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Review: Golden Son by Pierce Brown (@jessicadhaluska, @Pierce_Brown)

Review: Golden Son by Pierce Brown (@jessicadhaluska, @Pierce_Brown)
Golden Son by Pierce Brown
Series: Red Rising Trilogy #2
Published by Del Rey
Published on: January 6 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 465
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
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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 from the overlords of a brutal elitist future built on lies. Now fully embedded among the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his work to bring down Society from within. A life-or-death tale of vengeance with an unforgettable hero at its heart, Golden Son guarantees Pierce Brown’s continuing status as one of fiction’s most exciting new voices.

2015 wellwritten cliff ADDICTIVE

Right. SO . . . after finishing Golden Son did I:

A. Shriek incomprehensibly. Over and over (and over) again.
B. Sit in a semi-comatose state staring at NOTHING for an indefinite period of time.
C. Explain (in detail) to my poor mother (whom I was visiting) EXACTLY what my problem was, despite her having never read either book from this series, and thus being unable to understand what I was ranting about.

(That was a rhetorical question. Obviously, I did them ALL.)

Pierce Brown, (handsome) devil that he is, lured us into a false sense of security in Red Rising. He taught us that, yes, Bad Things would happen—LOTS of Bad Things—but by the end, we’d have found our feet. We’d know that there was more coming—and HOORAY for that—but the individual installment would be resolved.<------LIES. But there is far more to Golden Son then it’s epic cliffhanger of DOOM.

In fact, if it weren’t for a few minor issues, I’d say it was even better than Red Rising, which tied for first place on my Best Books of 2014 list.

Golden Son continues to reveal the complexity of Darrow’s situation—a Red who is a Gold/a Gold who is a Red.

What Darrow originally imagined as a simple infiltration and sabotage has become infinitely more complicated, and where his hard-learned lessons from Red Rising were painful, his mistakes in this newest installment are downright agonizing.

He makes those mistakes in both his personal and professional life, while you are forced to watch helplessly.

You watch helplessly as Darrow enters into an alliance with Jackal, and visions of


dance through your head.

You watch helplessly as Darrow continually keeps his friends at a distance, even as he acknowledges the potentially irreparable damage to the relationships.

You watch helplessly as the chaos of battle ensues, knowing something . . . something terrible . . . is about to happen.

And yet, once again, Brown was able to offset the trepidation and horror he made you carry along like travel companions with both well-placed hilarity, like Kavax au Telemanus, who feeds his pet fox jellybeans, and also with fascinating new details about the caste system Darrow is trying to overthrow, like a branch of Obsidians referred to as Stained.

So it was fantastic. Golden Son will probably be my favorite book in 2015.

BUT. While Brown’s ability to paint truly vivid pictures, and to elicit real emotions remains uncompromised, several details were still unclear to me by the end of book.

The Ash Lord. I did a word search in both books and found that, yes, he had been mentioned briefly in Red Rising as having nuked the world of Rhea into oblivion, and as being the minion of Octavia au Lune, the Sovereign Consul. Various mentions are made to his burning and pillaging in Golden Son as well, but always in a seemingly offhand way so that I never really grasped what was supposed to be so terrifying about the man.

Yes, cerebrally I can comprehend that destroying an entire planet is a terrible thing, but I need meaningful details for something to matter, and in reference to the Ash Lord, there were none.


Then again, watching Alderaan get blown to bits never made much of dent either, so maybe I’m a sociopath. *shrugs*

BUT. Yes, I was fascinated by them, but I was never satisfied with the introduction of the Stained.

As far as we’ve been told, there are two kinds of Reds—underground slaves like Darrow, and those who live above ground and work as menial laborers. The distinction may or may not be arbitray (I have suspicions, but that’s for another time). There are also several types of Golds, but the separations are self-imposed and based on achievement, or lack thereof, and are explained as such. If there are deviations within the other colors, we have yet to learn of them.

And yet, the Stained, a subdivision of Obsidians, are tossed at us as elite bodyguards without explanation. Elite bodyguards, who like the Ash Lord, inspire fear with only the mention of their name. In the first half of the book, they are an almost constant background presence . . . in the retinue of some Gold or another . . . making everyone inexplicably nervous . . . and then we find out why:

Ragnar Volarus.

