The Golden Son (Red Rising #2) by Pierce Brown is the sequel to the science fiction novel Red Rising, released as the second edition of the Red Rising Saga.
After the heart-stopping thriller of the debut novel, I was more than anxious to see what Brown had in store for this long anticipated sequel.
If you have yet to read Red Rising, I suggest coming back to this page at a later date as this book review does contain spoilers for the first novel of this series. Now let’s get into The Golden Son review!
If you’re not familiar with how I conduct my book reviews, I typically just deliver the general gist of the book to give you an idea of whether or not this novel might be to your liking. I refrain from analyzing specific plot details that would spoil the reading experience for you.
These book reviews are meant to be a preview trailer, not a plot summary. I only include spoilers for previous novels if the novel is a sequential installment in a series (like Red Rising in this case).
In short, this book review DOES NOT contain any major spoilers for the plot of The Golden Son. Enjoy!
What reading genre is The Golden Son?
The Golden Son is a science fiction thriller. Just like Red Rising!
Where does the story of the The Golden Son pick up in relation to Red Rising?
The Golden Son commences two years following the events of Red Rising.
The last event of Red Rising is when Darrow shockingly committed his loyalty to Archgovernor Nero Augustus.
He agreed to become the apprentice of the man who killed his wife at the noose. This proclamation tied him to one of the most powerful families on Mars.
By now, Darrow has earned the title of Peerless Scarred. This title firmly cements his reputation as one of the premier Golds in the Society.
What major differences are there between The Golden Son and Red Rising?
The story of The Golden Son emphasizes the initiation process of becoming a Peerless Scarred far less than its counterpart. The setting of the Institute is left behind in favor of the more dystopian, galactic setting that was initially unveiled at the onset of Red Rising.
Consequently, this novel incorporated exponentially more of the sci-fi elements that the previous novel integrated to a far lesser extent. With this shift came more gargantuan starships. And more technological space warfare. And more overbearing superhumans.
Pretty much just more intergalactic madness in general.
The total abandonment of the setting of the Institute opened up the opportunity for the reader to get more than just a mere glimpse into the hierarchy of the Society.
Whereas before the reader was confined to the Hunger Games like atmosphere of the Institute, this novel analyzes the political landscape of the galaxy. The reader is introduced to the Sovereign and the political superpowers that reign over all of the Colors.
These political superpowers are not simply analyzed at the surface level. The reader is also introduced to the corrupt means by which these leaders claimed their power. All the while, Darrow takes in all of this information, searching for vulnerabilities in the political system to exploit.
Furthermore, The Golden Son allocated a substantially larger portion of the narrative content to full-fledged action compared to its predecessor.
Far less of the plot was committed to building up the somber sob story of Darrow and brutally characterizing the vast variety of personas that we saw in Red Rising.
This dramatic redistribution of the story composition freed up the opportunity for Brown to showcase his creative prowess. As a result, Brown was able to better consolidate his efforts toward his writing strengths.
What are the writing strengths of Pierce Brown you may ask?
The ability of Pierce Brown to fabricate an intricate, unpredictable plotline that is easily understood is without a doubt his foremost writing strength.
There are a lot of moving parts to The Golden Son. In spite of this, I did not miss a beat whenever there was an additional wrench thrown into the story.
Brown delicately foreshadows each of his main plot twists with peculiar little details. The casual reader could easily glance over these details if not treading carefully.
Had these foreshadowing elements been absent in the story, the reader would believe such sudden plot revelations to be random and haphazard.
These subtle hints are what give the plot reasonable fluidity. Each plot twist makes sense. At the same time, each plot twist is immensely challenging to envision even when something seems amiss.
How are the characters in The Golden Son?
Many of the familiar faces from the Institute is brought back into the fold alongside Darrow, including but not limited to Mustang, Sevro, Roque, Cassius and Tactus.
The involvement of the former cast eased the progression into the sequel enormously.
The old faces provided adequate time for the reader to properly reacquaint themselves with the ambience of the story. The introduction of an entirely fresh cast of personalities would have complicated this readjustment period exponentially.
This is not to say new characters were excluded from this novel.
A motley of lively personalities is introduced, including Kavax and Daxo Telemanus and my personal favorite Ragnar.
These aggressive brutes help to re-establish the warrior-like atmosphere of Red Rising. Not to mention that these monstrous giants were a charm to read about when they were turned loose in battle.
These newly established characters insert seamlessly into the plotline, much in part to the meticulous story writing by Pierce Brown.
Are there any flaws with the characterization?
There were two trivial flaws with the characterization.
Several characters have similar names derived from Roman origin, making it difficult to keep track of who is who.
For example, when I was still in the beginning portions of the novel, there were several times I mixed up Tactus and Cassius.
I was able to overcome this confusion relatively quickly. Though, it was a tad frustrating especially when I was trying to re-familiarize myself with the series and mentally categorize where each character’s loyalties lied.
In addition, characters are occasionally referenced by both their real name and their nickname, like the Jackal and Adrius au Augustus for instance.
For the longest time I thought these were two separate characters. What seems like a petty little detail held large sway over how I interpreted the plot. This issue was not resolved until much later in the novel when I finally put two and two together.
Besides these petty qualms, the complex character network was magnificently done.
How is the characterization of the main protagonist in The Golden Son?
Darrow once again steals the show in this science fiction sequel.
What makes Darrow so captivating is that it is virtually impossible to pin down what his next move will be.
All of his conflicting ambitions vie for dominance with every decision he makes. I am not even sure Darrow genuinely knows where his true loyalties lie.
