Sunday, December 28, 2014

Review: Golden Son by Pierce Brown

Title: Golden Son
Author: Pierce Brown
Series: Red Rising Trilogy, Book 2
Genre: Dystopia / Science-Fiction
Release Date: 6 January 2014

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.

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.

I rarely email publishers directly for review books, but I had no problem begging for this one. I was ecstatic when I came home from vacation to find it in my mailbox! Ever since first finishing Red Rising about a year ago, I was dying for this book - anxious to see what happened with Darrow next, with Mustang and Sevro and all the rest. I tried to caution myself, don't get your hopes too high, there's no way he can live up to the first book, but it didn't really work. I went into Golden Son fully expecting it to blow me away and be one of my favorite books of both 2014 (when I read it) and 2015 (when it's released).

For seven hundred years, my people have been enslaved without voice, without hope. Now I am their sword. And I do not forgive. I do not forget. So let him lead me onto his shuttle. Let him think he owns me. Let him welcome me into his house, so I might burn it down.

'Lo and behold - I was right. Golden Son left me feeling just as battered and emotionally compromised as its predecessor. I'm now even more invested in these characters, something I didn't really think was possible, and loved seeing the world further expanded. I'm not going to say too much specifically about plot and the overall arc of the story, because I don't want to spoil anyone. What I will say is that this book felt different than Red Rising. The former was very contained - within the Institute, for example - and we only got the barest bit of a peek at the wider world(s). I never felt a lack because there wasn't one, we knew everything we needed to then know, but when you get into Golden Son you realize just how small the picture you saw was. There's so much more going on. The politics are VERY prominent in this book, and there's a lot of chess-like moves happening from multiple directions.

Eo would say this is the hell they've built their heaven upon. And she'd be right. Gazing up, I see more than half a kilometer of tenement buildings before the polluted haze makes a ceiling for the human jungle. Clotheslines and electrical lines crisscross overhead like vines. This sight is hopeless. What is there to change here but everything?

The writing is just as evocative and gripping as it was in Red Rising - though again you can feel the difference as Darrow's world expands and the need for him to grow continues. I was utterly enthralled as I was reading, involved in the story and concerned about the characters and still I'd have to stop and admire a bit of beautiful writing - frequently. Pierce Brown's writing is brilliant, simply beautiful, captivating and gripping.

Reading back through my updates while I was reading this, I am reminded exactly how on edge this book kept me. Throughout reading I just wanted a moment to catch my breath. I couldn't stop, I couldn't believe it; I resented work and sleep for interfering with my reading. There was one amazing scene after another - whether that be emotionally, revelatory, or tension-filled suspensefully - I was shocked as hell more than once. Darrow has evolved into his role, thinking many moves beyond almost everyone else, he's quite simply brilliant. I loved seeing that he's still not perfect. He continues to learn, continues to make mistakes, and continues to learn from them (even if he's not able to do anything about it, he knows it's a mistake). Time and time again, I was on the edge of my seat, biting my nails, trying to avoid racing through the text to find out what happens. There are twists and turns aplenty, revelations that blew my mind, and enough building suspense to give me heart failure.

When falls the Iron Rain, be brave. Be brave.

I can't not talk about Sevro, a favorite from Red Rising and he gets plenty of showtime in Golden Son (though it felt like forever for him to actually appear the first time). He's the perfect counterpoint to Darrow. He keeps him on the level and I loved seeing their relationship develop, in some surprising new directions, too.

My OTP (one-true-pairing) is going to break me. I just know it. I resorted to nearly begging that Pierce Brown not do this to me. Already my heart is so enamoured and wrapped up in them that I...well, just read it. I still can't even talk about it. In addition to many of the characters we fell in love with in Red Rising there's quite a few new characters that showed up to pique my interest and steal my heart.

"But they ask me about you. They ask if the boy warlord is really four meters tall. Is he really followed by a wolfpack? Is he a worldbreaker?"

"And what do you say?"

"I said you are five meters tall, you're followed by a midget and a giant, and you eat glass with your eggs."

One last thing to mention - that ending. Holy.Shit. Talk about ending on a cliff-hanger. I thought I was dying for Golden Son? I didn't even begin to know what need was. I need the third book. I can't even...I just don't know....ARGH! What is going to happen???!!

Several weeks after finishing this book, I haven't stopped thinking about it. I'm getting ready to start a re-read of Red Rising and Golden Son and I know it won't be the only time in 2015 that I end up re-reading them.

Long story short: If you haven't read Red Rising, please, go buy it; if you've been waiting for Golden Son, it's a hell of a ride - I feel confident saying that you're going to love it.

Grade: A

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