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
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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.
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, “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 »Okay, I’m sorry. I tried really, really hard to let it go, but not only did Darrow and Servo shoot through space in nothing but spacesuits to infiltrate an enemy vessel, but once they got there, Ragnar crushed someone’s head with his bare hands. Like a grape. *shudders* « Hide 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:
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