Golden Son (Red Rising #2) by Pierce Brown
Rating: 4.25 stars
Source: Advanced Review Copy received via NetGalley (thanks!)
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "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."
Review: I received an ARC copy a few days ago of this, the second book in the Red Rising trilogy, which naturally means I've avoided food and sleep and other basic necessities until I could finish. Now that I have, I HAVE to talk about it. In other words, I'm writing this review in a highly unstable, sleep deprived, and extremely hungry state. You've been warned.
The first thing you should know about Golden Son is that it cannot be read without reading its predecessor, Red Rising. So, if you haven't already, GO READ THAT BOOK FIRST.
The second thing you should know is that this book is not for the faint-hearted. It is a violent, graphic, take-no-prisoners kind of book that will, in the immortal words of Taylor Swift, either leave you breathless or with a nasty scar. (Told you I was in an unstable state.) I do not recommend this series to anyone queasy.
If you're up for it, though, this series has the potential to completely sweep you off your feet. In those rare moments when I was doing trivial non-reading things (like buying groceries or, you know, showering) I still couldn't completely detach my head from this story. I was thinking about it ALL THE TIME. This series is absolutely engrossing. If you want a smart, enthralling, complicated, and extremely addicting series, this is the one for you.
The characters were really excellent once again, and, once again, the Telamanuses stole every scene they were in. I adore that family. A new character favorite is easily Ragnar. I want more of him. I LOVED when revelations came about certain characters. I loved loved loved the scene with Darrow and another character and the oracles. I was a basket case of NERVES as I contemplated who would stand by Darrow when he revealed his true identity, and who wouldn't. I was gutted with each betrayal, and with each death. And, multiple times I wondered, is this worth it? Death begets death begets death. Darrow is looking for freedom, not peace. And, although I agree that some things are worth fighting for, even worth starting a war for, I wonder if Darrow is going about things in the right way. But, no matter if his choices are the right ones or the wrong ones, I will devour every page of his story because I am so invested in the outcome.
The main theme that I got out of this book was actually a question: Can people change? It's definitely a question that is worthy of the discussion this book provides. Darrow, Mustang, Sevro, Roque, Augustus... can they change? If so, would the new form they took be a positive change? And, most importantly, is the price that it takes to make someone change really worth the cost?
I shaved off a star for two reasons: one, I felt that some of the scenes weren't set up with quite enough information. I can't give examples without giving spoilers, so I'll just say that that there were about a half-dozen moments where, half-way through the scene, something would happen that I didn't realize was possible because I wasn't given enough details about that scene. Instead of feeling like a clever plot twist, I just felt like the rug got pulled out from under me, and left me scrambling and confused, rather than on an adrenaline-filled rush like I wanted. I'd blame this on my tendency to read really (REALLY) fast when I'm excited, but the number of times it happened make me think it wasn't me.
The second reason I knocked off a star is a little more difficult to explain. To put it badly, I am worried about this story being TOO complicated. Don't get me wrong, I like complex stories. But there are so many plots and layers on top of one another, I'm worried that it'll all fall down on top of itself in the final installment. I'm worried that this is all building up to a finale like the TV show LOST, where only a handful of things were actually answered. (This could be good news if you liked the LOST finale. I didn't.) Or, to use another metaphor, it's like when you're watching a movie with really shaky cinematography, and when the camera finally stills you realize that the shaky camera was hiding the fact that the scene itself wasn't all that exciting. This may not actually happen, and it may not seem fair to critique this book because of something I fear will happen in another book. I get that. But there are a LOT of threads dangling here, and I have no idea how it's even possible to sew them all together. So, based on the many unanswered questions I have, and based on the fact that I'm worried that they will never be answered at all, I knocked off a star.
Still, this book is fascinating. Pierce Brown is absolutely a talented writer (and is extremely nice to his fans on Twitter) who I am very happy to have discovered. I loved reading this book, and will very possibly die if I don't get the next book soon. (Is it inappropriate to bribe Mr. Brown with weekly delivered homemade chocolate chip cookies in exchange for his plot outlines for book 3?!??)
Review in a GIF:
Bottom Line: This complex, exhilarating story continues full throttle with this second installment. This book is intelligent and adrenaline filled, though the level of violence may be off-putting to some.
*** Golden Son is scheduled to be published on January 6, 2015***