I devoured Red Rising, the bestselling first book in Pierce Brown’s complex dystopian sci-fi trilogy, and was anxious to read Book #2. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Golden Son, and began a marathon reading session the minute I received it. Although books in most series I review can be read as stand-alone novels, that isn’t true of this one. I believe you have to read Red Rising before reading Golden Son because there’s just too much going on with this trilogy to pick it up in the middle. There is a link in the paragraph below to my review of Red Rising for those of you who haven’t read it. For those of you who have read it, let’s just say that you are going to want to run, not walk, to get Golden Son.
Spoiler Warning: There is no way to avoid spoilers for Red Rising in this review so, if you haven’t read it yet, click here and go read it instead because everything from here on is going to be a spoiler.
Background Reminder: Darrow was born a Red, doomed to live a short, hard life in the mines below Mars’ surface, never to see the light of the surface, until Eo, his beloved, and fate intervened. After being recruited to infiltrate the Golds, Darrow is transformed and trained within an inch of his life in hopes he can succeed where others have failed. His only dream is to see Eo’s dream fulfilled no matter what. His hard life as a Red gives him skills Golds don’t possess and he excels in the vicious trials all Golds must survive while keeping his secret hidden.
But can he survive in the alien adult Byzantine political environment that the Golds take to as naturally as breathing?
“The Jackal leans forward. ‘But I tire of playing pawn to my elders.’
‘As do I. Makes me feel like a Pink,’ I say.
‘Then let us rise together. I the scepter, you the sword.’
‘You won’t share. It’s not in your nature.’
‘I do what I need to do. No more. No less. And I need a warlord. I’ll be Odysseus. You be Achilles.’
‘Achilles dies in the end.’
‘Then learn from his mistakes.’
‘It’s a good idea.’ I pause at his spreading smile. ‘With one problem. You are a sociopath, Adrius. You don’t only do what you need to do. You wear whatever face you need, whatever emotion you desire like a glove. How could I ever trust you?…’”
Despite political maneuvering by vicious rivals and plots against him that made my head spin, Darrow does survive. He made strong alliances during the trials and most of those people have stuck with him because they see him as a natural leader who can help them rise to heights as well. Most of them also stick with him out of a sense of loyalty to their shared experiences and because he is the most loyal and egalitarian friend they’ve ever known.
And there’s the rub. Darrow infiltrated the Golds for one purpose, to bring down their corrupt but powerful caste system. It was inevitable though that he would begin to see some of them as not just a means to an end but as friends, and even one of them as someone he might not just like but potentially love. And that makes his mission even more complicated. It was simple when he saw them as evil beings to be toppled at all costs. Now they’re human beings to him, with their own issues and dreams. He knows he must still overthrow Gold rule for his people and all of the lower castes to survive but his heart is torn by the secrets he must keep. It hurts knowing his own sense of betrayal will be reflected back at him when people who would die for him learn they probably will do that very thing because he’s lied to them.
Is his successful infiltration turning him into what he has hated the most? How can he strike a balance between his mission and Golds he know are amazing people worth saving if at all possible? And what will happen to their relationship when a woman he’s grown to love discovers his treachery against her own corrupt family? Is there any way to save any of the Golds he’s come to care about or will all be lost in the necessary battles to bring equality to the other castes? And then there’s the sneaky insidious thought – what if the other castes can’t rise above their generations-old slave-like role conditioning so they can survive as independent and free citizens?
I’ve left 99% of Golden Son out of this synopsis because not only is it much too complex to even begin to tackle here but I want you to discover for yourself the content with the context I’ve outlined. This novel raises many more questions about this caste-built society as a whole and about many of the castes within it. And then there’s the puppet master pulling the strings behind Darrow’s infiltration. Just who is he and what are his real motives? If there’s one thing Darrow has learned in spades, it’s that nothing is ever what it appears on the surface. One of his quests in Golden Son is to identify his mentor and puppet master, and that person’s real motives. What if he’s been the pawn of someone whose real underlying plans don’t mesh with his personal mission? Then what?
Pierce Brown definitely does not suffer from a Book #2 slump with Golden Son – in fact it takes the trilogy to a whole new height. It hits the ground running on Page 1 and doesn’t come up for air until the last punctuation mark on the last page…and I was stuck to it like glue for the entire heart-stopping ride. Holy crap, and I thought corporate politics were convoluted and nasty. We learn so much more about this universe, as well as about Darrow and his friends, layers and layers are peeled away showing a depth of character development and world building that made me ecstatic. On top of that, those of you who loved the battles and intrigue in Red Rising are going to love Golden Son’s battles and its twisted, shadowy alliances. I literally had to keep reminding myself to breathe in places.
Although this trilogy has been compared to Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, it is very much its own outstanding creation and could take on either one of those beloved sagas any day of the week. Do I recommend Golden Son? Hells to the yeah, I do. Just be sure to read Red Rising first. Now…tap, tap, tap…”How long am I going to have to wait for Book #3?” she asked impatiently…and how can it possibly top Golden Son?
Can’t wait to read it?
Golden Son was published on January 6, 2015, so both it and Red Rising are available from your favorite online bookseller below (or in the right column for iBooks). Just click on one of the button links below to get either or both to read right now!
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