Ragnar Volarus, “a dread creature stitched from shadow and muscle and armor, ” and who is, incidentally, one of my new favorite characters. If there are any Wheel of Time fans out there, Ragnar reminded me a lot of that honkin’ myrddraal, Shaidar Haran. For the rest of you, that means he’s a Stained to make even other Stained quake with fear, who also seems capable of intelligent and independent thought, unlike other Obsidians and Stained who simply follow orders.

But regardless, we never learn the reason for the divide between Obsidian and Stained, and while that may seem a small thing, for an OCD reader (like myself), every, single time I read the word “Stained” on a page, and every, single time Ragnar was present, in the not-so-back of my mind, I was screaming, “Why? Why, why, whyyyyyy?”

It was a consistent distraction.

And I’m not going to harp on it, b/c nobody else (that I talked to) even picked up on it, but the scenario where we first met Ragnar . . . It (to me) bore a striking similarity to a certain memorable scene in Star Trek Into Darkness. View Spoiler »

But all of those are piddly complaints. The only reason they warrant mentioning at all (except the Star Trek thing, b/c that really bugged me), is b/c they are the reason I’m giving Golden Son 4.5 stars instead of 5.0, when I thought the story and writing were even more compelling than in Red Rising, which I did give 5.0 stars. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Bottom line: Read it, read it NOW.

Red Rising Trilogy:

My Review


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Jessica Signature

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My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.



  1. Golden Son is indeed one of those books that give you a MASSIVE book hangover with that horribly cliffhanger that made me re-read the final few pages more than once wondering if I had missed anything!!

    I must say I also wondered about the Stained and why they were different but ended up thinking that it’d be explained later in the next book, becuase I was so swept away by the plot and the politics and worried about the sudden but inevitable betrayal that I was sure would come (your review gets plenty of extra points for that quote GIF!!), and even so, I was SHOCKED when it came…

    The wait for Morning Star is gonna be horrible!!!
    Pili recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday #77!!

    • You know . . . I hadn’t really thought about that much until you said it, but your right. Even though I knew a sudden-but-inevitable-betrayal was . . . inevitable *snickers* I was still surprised by how it went down. Things like that are the mark of a truly excellent writer, I think.

      And YES . . . that wait . . . *whimpers*

  2. Eeeeep Jessica! Now I just HAVE to read Red Rising! Hopefully I’ll end up loving it so I can read this one and bask in the awesomeness of this series. *__*
    Aimee recently posted…Getting Out of Your Shell

  3. How do I love thy reviews,Jessica…let me count the ways. 😉 Okay, so you’re saying I need to read Red Rising? Is that right? And then Golden Son? *ha* You (and Lexxie) put Red Rising on my tbr. I suppose I’ll read it soon. I’m glad this was such a good read despite your ‘piddly’ issues with it. I’m a sucker for an author who draws vivid pictures and evokes so much emotion. I love that you referenced Star Trek! (yep, I’m a Trekkie) But mostly, I want to experience a book that leaves me squealing, catatonic, and then fangirling (to someone who may or may not care). Oh, I love your review!! 🙂
    Bookworm Brandee recently posted…#COYER Review ~ Soul Avenged ~ Keri Lake

    • Brandee . . . if Red Rising goes on sale you will be getting a KA-type email from me, b/c YES. That is what I’m saying. Yelling. Screaming? Yes, screaming.

      As for vivid pictures, there are scenes in both books that are CINEMATIC. You can see them as they happen, and it’s incredible. For example, Mars has higher . . . or lower . . . different gravity than earth, and there’s this one scene where someone is falling, and the way Brown writes it, it’s like they’re falling in slow motion, and you can see the cloud of hair hovering around their head, and then it speeds back up, and just WHOA. *fangirling*

  4. Okay so now I am a bit curious..I bought the first book on the pleads of my blogging friends and it was $ This isn’t my favorite genre but everyone has made me so curious…lol
    Stormi recently posted…Book Review: Blood Assassin by Alexandra Ivy

    • Let me assure you that it is totally worth that curiosity. SO GOOD.

