Will Golden Son (by Pierce Brown) live up to its predecessor, our favorite book of 2015? Robert and Bryan may be a little SPLIT on that…
Bryan’s quick summary:
In the Training Institute, Darrow vanquished his opponents using his street-smart tactics and by being the compassionate leader that no Gold would even dream of becoming … but now, as the Golden Son, he is in the Academy, and this is no student battleground. It’s training for war.
With the balance of power delicately held, and backstabbing among the ruling classes a daily occurrence, Darrow must also walk a thin line: between building his growing band of supporters; playing the Gold politics (of which he has zero experience), and never for one moment, giving away the fact that he is not – and has never been – a Gold.
For underneath all the genetic surgery and bio-implants, unbeknownst to almost all, Darrow is the Gold’s most despised creature … a Red.
A Red hell-bent on vengeance.
Golden Son is by Pierce Brown
So what did we think? (From a reader’s perspective)
1. (Robert) This story is dense! We get some of the backstory unfolding even further, and immediately are plunged into the murderous Romanesque politics of the future. Even in space, human beings are manipulative, nasty, deceitful, cunning and selfish. Must Darrow become this to exact his revenge? And what is that revenge exactly? We feel nicely caught between his revulsion at what he has to become in order to beat those whom he despises. Nicely written. Violence and sex preclude the younger YA reader – and strictly speaking, Darrow is now 20, so we’re venturing away from strict YA land in this sequel.
2. (Robert) In the first half perhaps there is less of the page-turning action and adventure that we see in Red Rising, but this is more than made up for by the James Clavell (Noble House; Shogun)-like politics, intrigue and behind the scenes plotting, and you are forever wondering if Darrow has played his cards correctly. Sometimes he does, and sometimes not! There are plenty of twists and turns as a result.
3. (Robert) We gain a superb new character in Ragnar. Oh my goodness, this guy is terrifying! I am Ragnar. (he even speaks in bold in the Kindle version!) Thankfully he’s on Darrow’s side, in a masterpiece of the type of persuasion Darrow must attain with everyone if he is to win over an entire way of life, and foreshadowing the ramifications of the enormous upheaval coming (in book 3, the finale?).
Bonus: A breathtakingly hard-to-take ending, and heart-stopping last line. O.M.G. MUST. HAVE. MORNING STAR. NOW.
What did we think from a writer’s perspective?
1. (Robert) For me, this is still the I Claudius of space, as good as Asimov’s Foundation, if less futuristic and more cultural and about human betrayal.
2. (Robert) Most of the twists and turns I could not have predicted, yet are never received as deus-ex-machina: they make complete sense in this bewildering political-swagger-filled arena where antagonists and protagonists must strut and peacock to face each other off.
3. (Robert) In addition to this, the major plot points come in all the right places: it just feels right. Can’t wait for the movie series, and I hope they do it real justice with the intrigue, tension and betrayals. We don’t need Tom Cruise or George Clooney, Nicole Kidman or Scarlett Johansson in this, we need subtle and frightening, such as Javier Bardem, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kevin Spacey and Gary Oldman; Julianne Moore, Jodie Foster and Noomi Rapace.
That ending! Classic 3-act play in the 3 books (I hope). Bring it on.
Bryan and Robert’s Famous Takeaways:
1. Up the stakes! Go from Hunger Games and teen battles to full on collapse of civilization as we know it. Brown doesn’t disappoint when it comes to Darrow’s motivation.
2. More great lines, and sensational interplay between the cast of thousands, and a real danger for Darrow in how to play his hand with those he loves, yet must collaborate with those he hates (the killer of his wife!).
3. Speeches, themes, moral dilemma: if nothing else, it would make a great soap! (NOOOOOOOOOOO …) Well maybe a binge-fest TV series like GoT then.
Prompt of the Week:
Your heroine has just won an exhausting battle, only to discover she must penetrate the very heart of her enemy’s inner circle. What core value must she compromise to do this, and how will that crush those that she loves?