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.
It’s a strange feeling coming back to your favourite book series ever and trying to find the proper words to review it – without going down the I love this so much it hurts existing fanboying mentality I have over the Red Rising Saga. Disclaimer: I first read Red Rising (or at least, first started it) about three years ago and in terms of the overall series, I fell in love immediately. Though, I’ve never reread it. That paired with the fact I’ve only now just come to love audiobooks, I thought it would be time to come back to this series. That and I’ve never reviewed them before. So, rather than coming to this fresh like most of my other reviews, I’m coming back to this series with a bundle of existing feelings but I’ll try not to let that get in the way of this review series. It’ll be a combination of what I thought initially and what I feel now melded into one. Check out my other reviews in the series: Red Rising.
Darrow is back again in Golden Son – a sequel that does every bit to be better than its predecessor and succeeds. It’s a book of vengeance, and the lengths others go to quell, squash and destroy those who would wish for something better. A book that fits more action, duels, and the most cinematic and awe-inspiring battle scenes I’ve ever witnessed. War in all its gritty glory; pair that with a masterclass in making you hurt, feeding your heart despair and only the littlest speck of hope, and you’ve got a truly brutal, vivid and beautiful book that is the sequel to Red Rising.
In short the plot (with spoilers scrubbed from it) sees Darrow as lancer to house Augustus, and is also now a Peerless Scarred, following the events of book one. Though, already he has used up his good favour with his new family and the final straw is failure at the Academy and embarrassment at the hands of the Bellona family’s eldest son, Karnus. Who are out for revenge still, because of what Darrow did to their youngest. With this, Darrow desperately seeks allies in Victra au Julii and Augustus’ son – and Darrow’s former enemy – the Jackal. He launches his bid for survival, and secures his place in the Augustus family while defending their honour in a duel with Cassius, barely escaping with his life. Though, he steals a ship from the Sovereign’s Sword Armada and the service of a Stained Obsidian in his flight. With Nero au Augustus, his benefactor, he strikes the at the heart of Mars with an Iron Rain not seen in twenty years in the hope to shatter his remaining enemies. There is hope for his purpose, and the Sons of Aries, but in the end only despair comes. And I will not go further into that despair – it is a breath-taking plotline in many, many ways. The emotional rollercoaster that this book puts you through is … too much. I love it, but I also hate it. There’s not a moment of boredom in these pages, it shifts smoothly from one scene to the other and keeps the action up, the heart pumping. I honestly don’t have a bad word to say about it. It was a marvel the first time I read it and a marvel the second – it had me gripped, feeling butterflies and anxiety and happiness and sorrow in all the same places. The only way I could describe the ending without spoiling is that it rivals the infamous ‘Red Wedding’ in GoT.
Pierce proves that he’s one of the best at making crucial moments matter and I think this is entirely down to his character arcs and the way they interact with each other. I feel – in every sense – like Darrow, Sevro, Victra, Mustang and the crew are real people. They act and say things real people would. Real emotions, nothing too overzealous or artificial. It just hits all the right keys – from Darrow and Sevro’s continuing friendship, their brotherhood and the secrets thet share, to Victra’s lust and Mustang’s love. It all feels right. There’re more friends now, with Ragnar, and on the flipside there’s those that drift away. Holes that open up and do irreparable damage. Because of this, those moments where characters achieve something, where things go awry or there’s a heartfelt conversation, it actually means something. I feel the good and the bad with them and really relate to Darrow and his mismatched crew of colours.
The action scenes in this one are so visceral and intense. We get to see Darrow shot out of a spit tube through the atmosphere of mars in a mechanised suit as part of the Iron Rain – an event that hasn’t happened in years and only brings death and destruction. The wind howls around you, the discomfort, the barrage of missiles and the pure carnage drags you in. There’s Razor duels, elegant and sophisticated ways of solving issues among Aureates – the only way of honour. The beats and martial forms of Kravat are just some of the tiny details that make it all the more real. Pierce really leaves no stones unturned with regards to the culture and building the world around even such things as battle; there’s war chants, songs, customs of duelling, face paint etc, you name it. He really does go the extra mile to ensure it’s the entire package and that goes for every colour and not just Golds.
I had to talk about my favourite scene in the series – which is in the early parts of this book – and sees a razor duel setup in all its glory; the culture, the blood tears and the promise Darrow makes to fight under Augustus raises the stakes, set the scene. Darrow has his gladiator ‘are you not entertained’ moment and it’s just worth every word that makes it. Though, I can only mention it as it’s major spoilers. But I couldn’t write a review without including a bit of squeeing about that moment.
If you couldn’t tell already from these reviews, I’m raving mad about the fact that I simply love these books. There’s nothing I could rate higher than this series and if you’re inclined to listen to me rave a little more about how good this series is, please read my review for Red Rising or await my next one for Morning Star!