The Trials and Tribulations of a ‘Golden Son’ (A Review)

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Review by Curtis Cole

 
It is hard being a good son. You have to worry about alliances and business partners, not to mention assassination attempts and building the best you can for your family name. When one factors in the competition, all those ruthless Golds whom have it out for you, then the stress can build. And so it is for protagonist Darrow: the father of lies who carved his way into the highest echelons of Gold society to become something worth having for the Sons of Ares freedom fighters.

 
Golden Son is author Pierce Brown’s second installment in the Red Rising trilogy. It continues the story of Darrow, a working class youth who was thrust into the brutal, cut-throat world of the Golds, the elite of society, after his love was murdered before his eyes and the reality of his life on Mars was exposed for a shame; that his kin, the Reds, the lowest class, were lied to—that humanity’s efforts at terraforming the planet had succeeded ages ago and that now they live merely as slaves. Golden Son picks off right where the first left off, at the conclusion of the academy scene. As one might have expected from the title, this second installment concerns family, on what it means to belong and love. The pressing question is asks, of course, is whether the price for belonging is worth the sacrifice.

 
Anyone who has read Brown’s previous book will understand this new product, as it is more of the same, only better. The progressive politics remain intact as is the unrelenting adherence to the necessity of violence to change society. The characters build in depth as their personalities and motivations are fleshed out and given new life upon being thrust into new situations. Plot wise everything has improved; gone are the previous installment’s cannibalizations of other young adult franchises (Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, Divergence), and ‘in’ are the original formulations of honor, love, and navigating a dangerous world all alone. Brown manages to craft a plot which mixes mild romantic inclinations with those of drama and action-adventure. Switching between, but often mixing, several of these genres at once, it is not uncommon to read of the emotional turmoil transpiring during an action scene or vise versa. Brown jumps between intrigue, action, and drama with gusto while never lingering beyond a scene’s prime; scenes of diabolical political backhanding end just when you wish them too, while scene of violence and carnage know not to overstay their welcome.

 
In terms of faults I cannot find too many. Perhaps I could say how some of the plot developments are clichéd but as these almost always lead up to a twist which subverts the original cliché, I cannot fault Brown with their rare inclusion (besides, at the end of the day, this is a book meant for teens and young adults, so a certain amount of the ‘tired and true’ is to be expected). I only found issue with how some of the narrative is handled. At times the plot seemed to run ahead of itself, with the result being that the reader is momentarily confused as they have to piece together what it means when [X] comes after [Y] after character [so and so] speaks of something happening which, previously, was but a dream spoken of earlier. Although these moments are rare, they speak of a tendency for Brown to force a great deal of narrative into a small slice of the page, something which does not always clear up the murky waters. Some of this is intentional, as in near the end of the book, while for other bits one can tell that it was a struggle for him to write in all that he wanted without including an additional two hundred pages, and so he had to dream up some narrative trick as a compromise. I will not say that such moments disturbed me or created a current of dissatisfaction, but I do want to just mention that with all the details in the book to keep track of, some fans may end up a little confused at certain points in the narrative if they have not been closely following all of the background minutia.

 
In the end, Golden Son is a fantastic experience. Regaling the audience with tales of grandeur, heroism, conquest, and a young adult coming to terms with his role in the universe, Golden Son will delight fans of Brown’s first literary effort. Everything has been polished and made to fit with the beautifully realized world. There is shocking twists, epic battles, and existential drama ahoy in this story so anyone with such an appetite will want to continue their path on Brown’s road and see what next happens to Darrow.

 
To read my review of Red Rising, book one of the Red Rising trilogy, click here.

 
Golden Son
Pierce Brown
466 Pages. Published by Del Rey. $9.99 (Kindle), $17.00 (Hardcover), $9.72 (Paperback), $22.04 (Audible audiobook), $45.00 (Audio CD)[1]. 2015.

 

[1] All prices and page estimates were taken from Amazon.com and were accurate at the time of writing.

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