ARC review: Golden Son by Pierce Brown

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“Once upon a time, there was a family of strong wills,” she says, voice slow and measured as a pendulum. “They did not love one another. But together they presided over a farm. And on that farm, there were hounds, and bitches, and dairy cows, and hens, and cocks, and sheep, and mules, and horses. The family kept the beasts in line. And the beasts kept them rich, fat, and happy. Now, the beasts obeyed because they knew the family was strong, and to disobey was to suffer their united wrath. But one day, when one of the brothers struck his brother over the eye, a cock said to a hen, ‘Darling, matronly hen, what would really happen if you stopped laying eggs for them?’” 

Golden Son begins two years after the conclusion of Red Rising. While his friends and classmates relaxed, confident in their new positions as Peerless Scarred, Darrow trained. He fought. He prepared to topple society from the top. As Golden Son begins, Darrow is nearing the end of his time at the Academy, where he has learned how to command an army. While the Institute taught him how to win people, the Academy has taught him strategic maneuvers and how to command fleets of aircraft to win a war.

The book feels simultaneously similar to and different from Red Rising. Mustang, Sevro, and Roque are back, and joined by a whole new cast of characters to either love or despise. Just as before, every character has their purpose. Prepare yourself: you will become attached, and your favorite characters will die in the most tragic ways possible. Darrow will claw his way to the top, using his anger at what was done to his wife, what was done to his closest allies, in an attempt to destroy the status quo. He will gain and lose trust, gain and lose friends. He will have to remind himself why exactly he’s fighting, and whose dream he’s fighting for. He will have to decide how many friends to betray along the way.

I have read many reviews of Red Rising that complain of Darrow’s perfection. I have good news for those readers: Darrow’s perfection is shattered in Golden Son. Gone is the boy who always knew what to do. Gone is the boy who got by with just his wits and his luck. In Golden Son, Darrow struggles. He falls from grace. His brilliant plans are thwarted by equally brilliant rivals and traitors within his inner circle. He makes bad decisions. He constantly second guesses himself. He takes his rebellion a little too far at times, accepts other Colors a little too freely, and his friends no longer blindly support him. He acts like an actual person rather than the perfect symbol of rebellion that he was before. I actually liked Darrow a lot more in Golden Son, because he seemed more real to me.

So if everything was this great, why is my rating lower for Golden Son than it was for Red Rising? It’s little things. I felt like the pacing was a little uneven. And unlike Red Rising, I felt like Golden Son was better outside of the battles, when Darrow was trying to repair his friendships and decide who he could trust. I loved this book, but for me, Red Rising was just a little bit better. Still, the ending had my heart pounding and I will be holding my breath waiting for Morning Star’s release.

A huge thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy!

Final rating: 4.5/5

[Golden Son is the second book in the Red Rising trilogy.  See my review of book #1, Red Rising here, or on Goodreads.]

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