  5. You know outside of the people on Clerks there really never has been enough made of Alderan being blown up. It was an entire damn planet yet we are more worried about Luke in the garbage chute. Even Leah moves on in record time.

    Starting to think Star Wars wasn’t entirely realistic.
    Nathan ( recently posted…Fantasy Review: ‘Half Bad’ by Sally Green

  6. I have Red Rising but skipped it because of the YA label. Though from all these reviews, it is not very YA at all! So now it has been moved up 🙂

    • Ummm . . . yeah, no. You know how you’re always asking me if i think a book is appropriate for your friends’ kids? This one definitely isn’t. I’m not giving it to my 15 y.o. sister for a couple of years.

  7. Awesome review, Jessica! Alas, I never watched Star Trek, so your spoiler was completely lost on me 😀
    I loved Ragnar, especially because he has learned to worship the Norse Gods… and I really hope we haven’t seen the last of him. And I have a theory about stained / obsidian if you have the time and the want to chat about it.
    I think Golden Son will be among my favorite 2015 reads, too, and I truly found it better than Red Rising, even with that mean cliffie 😀
    Have a wonderful Wednesday, and happy reading (and listening).
    Lexxie recently posted…Review: Garrett – Sawyer Bennett

    • Lexxie! It was SO GOOD. Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan . . . *swoons*

      I also loved Ragnar, and yes, this is definitely going to be one of my top 2015 reads too 😉

  8. I’ve had my eye on this series since reading a few great reviews around the blogosphere, but your review really makes me want to pick them up ASAP! Don’t you love it when a book brings all these emotions out of you? 🙂
    Lori recently posted…One Month of Elle Kennedy {Promo + Giveaway}

  9. Excellent review Jessica! I never watched Strek so I’d never have noticed that, in fact, I’m not big fan of Sci-fi, but I sure loved these books, and Golden Son it’s sure to be among my favorites on 2015.
    OH boy! Did I needed to talk to to someone when I finish this book.
    Awesome job!
    Lupdilup recently posted…Golden Son Audiobook by Pierce Brown (Review)

    • Yeah, even people who don’t usually go for sci-fi will love these books (as you can attest). And *clears throats noisily* similarly, even people that don’t like usually watch sci-fi movies will love Star Trek Into Darkness . . . wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

      And me too, GAWD, I needed to talk it out. Fortunately I BR-ed it with a couple of friends on Goodreads, but i still finished it before they did, and had to stew for like 18 hrs before I could rant.

  10. Cliffhanger of doom? Noooooooo! WHY DO AUTHORS DO THIS TO US?! It huuuuuurrrrrtttttssss:) I haven’t read Rising Red which I absolutely need to do, but now I’m kind of glad I’m late to this party because I’m not sure I can handle the cliffhanger of doom unless I have book 3 in my hands already. Might have to wait for that and then binge read:)

    • Yeah, if you haven’t already started, I would definitely go ahead and wait. BUT. As soon as you can get your hands on book 3, you should read them all immediately. This is a series I recommend to the WHOLE WORLD. Like Kate Daniels and Throne of Glass 😉

  11. I freaking loved this book! It played with my heartstrings and had my emotions all over the place. Brown is a genius. I can’t wait for book three!
    kindlemom1 recently posted…Review: Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews

  12. I finished it yesterday morning and the only thing raising me from my coma was to turn to a sweet contemporary romance. Do you feel absolutely distraught right now? I was so in shock I couldn’t accurately define my feelings. Can’t believe we have to wait months for the next book.

    GREAT review!!!!
    Jonetta (Ejaygirl) recently posted…On Fire! Fanning the Flames by Victoria Dahl

    • Thank you! And yes, I was emotional blah. Like a puddled mass of indecipherable emotions. I did read it with a couple of friends though, so that helped . . . eventually . . .

  13. Man, I have got to read this series! This is one awesome review you’ve written here, Jessica. If this is how you always write them, you can pretty much count on me to come back 🙂 Thanks for posting!
    Ramona recently posted…What Makes A Successful YA Novel?

