he says. "Think of your mission!" He's begging me, jumping and clawing at the wall as I turn away. "Don't do it, Darrow. Wait! They'll kill you!"
I drop over the other side of the wall into the Citadel's gardens.
Some men have threads of life so strong that they fray and snap those men around them. Enough friends have paid for my war. This one's on me.
"DARROW!" he screams, horrible, desperate. "STOP!"
Sevro cares so much about Darrow! :3 AWW That's adorable!
Of course, I can't finish this review without mentioning the ending. JDLFJAOFKAFUUUUUUUUU
I had heard that the ending was pretty terrible, and I had been warned not to read it, but I did anyway and it was worse than I could have ever imagined. *claws eyeballs out* It was incredibly well thought out on Jackal's part, and all I can say is I did not see that coming and that I hate Roque with every fibre of my being. Fitchner's mouth stuffed with grapes was a nice touch though. So while this was no doubt a super flashy ending, I'm worried about how we're going to proceed after this. Honestly, how is Darrow going to realistically get out of this situation? Of course, maybe he doesn't get out of this and Sevro takes over as the main character, which wouldn't be so great. I mean, I love Sevro and everything, but switching main characters is definitely not a fun experience.
As the second book in the trilogy, it's fitting that the plot has thickened and things have become more serious. Darrow's maturing as a protagonist, and our knowledge of society is expanding with the addition of new settings, conflicts, and characters. In my experience, the second book is usually the dullest in the trilogy, but Golden Son was able to keep me interested (most of the time) and it set things up nicely for the final book. But while my mid-read and post-reading experience was more exciting, six months afterward, Red Rising has still resonated with me more. Golden Son was a highly enjoyable read, but I suppose the first book always makes the most lasting impression.