Ever taken a bite of an average, fairly well cooked burger, and then gone somewhere with gourmet beef and fresh ingredients and felt your taste buds throw a dance party? That’s what moving from Red Rising to Golden Son felt like to my brain. This book really inspired me to use creative language to glorify God, and describe His world around me. Like last time, mild spoilers will ensue; but they’ll be brief.

First off, a little detail I really appreciated: Pierce Brown included a list and description of all his world’s “Colors”—the societal divisions. It’s a helpful reminder and reference:

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In this review, I’m going to get into favorite quotes, as well as pros and cons of the novel; but first, I want to make an observation on one of the prominent themes, and how it ties into what I try to do with my own writing . Golden Son is full of imperfect characters who reflect the dualistic and inconsistent nature of man. Darrow and his friends face betrayal, personal indecision, and regret. The fact that Darrow seems more fallible in this novel than in the last underscores the fact that he isn’t the savior of mankind. He discovers himself at a loss, or at the mercy of friends, numerous times.

Many young adult or science fiction novels cast their protagonist as the only significant catalyst: as perfect, or, if in possessive of flaws, only ones that are “attractive” or “convenient”. Brown doesn’t do this. Darrow paves the way for others to finish his work. While he strikes a Christ-figure, sacrificing himself and openly forgiving those who hurt him, the theme of no one man being able to redeem himself or others still exists. This theme pairs well with the message I want to present in my written works: Humanism is futile. Jesus Christ is the only one who can redeem us– we don’t have the capacity to save ourselves. Golden Son, while not a novel focusing on religion, strikes a similar thematic chord with many passages of Scripture. That is a unique trait I admire.

Okay, moving on from philosophical thoughts:

Here are some of my favorite quotes. It proved surprisingly difficult to narrow these down. If you’re considering picking up this series, know it is chock-full of beautiful world-building, creative concepts, and inspiring diction:

  • 9: “Explosions might puncture holes in the metal hull and bring burning oxygen rupturing forth like blood from a whale, only to be swallowed in a blink by the black.”
  • 41: “Luxury yachts cruise through this strange days’ end, while nimble Blue-piloted ripWings soar past on patrol like bats glued together from shattered ebony.”
  • 68: “Sharp of face, oily of hair, he slides forward like a blade on ice. All angles. Skin wrapped around slender bones. Was he so thin when I last saw him?”
  • 181: “The fire fades and we slip into open space, where the armada’s capital ships glide like behemoths of Europa’s deep sea. Gun turrets dot their hides like barnacles, and hangar bays slice their undersides like great gills.”
  • 381: “My ship lands in the early morning snowfall of Attica, a southern mountain city set on seven peaks. Jagged buildings of steel and glass christen the peaks like icy thorn crowns, now dusted with fresh powder. The red morning sun rises over the mountain range to the east. “

Lines like those are akin to the garnishes on a delicious burger that make your senses sing and make you happy. At least, that’s what they do for me.

Let’s get into the high points, and those that proved lackluster, in Golden Son:

Pros:

  • Brown’s plot is impressively—intimidatingly—complex. Yet, he still allows us to follow it. The large score of characters and multiplicity of allied groups makes for frequent, wild confrontations and battles.
  • Speaking of characters, they are believable. Brown juggles his minor characters, giving them each development time, and hands out sympathetic and legitimate arguments to more than only Darrow and his immediate circle. This humanizes all the characters, develops the colors we haven’t gotten to gaze closely at yet, and makes the entire story more believable.
  • The tension and pace are wonderful: consistently rising stakes, raw emotions…I felt truly surprised, saddened, and amused by things I didn’t see coming.
  • Sci-Fi nerd out: If you read this series, you’ll get a heaping helping of science fiction: this book is chock-full of ships, weapons, tech, political debates, and more. 🙂
  • Darrow has flaws, is self-aware about several of them, and has moments where he is truly at a loss. This, I feel, is a big improvement, along with the fact that years of training have resulted in a more believable authority for Darrow than in the last book.

All right, now for some lesser points:

  • Despite the decrease, there still exists some information dumping and telling. Sometimes this is given in elevated language akin to the first book’s monologues.
  • Darrow still possesses some lingering Gary Stu symptoms: he’s the first one to come up with novel ideas; His intuition is off the charts, which renders some of his plans unbelievable; he’s also proud and constantly changes his mind, which makes his allegiances clear but doesn’t render his convictions wholly dependable.
  • One motif I noticed is Brown’s tendency to withhold information that Darrow knows from the audience, in order to create suspense or shock when it is later revealed. While this is effective, I felt slighted a few times, wanting to either have been in on the scheme, or at least be clued in on the fact that one had been in the works.

The second installment of the Red Rising trilogy is worlds better in my opinion than the first. It felt polished, breakneck, and intricate. I would highly recommend this book to any science fiction, young adult lit, or action fans—or anyone looking for a complex plot and riveting storyline. If you’ve been on the fence, read the first few chapters and see if you get hooked as I did. I’m giving this one 5/5 stars.

What are you guys reading right now? Any school lists or personal goals? Leave me a comment, and have a great day! 🙂

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