Golden Son: Book II of The Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown
Golden Son – NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR,BUZZFEED, AND BOOKLIST • With shades of The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, and Game of Thrones, debut author Pierce Brown’s genre-defying epic Red Rising hit the ground running and wasted no time becoming a sensation. Golden Son continues the stunning saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom.
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.
Praise for Golden Son
“Gripping . . . Both author and lead character have cranked up the emotional stakes. . . . With Golden Son, Brown avoids the sophomore slump, charging the novel with the kind of dystopia-toppling action you’d expect in a trilogy ender, not a middle volume. On virtually every level, this is a sequel that hates sequels—a perfect fit for a hero who already defies the tropes. [Grade:] A”—Entertainment Weekly
“Stirring . . . Comparisons to The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones series are inevitable, for this tale has elements of both.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Brown writes layered, flawed characters . . . but plot is his most breathtaking strength. . . . Every action seems to flow into the next.”—NPR
“It’s a far superior sequel, in fact: one of the rare breed of reads that improves upon its predecessor in every conceivable category. . . . In a word, Golden Son is stunning. Never mind how little we’ve seen of 2015: Among science fiction fans, it should be a shoo-in for book of the year.”—Tor.com
“Pierce Brown is a prodigy. As great as the first book of the Red Rising Trilogy is, Golden Son is even better. A wild ride full of suspense, intrigue, and serious ass-kicking bravado, it’s expertly written and emotionally engaging, with top-notch universe-building that begs for further exploration. I want more!”—Christopher Golden, New York Times bestselling author of Snowblind
“The stakes are even higher than they were in Red Rising, and the twists and turns of the story are every bit as exciting. The jaw-dropper of an ending will leave readers hungry for the conclusion to Brown’s wholly original, completely thrilling saga.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Dramatic . . . the rare middle book that loses almost no momentum as it sets up the final installment.”—Publishers Weekly
Review by By Kathy Cunningham TOP 500 REVIEWER
Pierce Brown’s GOLDEN SON is the second installment in his “Red Rising Trilogy,” a series of novels set in a dystopian future where a genetically-engineered elite is ruling the universe. Brown’s premise is that future humanity has been divided into color-coded castes, with the super-strong, super-beautiful “Golds” at the top of the hierarchy. Beneath them, the other Colors fill a variety of pre-ordained roles (including police, doctors, entertainers, scholars, and laborers), all in the service of the all-powerful Golds. In the first installment of the series, RED RISING, 18-year-old Darrow, a common Red laborer from the mines of Mars, is recruited by a secret revolutionary group called the Sons of Ares to go undercover as a Gold in an attempt to destroy the Society from the inside. Darrow is physically and genetically altered by a “Carver” so that he can pass for a Gold, and he is accepted at one of their prestigious schools to begin training to become one of the elite Peerless Scared – the hope is that once he rises to the top of his class, he can be instrumental in tearing the system down. As GOLDEN SON begins, two years have passed since the events of RED RISING. Darrow, now 20, has been accepted by ArchGovernor Augustus and is set to begin further training in the art of War at the Academy. He has heard nothing from the Sons of Ares, and is unsure of his role in the revolution – and even if the revolution still exists. The first few chapters of GOLDEN SON are very much like the second half of RED RISING – lots of wargames as Darrow continues his “studies” and attempts to one-up his ruthless competition. But once the novel really gets going, it evolves into an intense, devilishly-plotted political thriller that sheds a harsh light on the nature of humanity.
I wasn’t a big fan of RED RISING – too much senseless violence as Brown’s group of killer teens battle each other for power and position. In a way, RED RISING is like one long Hunger Games, with kids backstabbing, plotting, and killing each other in a race to be the one who rises to victory. But GOLDEN SON delivers what RED RISING only promised. Once Darrow leaves the Academy to take his position in Augustus’s house, the games become much more serious. Suddenly, he’s very much in demand in a world of desperate factions, each trying to get the jump on the rest. Augustus wants to use him to further his own political ambitions, his son Adrius (or the “Jackal”) wants to use him to establish his own ascendency, and the Sons of Ares resurface with deadly plans of their own. The Bellona family wants Darrow’s head (as well as the Governorship), the Sovereign wants to manipulate him, and even his closest friends can’t be trusted. And while all this is going on, Darrow’s own family of lowly Reds is still slaving away in the tunnels beneath Mars, believing Darrow is dead. Where do his loyalties really lie? Is he still committed to the dream his lovely young wife died for, or have his eyes been opened to realities she never knew existed?
What works best in GOLDEN SON is Darrow himself, who must weigh all of the things he learns as an undercover Gold in an attempt to determine his own future, and that of his Society. And he learns a lot. The Jackal insists, “I’m going to help these ambitious lowColors move up, for a price.” He says, “I need a warlord. I’ll be Odysseus. You be Achilles.” The Sons of Ares tell Darrow, “Good men die. To free them, to protect them, we must be savages.” The corrupt and ruthless Sovereign tells him, “You cannot bend the worlds to fit your morals.” But Darrow’s own conscience tells him that victory is not worth the murder of millions. Augustus claims he would be a more benevolent leader, one who would work to unite the Colors rather than further divide them. But he, too, is hiding secret ambitions that have nothing to do with change and everything to do with maintaining a system that rewards the Golds at a cost of all those beneath them.
The central message of Brown’s trilogy isn’t hard to decipher. As Darrow puts it, “It’s not about our Color; it’s about our hearts.” He accepted his role as a pawn of the Sons of Ares because of his love for Eo, his 16-year-old wife who martyred herself to inspire a revolution. And her sacrifice – and her dream of a better future for all of the so-called lowColors – is what keeps him focused through much of the book. But he also loves Mustang, the ArchGovernor’s feisty, rebellious daughter, although he keeps her at arm’s length. She’s a Gold, and he’s a Red. They are Romeo and Juliet, forbidden to love one another. Of course this Juliet doesn’t know that the man she loves is actually a lowly Red, an unworthy slave so far beneath her in stature that they shouldn’t even speak to one another much less love. This is the obstacle he fights in this novel, and it’s a huge one.
I do recommend reading RED RISING before beginning GOLDEN SON. And be aware that this novel ends on a major cliff-hanger – there is no resolution, not even a temporary one. You will be desperate to read the third and final installment, and the wait may be long! Overall, this is a gripping, emotionally-charged story with grand themes and a protagonist who finds himself caught up in a political mess that may be impossible to unravel. Darrow says, early in the novel, “More and more do I believe the Sons of Ares chose the wrong man. I am not made for the cold war of politics.” But it’s this war – this insidious political maelstrom – that he must battle. He is a fighter, a killer even, but he’s also a man with heart, a man with a vision of what the world could be if only the hierarchy were broken, if only people could be free. It’s a great story. I highly recommend it.