Golden Son

March 4, 2017
Golden Son Book Cover Golden Son
Red Rising, #2
Pierce Brown
Science Fiction
Del Rey
January 6th, 2015
eBook
430
Owned

As a Red, Darrow grew up working the mines deep beneath the surface of Mars, enduring backbreaking labor while dreaming of the better future he was building for his descendants. But the Society he faithfully served was built on lies. Darrow’s kind have been betrayed and denied by their elitist masters, the Golds—and their only path to liberation is revolution. And so Darrow sacrifices himself in the name of the greater good for which Eo, his true love and inspiration, laid down her own life. He becomes a Gold, infiltrating their privileged realm so that he can destroy it from within.

A lamb among wolves in a cruel world, Darrow finds friendship, respect, and even love—but also the wrath of powerful rivals. To wage and win the war that will change humankind’s destiny, Darrow must confront the treachery arrayed against him, overcome his all-too-human desire for retribution—and strive not for violent revolt but a hopeful rebirth. Though the road ahead is fraught with danger and deceit, Darrow must choose to follow Eo’s principles of love and justice to free his people.

He must live for more.

(via Goodreads)

This is a review for Golden Son, the second book in the Red Rising trilogy. This review is spoiler-free. You can find my review of Red Rising here if you want to start from the beginning.

 

Golden Son takes us out of the Academy, and we see what Darrow is really up against in the “real world”. School is out, Darrow has publically declared his alliances, and well, we learn that politics isn’t really Darrow’s strong suit. Just like in Red Rising, we see shades of The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, and now we’ve added The Game of Thrones to the mix. Politics and scheming are the bread and butter of the Society. Unfortunately (or fortunately to us, the readers), power games and political intrigue does not come as easily to Darrow as cunning in battle. The core of this book centers around this intrigue and Darrow’s coming to terms with it. Can he make the sacrifices he needs to and still hold to his own values and ideals? Will he achieve his goals? Does he even know what those goals are anymore?

Frienships take minutes to make, moments to break, years to repair.

Our world is immediately expanded; we are introduced to new characters while still following some of the old. I appreciate that not all the characters from Red Rising take a front seat in this book. It’s obvious that school is over and the students are in a larger social group. Throughout the book, we see glimpses of where they might have gone and how they are fairing in Society, but Darrow’s core group of friends has solidified into something realistic for a post-school life. But the world Darrow is exposed to has expanded as well. Suddenly we aren’t in schoolyard fights (as lethal as they were)– but the whole universe is suddenly on the line.

In my review of Red Rising, I mentioned that many had indicated that Golden Son is a better book than Red Rising. I would say that I have to agree. You can almost feel the palpable pressure Darrow is experiencing. And Darrow becomes even more realistic. For the first time, Darrow experiences crushing failure, and it changes him– Darrow grows in a way I merely imagined in the previous book. Here he becomes a protagonist you can root for.

Home isn’t where you came from, it’s where you find light when all grows dark.

The greatest achievement of Golden Son is that I feel most of the distractors I felt in Red Rising were cured. It’s like Pierce Brown sat down with a focus group, got feedback, and corrected it. I’ve never read a sequel that turned things around like this. So, without giving too much away, let’s chat about those improvements:

As alluded to (it happens in the first scene; this totally isn’t a spoiler) in the beginning of this review, Brown takes the “Chosen One” mantle he threw over Darrow’s shoulders in Red Rising, rips it off, and burns it. It was actually incredibly jarring to see Darrow fall so far so quickly. I lapped it up as a reader. It almost makes me wonder if the excessive hero worshiping from the first book was just setting us up for this moment. We didn’t completely lose the mantle of “Chosen One” wrapped around Darrow’s shoulders, but I’ll certainly chalk up the new and fully-realized ability of our protagonist to make mistakes as a point to Brown.

We are not our station in life. We are us – the sum of what we’ve done, what we want to do, and the people who we keep close.

Our female characters were redeemed in Golden Son! Redeemed and then some. No longer was our hero Darrow coming to their rescue. No longer did they exist purely to make the men seem more manly. Mustang, Victra, and even Octavia au Lune are all given powerful roles. They all stand outside of Darrow and never require saving from him, or any other male figure. They make it clear they don’t want to be saved, too. All these women are smart, capable, and they can play the game better than anyone. We finally have complex, flawed, fully-realized female characters. Yes.

You meed a man, you know him. You meet a woman, she knows you.

Along these lines, I mentioned in my previous review that I was interested to see where the conversation around sexuality and sexual violence goes in this book. The foreshadowing from the first book gets explored more deeply certainly evolved in Golden Son. In fact, the Pinks are not the only caste we learn more about from this perspective, either. Blues and Obsidians, in particular, are also addressed, bringing the complete absurd brokenness of this world into stark light. I look forward to seeing this come full circle in the finale of this series.

The one thing that I felt didn’t get corrected, and perhaps might have even gotten worse, was the pacing and writing style around our action-packed moments was still excruciating to read. I still had to re-read sections to get a good image of what was going on. That said, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything like I did in the last book. Instead, it felt more like what I wanted to experience– Darrow couldn’t focus on everything at once, and so we just experienced things from his perspective. Again, this wasn’t fixed completely, but it was much more believable.

