Golden Son is part two of Pierce Brown's Red Rising trilogy. I read the first book, titled Red Rising, just over a year ago. I liked it, and I didn't. Mostly, I liked the world Mr. Brown had built, but I felt like the first story felt too much like the typical Hunger Games-esque type story. Based on the world the characters existed in, I felt like it could have been more. Golden Son is exactly the more I was hoping for.
After the conclusion of Red Rising, our hero, Darrow, is now fully a part of the Gold culture. He is a Peerless now, which is the top of the Gold system. He is part of the Arch Governor's house- the ruling power on Mars. He is looked at as a strategic genius and is coveted by many of the powerful houses. He is on the rise, and putting himself in a position to help the Sons of Ares in ways they could have scarcely imagined. Until he loses a decisive battle that humiliates his new house and elevates their primary rivals. Now the Arch Governor is going to sell Darrow away, and it looks like he is on the cusp of losing everything. Golden Son follows Darrow and his friends from the Academy as they battle to keep his station, and elevate him to a much higher place. This time, instead of taking on other students to survive, he is challenging the Sovereign herself and attempting to thrust the Golds into a civil war.
The Character development in this book was extremely well done. Each of the main characters grew and changed, and it all felt right. It all made sense. Sometimes, you read a sequel and one of the main characters is totally different, and none of it makes any sense. Not here. Especially the main character, Darrow. The story is told in the first person, so you get to know him better than any of the other characters. There is a constant battle going on inside him between who he was as a Red and who he is now as a Gold. He is constantly checking himself to make sure he is acting for the right reasons. Seeing how he grows and begins to trust others on his team is very positive in the middle of a story that isn't always positive. It endears his character to the reader very effectively.
The pacing and action is exceptional. Mr. Brown knows his craft. He balances out his action sequences and his exposition well for the type of story this is. Yes, it is an action heavy story, but the whys and hows are not lost in all the action. This makes it feel like the action is not just there for action's sake, but because it fits with the story. The pacing probably wouldn't work for a romance story, but that's not what this is so it's fine.
The world only gets more intricate and more intriguing. Again, Mr. Brown knows his craft, and he has masterfully put together an incredible world. The color system is just one example. The Golds are at the top and the Reds are at the bottom. The differences are outlined so well in the story, that you can clearly picture it. It's all done, though, through the narrative, so it doesn't distract from the reading. There are so many levels and so many things he has thought about. The world feels so real, even though it is so alien to us. It feels lived in.
There are so many characters, and because they all have these fancy Roman type names, it was hard for me to keep them all straight. Add to that all the intrigue and double crossing and plotting and it gets even more confusing. Sometimes I had to look back to earlier in the book to try to understand who a particular character was. Maybe that's just me (I'm not the smartest kid in class), but it was sometimes difficult.
The story is dark. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I feel like it should be mentioned. I know it's the trend in a lot of teen fiction currently, so it may not even be a surprise, but some people might be put off by that. In addition to this being a dystopian future type story, this is the second part of a trilogy. Those are typically the darkest of the three parts. Like Empire Strikes Back. This is in a lot of ways darker than Red Rising.
The Final Verdict
It may have taken me a year to finally read the second book in this series, but it won't take me that long to read the final one. After finishing Golden Son, I am a big fan of this series. The main protagonist, Darrow, is one of my favorite heroes that I have read in a long time. He reminds me of more charismatic Ender, which isn't a bad thing. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Sci-Fi or dystopian future type books. I can't wait to read Morning Star, especially with how this book ended. I need to know where the story goes from here.
What did you think? Have you read the Red Rising series? What did you think of Golden Son? Let me know in the comments below.
Looking for more? Check out my review of Red Rising on my other site, The Geeky Mormon.
Click on any of the images below to purchase this series on Amazon. (affiliated link)
Jake Dietz is a story teller, avid reader, and sometimes writer of stuff. Like on this site. From time to time. He is also a husband and father of six beautiful children. He loves a good story and will take it in any format he can find.
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Original artwork is ©Samuel Norton 2016.