    • YES. You really do. And thanks, Ramona. I hope you do come back. I don’t usually take so long to reply to comments . . . sorry. *shrugs awkwardly*

  14. LOL that Firefly photo/quote though. I’m starting to think that this is a series I need to get on board with, despite how leery I am of dystopians these days. Anything that has you ranting to unsuspecting loved ones is clearly worth reading!
    Danya recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday: Vol. 27

    • UMMM . . . YES. Nobody is more leery of dystopians than I am, but, please (please, please, PLEASE) believe me when I say that you this series is truly fantastic.

  15. Your review made me laugh. I loved your enthusisasm and I can only imagine how your mother must have felt listening to you rant. I have read outstanding reviews for this series, so much so that I bought the first book and I intend to read it this weekend. I can’t wait to see what all the fuss is about.
    Heidi recently posted…Tour Stop: Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander

    • LOL. My poor mother. *shakes head* Since I’m so behind in my replies, you’ve almost certainly read Red Rising by now, so I’m go check and see it I missed the review 😉

  16. I guess I should like..dunno, try it? 😉
    blodeuedd recently posted…The copper promise – Jen Williams

  17. I would have recognized that scene as well! LOL

    Oh this sounds SO good. I just got the first book and I know that I’ll be wanting this one too! Why must there be so many good books that I still need to read? Maybe it is a good thing to wait since the cliffie of doom is there. Hopefully the third book will be out when I finally make my way through this book.
    Melissa (Books and Things) recently posted…Audiobook Review: Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews

    • YES. I’m so glad. Everyone else, even people who have SEEN THE MOVIE, blew past it completely. Damn my detail-orientedness 😉

      I hope you do read it, Melissa, but I totally wouldn’t blame you if you waited, b/c they cliffy is a dozy. AS LONG AS you do get to it eventually, b/c these books are too good it miss. *pinky promises*

  18. I’m imagining you shrieking and then basically going catatonic after, I can only imagine what your mom was thinking LOL.

    I’m so relieved I snagged the first one as it’s on sale, I have yet to read it but it looks like I am going to hate myself for waiting this long.
    Braine Talk Supe recently posted…Loved It: Beyond the Consequences by Aleatha Romig

    • LOL. She’s used to my dramatics, but I’m sure this one episode was memorable despite her familiarity.

      And yes. You will. Hate yourself for waiting, that is. *nods affirmatively* But hey, better late than never, right?

  19. Not sure if your review makes me want to read this book or run as far away as I possibly can away from it…Mars, maybe?
    Joy // Joyousreads recently posted…[479] Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarksy

    • Only go to Mars if you have incontrovertible proof that Darrow is actually there, in which case, I will be coming with you.

  20. Oh, this one gave me a book hangover too. That ending! ARGGGH, I usually get so annoyed when we’re left hanging like that, but at the same time, I’m so addicted to this series I can’t find it in myself to mind too much.
    Mogsy recently posted…Tough Traveling – Messiahs

    • Exactly. That’s how I know that I’m hardcore gone for a series: if an installment ends in an epic cliffhanger, and I can’t find it in me to object too strenuously despite my absolute hatred of cliffhangers.

  21. I imagine your poor mother trying to understand what was going on. I should have tried that with DH… LOL
    By the way Markus (Goodreads) also caught the Star Trek similarities… I’m glad I’m not as OCD reader as you…. or him. 🙂
    BookaholicCat recently posted…CATS-ilicious Thursdays

    • LOL. DH probably would have reacted the way my mother did—with extreme patience and incredulity. *snickers*

      And HOORAY! I wasn’t the only one 😉

  22. i’m so glad that you loved this one, jessica! i’m not a huge fan of the series as i dnfed the first book but i might try it again some day in the future.

    nice review, luv <33
    Melanie (YA Midnight Reads) recently posted…Review: Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

    • Thanks, Melanie! And I’m sorry you didn’t love 🙁 I hope you have better luck if you decide to try it again sometime.

  23. That’s it! I’m reading this series! So far everyone I know is singing praised about this book and I shamefully haven’t even read Red Rising! I had to skim your review but you definitely convinced me to give this series a shot Jessica! Awesome review!
    Amir recently posted…Review: Ashes to Ashes by Jennifer Han and Siobhan Vivian

    • Read it, read it NOW. It’s amazeballs, Amir. Seriously. Amazeballs.

