I’m always shocked that Iron Gold is considered the weakest book in the series by many people. I found that it’s the best book in the series.
If Iron Gold was a quote it would be this: “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
With Light Bringer’s recent release, I’ve been seeing rankings popping up again. This is my response to the crime being committed at seeing Iron Gold consistently ranking at the bottom. I’ve organized this by listing the three main reasons I see for why people like Iron Gold the least, and my reasoning for why I think the opposite. This does not reflect all opinions and perspectives.
Just in case… I’m going to begin with a cautious warning that spoilers for the main trilogy and Iron Gold are likely present.
First, I’ll share my personal ranking. I haven’t read Light Bringer yet (re-reading Iron Gold and Dark Age first) so I don’t have that included. I’ll update this ranking afterwards.
- Iron Gold
- Golden Son
- Morning Star
- Red Rising
- Dark Age
The TLDR: Red Rising was an addictive start and when that Reaper-Jackal Table Scene went down, PB wasn’t playing anymore. Golden Son and Morning Star were massive step ups. Dark Age felt more like a filler book when viewing it from a bird’s eye view. It’s similarly written like Iron Gold but is messier in my opinion. Iron Gold won me over with its change of style and tone. It was a point of no return for everyone. No other book has felt the same. I would argue its PB’s best work to date.
“For those who dine with war and empire, the bill always comes at the end.”
Reason #1 for why it’s people’s least favorite book: being too slow
One reason why I love this book is because of the pacing. This is more a simmer and not a boil. I highly recommend people taking some time away from the series following books 1-3 before jumping into 4-6. I honestly believe that the focus on character development can be very jarring when you binge straight through with no breaks. This may help someone settle into Iron Gold easier.
Iron Gold is raw emotion, loss, pain, hopes, dreams, revenge, regrets, and more. The slower pace paired with increased stakes leave you with a profound sense of uncertainty. It’s meant to make you feel uncomfortable. I’ll always be left speechless by how PB makes me feel all that has changed, all that is at stake, and the peace that these characters long for. The emotions ran deep– we are delivered loss and pain first hand from those who have been affected by the revolution. Spending the time sitting inside these character’s heads allowed the reader to understand their loss and motivations.
Iron Gold is a “transition book” and one of the best I’ve ever read. It’s where we begin to see Pierce’s evolution in quality and style. Despite its action scenes, Iron Gold isn’t instant gratification- it’s a slower buildup. There are plenty of top fiction books with storylines and arcs that take awhile to merge together… sometimes taking books to reach that culmination. It’s hard to understand how this is entirely unexpected. Each POV is also paced similarly which is hard to do– and is executed better here than in Dark Age. Speaking of Dark Age… faster pace, faster action, and cheap tricks doesn’t equal a better book. Sometimes it’s too much. Iron Gold was perfectly balanced.
I used the word transition earlier and I think therein lies the problem. How often do you feel you have to “get through” a book to get to the one with the action? Sometimes it’s the slower buildup and anticipation of what’s to come that impacts someone more. It’s these smaller, intimate moments within the larger scope that speak more to me as a reader. I was utterly shocked to learn that others felt this book was too slow and that this was a bad thing. Listen, I’m not one to be distracted by flashy bells and whistles. Instead, inject heart and soul directly into my veins and let’s shine a light on the characters.
Reason #2 for why it’s people’s least favorite book: the addition of POVs/the new style throwing people off
There comes a time when a story grows beyond a single character’s ability to tell it. The continuation of this saga required different perspectives because there’s a lot going on. Moving forward with not only Darrow’s perspective gave Iron Gold depth. We may not agree with every decision being made but seeing the result of their actions is what kept me thinking about the book long after finishing. With less action these moments stood out more. It’s what I remember the most– how each choice in Iron Gold had a rippling effect that could not be contained.
So I don’t understand how the introduction of POVs was a big dislike because Dark Age has POVs (and is ranked much higher by most people) and many top of the line fantasy epics have multiple POVs that shift and end. This isn’t any different, except for maybe people not caring for the characters (just don’t say anything bad about Eph). The four POVs allowed us to explore the current social issues, revealing a deeper and expansive world that we never saw within the main trilogy. The continued world building is seamless within each new POV. I also can’t understand there being a lack of connection with the characters. I felt entirely too absorbed and invested with these characters that I sometimes had to take a step back from the intensity of their emotions.
Lysander…. Lysander… Lysander…..The single most popular character to despise. I wonder how much of his POV taints things for people. This is my opinion but Moon Boy’s POV chapters are perfect (the hill I’m standing on). I looked forward to his chapters. He is perfectly juxtaposed with Darrow. We are shown parallels between Darrow and him. They both start similarly but each one chooses a different path. Hate him all you want but his perspective is a fantastic addition and his character is perfectly written.
Reason #3 for why it’s people’s least favorite book: the difference in tone
Iron Gold does feel like a sucker punch after the finale of Morning Star. We are thrown head first into a grim world with conflict and turmoil. It has a serious and mature tone compared to the original trilogy. We are reintroduced to our favorite characters ten years later. Some have changed in ways we may not have liked. Others have not changed enough. War is messy. So was liberation. This is the side to the war we didn’t expect to see. It’s not rosy. We have to wonder… will Darrow ever be able to stop or is he going to lose everything in the end? Darrow’s arc is complex. I can understand his decisions, but I hope he manages to fix things. He has strayed so far off the path he wants to be on. Just sit with that for a moment. Into darkness he will go, and from the ashes he will rise–the only question is– who will be left standing with him? It takes a talented writer to orchestrate these new character arcs and PB flawlessly begins this in Iron Gold.
“I wonder, would you even know peace if you saw it?”
In the main trilogy, I often found myself loving the moments of destruction with no hesitation. It was thrilling to read. I was eager for those epic battles and coups. In Iron Gold, the stakes are higher for the characters and the potential loss is greater. Sevro, our goblin. No other character’s lines are sassier and more savage than his; however, he has matured and has different priorities. It was unsettling to explore the new dynamic between old characters. We miss who they used to be in books 1-3 but time has shaped them. These changes are what have stayed with me by the end of Iron Gold. Not the space battles. But the subtle, smaller changes within character relationships that are enough to plant doubt or question loyalty.
The Sevro-Darrow-Wulfgar scene will always be the turning point where the villain quote at the beginning of my post begins to hit home. Sevro’s loyalty, in that moment, tore at me. How far is he willing to go in the name of loyalty? Iron Gold just hit differently because of these little emotional seed bombs PB planted along the way.
Other highlights for me:
I wanted to finish with mentioning how much I love The Raas’. They are the scrappiest family in the galaxy.
Apollonius stole the show. He was brilliant and terrifying at the same time.
Saving the best for last…. the unfolding of one of the greatest redemption arcs begins and it’s a sight to see. PB delivered an emotional duel sequence. This character has been done wrong so many times, yet he still tries hard to be a decent, honorable man. He has suffered loss, humiliation, has lost himself, struggled to find his way back but he has become wiser, patient, and observant.
Iron Gold begins a ruthlessly unapologetic series arc that leaves your emotions a wreck because PB is a gorydamn monster.
Thanks for reading!