In Red Rising, the only emotion Darrow felt for the Golds was rage. Darrow expands his emotional spectra with The Golden Son. He begins to soften up his emotions. The hidden sorrow he has suppressed ever since the tragic death of his wife, Eo, even starts to unravel.
It is obvious from a third party perspective that Darrow must place a singular ambition above all else. He must choose where his loyalties lie. The only perspective that matters, however, is that of Darrow.
Unfortunately, Darrow cannot stomach the idea of stifling an open door of opportunity and bringing strife to those he loves.
Darrow continually ventures down the path least travelled on.
He searches for an answer to avenge his wife, protect both his family and friends, and fix the fractured Society of colors all at once.
Darrow persistently seeks to please everyone no matter the circumstances. This tactic rarely works, often leaving him in a worse spot with his friends than where he began.
What are your personal thoughts on the actions of the main protagonist?
I was left wondering whether all of these efforts by Darrow were in vain. At times, I felt that Darrow should abandon the idea of carving his own path and choose a side. In my opinion, the perfect solution to all of his problems probably does not exist.
With each individual choice that he makes, there is a set of dire consequences that he must inevitably pay for.
The larger than life aspirations of Darrow make him easy to cheer for. On the other hand, it also makes it difficult to emotionally detach from his story when his grand aspirations come back to bite him.
How easy of a read is The Golden Son?
The Golden Son logs in at 464 pages total, 82 pages longer than its precursor, taking the average reader approximately 11 hours to read this novel to completion.
This science fiction thriller is a time investment without a doubt, but not excessively so to the point where it is a struggle to endure persistently until the end. Although the additional eighty or so pages may seem like a great deal, the pacing felt very similar to that of Red Rising.
The supplementary action replaced the tedious character expositions, which ultimately negated the additional page length and kept the story at a seemingly rapid pace.
In short, The Golden Son is an easier read than it appears to be at first glance.
What are the major themes in The Golden Son?
A prevailing theme in The Golden Son is love and sacrifice.
The mission of Darrow to restructure society was not sparked by an overwhelming attraction to the greater good. His lust for change stemmed from the loss of his wife, Eo, to the injustice of society.
Although it seems that Darrow has already gone unimaginable lengths to avenge his wife, his arduous undertaking always demands more from him. Darrow is frequently tested to see how far he will go to avenge his shattered love for Eo.
Routinely pushed to the brink of lunacy and hysteria, it brings about the question of whether broken love is worthy of such sacrifice. After all, a man can only take so much suffering before reaching their breaking point.
Another major theme in The Golden Son is identity crisis.
As you learned in Red Rising, Darrow was carved from a Red into a Gold to infiltrate the upper ranks of society. Darrow was stripped of his body and remade to suit the physical standards of a Gold.
The transformation of Darrow was not only limited to the physical realm. As Darrow begins to assimilate himself with the Peerless Scarred, his mindset begins to shift as well. He starts to realize that not all Golds are inherently evil.
Thus, an identity crisis is formed. Darrow must choose whether to keep to his mission of wiping out all remnants of Gold society or find an alternative route to save his friends. This internal identity crisis of deciding whether he is Red or Gold prevails throughout the novel.
What Darrow ultimately identifies with is up to you to find out!
How is the ending of The Golden Son? (NO SPOILERS)
This being a non-spoiler review, I will not concede the details of the last couple pages of The Golden Son to keep true to the nature of this discussion.
However, I will say this… the ending is a nail-biter for the ages that caught me completely unawares.
Originally, I had planned to unwind from this series after my The Golden Son review. I wanted to venture on to some other fantasy works for the time being.
After closing out The Golden Son in all of its glory, I scrapped that plan and threw it straight out the imaginary window. Why? So I could move on to the third installment of this saga: The Morning Star!
My earnest advice… read this sci-fi novel to the end! You will not be disappointed.
The Golden Son Review Recap
I consider The Golden Son light years ahead of its forbearer Red Rising.
The story had the rusty gears of my mind turning at all sorts of angles from start to finish. The characters were about as good as they get in the sci-fi genre.
I will even be as bold to say that The Golden Son has snuck into my all time list of favorite science fiction novels ever. Now that my fellow fantasy fanatics, is saying something!
If you want to get a physical or audible copy of The Golden Son for yourself, check out the lowest price at Amazon here.
To see the rest of my favorite science fiction novels, check out My Top Science Fiction Books.
“Wise men read books about history… Strong men write them.”
“Friendships take minutes to make, moments to break, years to repair.”
“There is no greater plague to an introvert than the extroverted.”
“I will die. You will die. We will all die and the universe will carry on without care. All that we have is that shout into the wind – how we live. How we go. And how we stand before we fall.”
“Hic sunt leones. Here be lions.”
The Golden Son Review Rating: 10/10!
Back of the Book Blurb
As a Red, Darrow grew up working the mines deep beneath the surface of Mars, enduring backbreaking labor while dreaming of the better future he was building for his descendants. But the Society he faithfully served was built on lies. Darrow’s kind have been betrayed and denied by their elitist masters, the Golds—and their only path to liberation is revolution. And so Darrow sacrifices himself in the name of the greater good for which Eo, his true love and inspiration, laid down her own life. He becomes a Gold, infiltrating their privileged realm so that he can destroy it from within.
A lamb among wolves in a cruel world, Darrow finds friendship, respect, and even love—but also the wrath of powerful rivals. To wage and win the war that will change humankind’s destiny, Darrow must confront the treachery arrayed against him, overcome his all-too-human desire for retribution—and strive not for violent revolt but a hopeful rebirth. Though the road ahead is fraught with danger and deceit, Darrow must choose to follow Eo’s principles of love and justice to free his people.
He must live for more.