Review by Mike Cluff
Golden Son, the second book in the Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown, is not your standard second-book-in-a-trilogy. Often in trilogies the first book is an exciting introduction to a new world, new characters, and, ultimately, a new overall conflict. We praise the new book because it is new, it is exciting, and we are dedicated to the hero and his/her journey. We wait anxiously for the release date of the next book, and when it is in our hands we gobble it up and get a sucker punch to the gut.
The second book in a trilogy usually serves as a machination to build up the ultimate conflict in the third book, more than likely ending halfway through the story arc with a huge cliffhanger. Most second books could never be a standalone story, they are dependent on the rest of the trilogy. Second books are rarely the favorite or topic of discussion. They are necessary, but frustrating. A shell of a book. A journey to the beginning of the end.
Even if Golden Son does end with a gut punch of a cliff hanger (not a sucker punch, the reader knows it is coming), it defies the stereotypical ‘second book in a trilogy’ problem and contains a full and rich story. Yes, it is one chapter of a greater story, but it is a complete chapter. With Red Rising, Pierce Brown took us into futuristic Mars and introduced its ‘colorful’ people, but Golden Son blows the story out of Mar’s orbit and into the solar system. The while the scope builds, the spectrum of Brown’s color culture is broadened and enriched. That is what makes this second book so enjoyable: Golden Son takes everything fascinating and compelling about Red Rising and magnifies it a hundredfold.
The story picks up with Darrow thick in the world of the elite Gold society. It is the last day of Academy. He is the top of his class, dominating the space war games, trouncing his enemies, bringing glory to the House of Mars. There is no doubt he is going to win. Victory will be ultimate. Life for our Gold with a heart of Red couldn’t be better.
And that is why Pierce Brown is a cruel literary torturer. He is a killer of kittens. Of all kittens. Yes, the kitten genocide was led by Pierce Brown. Because Brown fills you with extreme hope, and triumph that crescendos to the point that you are giving yourself high-fives and chest bumps. Then Brown blitzkriegs you with tragedy. Like killing kittens.
And that is only in the first chapter.
This roller coaster of emotion is a pattern that continues through the whole book to the very end. What? Oh yes I did. Spoiler. But not really. This is the second book in a trilogy. Happy endings are not allowed. And the worst kitten-killing is the wait for book three.
And wait you will. Golden Son only demonstrates Brown’s growing literary talent. The writing is beautiful, the narrative captivating. The twisting and turning of the plot won’t let you put down the book. And Darrow continues to be complex, intelligent, and moral hero that, despite all that he has suffered, still innocently believes in good. It’s that beautiful innocence that causes Darrow so much pain. But his pain always leads to epic action, and Darrow still has a few true friends to help him.
All of your favorite characters from Red Rising are back and more surprising characters (good, sort of good, bad, and pure evil) are thrown in the mix. Of course, many of them die, but I won’t give out any more spoilers.
When Fiction Vortex did the review for Red Rising, Dan Hope, our managing editor, said that Red Rising is what Hunger Games should have been. Golden Son affirms that statement. Golden Son is not a footnote to the first book and is definitely not just a precursor to the third. Golden Son has broken the chains of mediocrity when it comes to second books in trilogies.
- Series: The Red Rising Trilogy
- Hardcover: 464 pages
- Publisher: Del Rey (January 6, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0345539818
- ISBN-13: 978-0345539816