“I turn to the sea of Gold faces. This race- what a beautiful monster. They carry all of humanity’s strengths, except one. Empathy.” – Darrow (Golden Son by Pierce Brown)
WARNING: This review will potentially contain spoilers for Red Rising, the first book in Pierce Brown’s Trilogy. If you have not read Red Rising, I recommend doing so before you read this review!
After finishing Red Rising, despite the lack luster plot, I couldn’t wait to pick up Golden Son and start reading. Pierce Brown took something I had deemed unoriginal (I mean, come on, Red Rising screams The Hunger Games. If you don’t believe me, check out my review) and made me care about it. How? I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t care a whole awful lot about Darrow, about Mustang, and about Sevro and his Howlers, just to name a few. So, inevitably, I found myself back at the book store, picking up Golden Son.
Golden Son picks up two years after Darrow won the competition at the Institute on Mars. Darrow, now twenty, has left Mars to further his education at the Academy, where he learns the art of war and how to command warships, as the Sons of Ares wish- despite the fact the Sons of Ares have not contacted him since his graduation from the Institute. At the Academy, Darrow continues his feud with Cassius and the other Bellona, who following his loss at the Academy, publicly shame him, causing Augustus to disown him and plan to auction his apprenticeship off. At this time, all the major houses travel to Luna for a summit with the Sovereign. While on Luna, Darrow is contacted by the Jackal, who seeks a alliance with Darrow against his father, who has banished him from Mars following his disgrace at the Institute. However, the summit on Luna is far from over, with the excitement just heating up. Leaving his explosive meeting with the Jackal, Darrow is cornered by the Sons of Ares, who instruct him to blow up the banquet the following evening, quite a turn from their previous clandestine tactics. At the gala, Darrow discards the Sons of Ares’ plan by declaring his desire for a duel with Cassius. Just as Darrow is about to win the duel, the Sovereign intervenes to save Cassius’s life, declaring her word is law. This leads to arguing and then fighting amongst the families, which in turn leads to bloodshed and civil war. Darrow declares the Sovereign to be corrupt. He knows that the Golds can deal with terrorism, and has come to believe terrorism itself is wrong. But he does know the Golds fear; that their society will not survive open civil war. Following an attempt on their lives, Darrow and the Augustans flee, bringing to their side the most loyal of their allies. Following a desperate campaign to survive and maintain power, a massive invasion of Mars is launched, in which all the classes (Gold, Blues, Greys, Obsidians, etc.) fight alongside one another in order to defeat the Sovereign and the Bellonas.
So that’s basically the gist of the plot in this book. I’ve left out some major points, which I’ll discuss below (spoiler alert!), but for those of you who haven’t read the book, let me just say this- I loved this book! It was significantly better than Red Rising, for several reasons, least of all it’s inherent originality.
And now we get to the spoilers (my favourite part to discuss!). There was a whole lot going on in this book- in some instances, it felt like several separate stories, taking place one after another. Despite that, it worked. There were also some huge reveals/plot twists in this book (which made it that much more satisfying to read):
- When he s captured, Darrow comes to learn that Ares is his old “teacher” from the institute, Fitchner, a Gold, and a member of the Sovereign’s inner circle. He helps Darrow escape the Sovereign and finally meets with Darrow face to face to discuss the aim of the Sons of Ares, and his motivation- his son, Sevro, is half Red, his mother having undergone a Carving to bear him. When she was found out, the Sovereign had her killed, and Fitchner fled with baby Sevro.
- During a victory gala (following the successful retaking of Mars), elite Praetorians arrive to slaughter as many people as possible, including Nero. Darrow, his inner circle, and the Augustans had been betrayed by the Jackal, who was working with the Sovereign. Among those already killed, Darrow learns, is Fitchner. Darrow himself is taken captive, his true identity as a Red finally revealed at the books epic conclusion.
- Prior to that forced reveal, Darrow also willingly chose to reveal his identity to Mustang, who he has fallen in love with. Mustang, understandably, was pretty pissed, and was MIA at the end of the book, as was Sevro- his possible saviours perhaps?
Some notes on the content- as with the last book, Golden Son is technically classified as an Adult novel, however I feel that it would fit right in among the Young Adult section.While there was (obviously) some violence (what with there being a war and all). Heck, there was a lot of violence (beheadings, cutting off of arms, murder, the whole bit), none of it was very graphic. There was also some sex, but again, it was skimmed over and would totally fit within the confines of YA expectations.
Overall, as I’ve mentioned, I enjoyed Golden Son far more than Red Rising, and I can almost guarantee that I’ll be reading Morningstar sooner rather than later! If you’re a fan of Sci-Fi, Fantasy,The Hunger Games or just looking for a good, well written book, this series is definitely worth every minute!