  24. Awesome review. Must check out this book further. The only problem is…the cliffhanger. Thanks for sharing.
    sherry fundin recently posted…Review ~ The Chase by Janet Evanovich

    • Yeah, cliffhangers are a problem for me too, but this book is so good that I can’t work myself into too big of tantrum 😉

  25. I’ll really really have to try this series! I keep hearing amazing things about it and I know that now I need to get into it too. I just hope that I’ll love it as much as everyone else. thanks for your review!

    • It’s so good, Melliane. SO freaking good. I hope you read it and love it as much as the rest of us too.

  26. I know you said to pick this series up right now but, after all that teeth-gnashing and staring into space, I feel like I might need to wait until the next (last?) one is out…and binge like a madwoman.
    Mary recently posted…Blog Tour: Shoalman Immortal by Toni Decker

    • Hey, as long as it gets done, I don’t care too much about the how 😉

  27. So. I hadn’t watch the Star Trekk movie until last night. When I saw that part of them flying to the other ship, I was like ‘hey, this is sure familiar …’ lol. This will definitely be my fav of 2015, just like Red Rising was my fav of 2014. And yes, handsome, indeed. 😀
    Christy recently posted…Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews

    • Hahahaha! I’m just glad someone else noticed, even if it was in reverse order, LOL.

  28. So, for a while, I was like ”To read or not to read?” because, I don’t know if you remember, but I really didn’t enjoy book 1. Just the beginning…but not the school. Except, EVERYONE loves this sequel and some said it was even better than Red Rising so I’m tempted. Super unspoilery review!!
    Lola recently posted…Review: Under Different Stars (Kricket, #1) by Amy A. Bartol

    • Thanks, Lola! And I hope you do decide to read it, AND that you actually like this one 😉

  29. I swear, Red Rising has been on my radar before it was even out in the world but somehow I still haven’t read it. 🙁 I’m glad the series is still maintaining its goodness. I have to get into this series soon. Great review, Jessica!! <3
    Paula M. recently posted…ARC REVIEW: Whispers from the Dead (Serenity’s Plain Secrets #2) by Karen Ann Hopkins + Giveaway!!

    • Paula . . . this series is beyond mind blowing, and I REALLY hope you get around to it. I will be very sad if you miss out (b/c your mind will be blown).

  30. I have heard a lot about these and sounds great

  31. There could be a whole post about stages of grief after reading Golden Son. I liked this book much better than Red Rising. Yeah Darrow still made stupid mistakes at times. He was less annoying this time though. I agree, I enjoyed the levity in such a dark book. I loved Ragnar too! Maybe the Stained are like golds and obsidians are like bronzes? Or maybe peerless? Yes I could use more explanations too. Nice to see you back Jessica. 🙂
    Molly Mortensen recently posted…Generation V, Iron Night, and Tainted Blood by ML Brennan

    • Thanks, Molly. It’s good to be back. Which feels kind of silly to say considering how late I am in replying to these comments. Oh well. Onward and upward.

      I’m glad you loved it too, but honestly, I more issues with Darrow this go round than in Red Rising. He acknowledge his need to change a few too many time without actually making a change. For me anyway. But this book is so far beyond others in it’s class that the few issues I did have didn’t make much of a dent overall.

  32. Amazing review! I’ve been meaning to start reading the Red Rising series for a long time because everybody around me rave about it. But now, I NEED to read it, lol!
    Sarah H recently posted…Sage Noire and The Struggle That Came With It

  33. I did the same things after finishing this book (I talked to my friend instead of my mother, but otherwise your list of reactions is spot on). Especially point B, I think I still haven’t completely recovered from THAT ending!!!

    Anyway, I have to admit that I probably liked Golden Son even better than Red Rising. And I thought nothing could beat Red Rising.

    Great review, btw. Now we “only” have to wait a year for last book…
    Lucia recently posted…BLOGOVERSARY GIVEAWAY!

    • “Anyway, I have to admit that I probably liked Golden Son even better than Red Rising. And I thought nothing could beat Red Rising.

      Me TOO. Thanks, Lucia! And yeah, let the waiting commence 😉