He always thinks because I’m reading, I’m not doing anything. There is no greater plague to an introvert than the extroverted.

While most of my friends are completely in SQUEE mode after reading Golden Son, and while almost everything I struggled with in Red Rising was corrected, I still am not sold on this series. There was a lot of politic involved, and that’s just not my jam. Anyone who knows how little I enjoy The Game of Thrones can attest to this for me. I just… don’t care. But I definitely want to see where this story goes. I see a world that cannot be repaired, and I have no idea how Darrow, with or without his friends, can pull this off.

I’m rooting for you, Darrow au Andromedus. Stick the landing, and I’ll follow you anywhere.

16 Comments

  • Jasmine March 4, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    So cool that you read this series because I have been seeing a lot of reviews on this series. I won book 3 on a Goodreads giveaway. I really hope to find time to read it this year. Seeing as you don’t like this book and this series.. hmm.. that’s too bad you bought the series and ended up not liking it.. You read very closely like me.. hehe.. I do re-read paragraphs of books when I read too 🙂 Great review as always Jackie! 🙂

    • Jackie B March 6, 2017 at 11:06 am

      Thanks, Jasmine! I’m really conflicted about this series. It’s action packed, and the characters are fun, but it’s just not quite giving me everything I want. It’s hard to put a finger on it! It’s probably the political part, honestly. Once I read Morning Star, I hope I’ll have a better idea on what is or isn’t working for me.

      • Jasmine March 7, 2017 at 9:58 am

        Yes, hopefully the next book in the series will be better 🙂

  • Books, Vertigo and Tea March 4, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    So I am constantly being sold on this series.. well everyone attempts to. Yet, I cannot bring myself to pick it up. I love reading this review. You always tackle books in such a raw and straightforward manner. Odd that we completely disagree on some titles yet I always get what you are putting down so you are still one of my most trusted sources. This shall remained shelved for now <3

    • Jackie B March 6, 2017 at 12:53 pm

      D’aw, thanks Danielle! That means a lot to me. I completely agree, as well! I like that we don’t agree, actually. You are constantly making me question and consider my own opinions and interpretation. I feel like depending how Morning Star goes for me, I will either love this series or feel meh about it in the end. There are so many parts of this book I believe are well executed. They just aren’t resonating with me.

      Here’s to Morning Star being amazing. 🙂

  • Resh Susan @ The Book Satchel March 4, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    Glad you enjoyed the read. I have seen people rave about the series. 🙂

    • Jackie B March 6, 2017 at 12:53 pm

      Thank you! It was definitely a fun way to pass the time. I look forward to reading the final book, but I won’t be in a hurry to get to it (cliffhanger and everything).

  • AvalinahsBooks March 5, 2017 at 11:32 am

    I still haven’t read Red Rising, so I skimmed over most of this one. Three stars does not compel me to drop everything to read it 😀 but I’ve had it in my Kindle for some time, so I suppose one day…

    • Jackie B March 8, 2017 at 12:44 pm

      If you like action packed YA, dystopian lit, or are just looking for something fun yet complex to fill your time– I’d definitely recommend this series. Pierce Brown has done a great job with these two books, but I am just not connecting for some reason. I think it’s all the political intrigue. I’m just not into it. But, I also don’t like Game of Thrones…

  • YAandWine March 5, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Oh, man! I LOVED the first book in this series so much. I’m bummed to hear this one was just a three star read for you. Great and well-thought-out review though!

    • Jackie B March 8, 2017 at 12:55 pm

      I think these books are really well written and developed. But there was something about it I just don’t connect to that well. I think it’s the political aspect. I don’t like Game of Thrones either!

  • Rebecca March 6, 2017 at 11:22 am

    I read all three and I will have to admit that I was one of the ones in SQUEE mode. I really do love this series. I love Darrow and I think he is just incredible. My husband read them all to when I couldn’t stop gushing. They definitely won’t be for everyone. But at least you gave it a shot – twice!
    Rebecca @ The Portsmouth Review

    • Jackie B March 8, 2017 at 12:56 pm

      There’s nothing wrong with SQUEE mode! I wish I was on that band wagon. What did your husband think of the series?
      I will still certainly be reading the final book. I have a feeling if this final book is well executed I might be a convert. 🙂

  • Brendon March 8, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    I feel so similar to you! After Golden Son, I was ehhhh on the whole trilogy and for me book 3 didn’t do it. My partner felt the same way… almost let down. Maybe I created an unrealistic expectation after book 1… who knows. I did hear Pierce Brown was writing a new series set in the same universe. Should be interesting.

    • Jackie B March 8, 2017 at 5:27 pm

      Yikes. That doesn’t make me anxious to pick up the final book… That said, it’ll probably be a few weeks (months?) before I get to it anyway. So many other books to read! I enjoyed book 1, but I was distracted by how poorly the female characters were developed and treated. It helps that I’m going into the final book with fairly low expectations. Oops.

      I didn’t know that! He did establish a very intricate and complex universe, so I could see that being successful. I’ll have to look into it. Thanks for the tip!

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