Golden Son by Pierce Brown. Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Publisher: Del Ray
“He always thinks because I’m reading, I’m not doing anything. There is no greater plague to an introvert than the extroverted.”
The Book Itself: The Red Rising trilogy’s covers are reminding me a tad of some other trilogies…namely, Hunger Games. Simplistic, the title in big font, an icon floating in the background. Or am I crazy? Seeing things?
My Review: 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.
First of all, that’s a lame blurb, goodreads. Not atmospheric or descriptive of the story at all…
Woah. Oh man, you all. That wasn’t a book. That was an experience.
Please excuse me now for any future gushing, fangirling, or referencing the reading I recently went to. It comes with the territory, folks.
So, during said reading, Brown mentioned that he often hates second books in series, because they often feel like fluff or filler, a mere bridge to the third and final chapter. The finale. So to combat that, he tried to have a lot “happen” in this one. I think his exact words were “I tried to cram as much ‘happening,’ in as possible.”
And boy, did he. I’m not sure when Darrow finds a moment to actually eat or shower or, you know, sleep through the entire book. It’s go, go, go from page one.
And it’s freakin’ stressful! Characters you got to know in Red Rising? They die, they’re maimed. They’re in big, big trouble at one point or another. I have decided that if Brown kills off two particular characters (assuming that he doesn’t kill off Darrow…would kind of stop the series), I might not continue reading. I mean, of course I will, but I will be very, very upset, and it will deeply color my opinion of the story. I won’t say who these two characters are, as that would be venturing into spoiler-rich territory, but everyone’s in danger after that last scene, so…(more on that later)
ANYWAY. I considered for a moment, after my third late night reading session in a row, thinking “just one more chapter, that last one ended so tensely!” that all this ramped up action might be a bad thing. I mean, really, how could Darrow feasibly recover from any of it! Jumping from confrontation to battle to high stakes meetings where he just happens to have a plan (more on his endless planning in a bit). But overall, I don’t think it’s a terrible thing. Again, as it was in Red Rising, the world is so immersive. There are a little more politics involved in Golden Son, and it’s less game-like like it was in the last book. These are real battles, with hundreds of thousands of lives really at stake. I was taken aback when we didn’t get to see Darrow’s journey through the Academy (his next step from the Institute, where the games are played on starships with crews of “lowColors,” and the relatives of old enemies). This book picks up two whole years after Darrow conquers the Institute. And yet, even after the one space battle we see at the end of his time at the Academy, the book still manages to pack action, action, action into every chapter.
Now, Darrow runs into a little bit of character problem in this installment. He’s a bit of a Mary Sue: it seems he can do no wrong. It makes for exciting scenes, and moments where you can’t help but cheer because once again, Darrow’s bested them all. And he does have moments of emotional weakness. But for the most part, he’s almost too strong, too righteous. His belief in his cause (the world Eo imagined, and where he fights for her memory and vision) is almost too fervent, too fanatical. I hate to say it, but sometimes it seems too flimsy a thing to push Darrow past the breaking point again and again. He’s backed into a corner? He finds a solution, because he remembers the cause. It looks like he might lose, again? Nope, because his memory of Eo as she died is still too vivid.
Speaking of our dearly, departed Eo, Brown claimed in his Q&A that he “abhors love triangles” and was glad he killed off part of this love triangle in the first 30 pages of Rising. But Eo is constantly mentioned, including situations where Darrow is considering his feelings about Mustang. Eo is so often brought up, that she is still a character, a huge presence, even after death. Especially after her martyr-ed passing.
Okay, and Darrow is sneaky. He ALWAYS has a solution, and it’s never one he lets people in on. It costs him some trust from allies in the story, and by the sixth time it happens, it kind of makes me lose a little trust in him too. It makes him seem unreliable. I mean, it makes a nice catalyst for cliffhanger chapters. We’re losing! NOPE! Darrow’s hidden some forces under that bridge, cloaked in invisibility and given a secret mission on the side to turn the tide of battle. It adds intensity, but grates after a while.
And finally, that last chapter was really, really mean, Pierce Brown. I’m mad at you for it. Mostly because the final installment of this series will not be out for another year, and that means I will have to fret until then. I stayed up until 3 AM, work looming in the morning, to see the story through. It’s a nailbiter and a cliffhanger, folks. Although you’ll totally know something’s up because everyone’s too happy, too settled in the scenes leading up to it. Everything’s too nice for the world of Rising. You know it cannot end as nicely as you’d hope, but…one can dream.
Excellent book. One of the best second installments I’ve ever read of a series.
My Grade: A