Review: Golden Son by Pierce Brown

2 February, 2015 Reviews 14 comments

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Golden Son by Pierce BrownGolden Son by Pierce Brown
Series: Red Rising Trilogy #2
Published by Del Rey on January 6th 2015
Pages: 464
Genres: Adult, Dystopian
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Amazon Good BooksBook Depository

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 from the overlords of a brutal elitist future built on lies. Now fully embedded among the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his work to bring down Society from within.

A life-or-death tale of vengeance with an unforgettable hero at its heart, Golden Son guarantees Pierce Brown’s continuing status as one of fiction’s most exciting new voices.

This 5 star rating might come as a surprised to some of you who know how conflicted Red Rising left me. In fact, it’s one of the only books I’ve read, but NOT rated. How often does that happen? Hmm… never. So how did I go from “unable to rate book one” to “loving book 2 something fierce”? The short and lazy answer is, I don’t know. The long and complicated version is this review. Huzzah!

Golden Son is a remarkable improvement over some of the issues I had with Red Rising. The writing and plot are noticeably stronger. The characters are fleshed out more. The action and suspense are cranked up several more notches. Really, I couldn’t ask for more in a sequel.

Fixed Issue #1: Super Slow Beginning

First off, unlike Red Rising where I struggled with the first 100 pages, Golden Son starts off strong with plenty of action to keep the reader interested. Since the pesky job of world  building has been taken care of long, it gave Brown the opportunity to focus on what really mattered: making heads roll. What surprised me with Golden Son was just how many heads actually did roll, but more on that later.

The majority of this novel focuses on Darrow outside the academy and the war he purposefully started. We find out a lot more about the Sons of Ares and the inner workings of the politics of the Golds. I was a little wary about that because a ton of political intrigue can lead to boredom. But in this case, that was not something that ever happened.

Fixed Issue #2: Treatment of Female Characters

My biggest issue with Red Rising was the treatment of female characters, specifically Mustang. I felt she was put into deliberate situations that forced Darrow to swoop in and save her lest her virtue be ruined. I’m so over that trope in books, so I was disappointed to see it in Red Rising.

The good news is that Brown clearly took more care with showing us Mustang’s strength. (slight spoilers, but not really) There’s one scene in Golden Son where Darrow finally has a chance to talk to Mustang after certain events have pulled them apart and she ends up close with Cassius. He claims that he understands how she must feel, but she quickly corrects him. This is my favorite scene in the entire book:

“Now, I’m sure you understand that I felt lost. One, because I thought I’d found someone special in you. Two, because I felt you were abandoning the idea that gave us the ability to conquer Olympus. Consider that I was vulnerable. Lonely. And that perhaps I fell into Cassius’s bed because I was hurt and needed a salve to my pain. Can you imagine that? You may answer.”

I squirm on my cushion. “I suppose.”

“Good. Now shove that idea up your ass.” Her lips make a hard line. “I am not some frill-wearing tramp. I am a genius. I say this because it is a fact. I am smarter than any person you’ve met, except perhaps my twin. My heart does not make my brain a fool.”

I really love how confident Mustang is in that scene and how unashamed she is about it. In that same scene, she goes on to tell him that he is not as invincible as he thinks and how he needs her if he has any hope of winning the war.

I just really wished Darrow listened more. View Spoiler »

Fixed Issue #3: Darrow’s a Super Gary Stu

This can’t be denied. No matter how much I admit to liking Red Rising, there was no doubt about it: Darrow was a Gary Stu in every possible way. He’s The One. The Only One who can bring down the Golds and help the Reds rise. He can overcome any situation, no matter how horrible or impossible. I can completely see why this may bother some readers even if the novel contains intense fight scenes and dramatic rescues. It just gets to a point where you start to say, “COME ON ALREADY.”

Golden Son completely crushes that. Right from the first scene in the book, we see Darrow failing at something important and non one wants anything to do with him besides Roque. It was a little jarring to see Darrow that low, considering how far he had fallen. But shortly after, Brown played an interesting hand that *somewhat* annoyed me and the Gary Stu-ness returned in Full Gundam Force. However, just like in Red Rising, this didn’t bother me much because I was too focused on fact that Darrow was busy giving someone the ass beating of a lifetime. What can I say? Priorities, I’ve got them.

What’s interesting is how the other characters continually call Darrow out on his apparent invincibility several times. My favorite one being this quote:

“You are but a mortal,” Roque whispers in my ear, riding his horse alongside the chariot, as per tradition.
“And a whorefart,” Servo calls from the other side.
“Yes,” Roque agrees solemnly. “That too.”


When the ending finally came, I realized Brown had me right where he wanted me (get your minds out of the gutter). After thinking that Darrow could pull through out of anything that opposed him, I was not prepared for the ending. Truly, the last 25% of this novel is what bumped my rating from 4 starts to 5. There was so much death in that scene that it made Red Rising look like child’s play. And that took balls. It made me angry, shocked, confused and immensely distraught. I absolutely have no idea how Darrow is supposed to pull through this mess. It’s that bad.


My feelings are so conflicted about the ending, it can only be described by way of Kanye and Jay-Z lyrics.

Ball so hard.
Dat shit cray.

Then there’s my ship. Mustang and The Reaper. I really need this to work out. This is my OTP. My ship that I might just go down with. Unfortunately, Brown hasn’t said anything to calm my fears and I’m sitting on the edge of my seat in fear.


Steph Sinclair

Steph Sinclair

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
I'm a bibliophile trying to make it through my never-ending To-Be-Read list, equal opportunity snarker, fangirl and co-blogger here at Cuddlebuggery. Find me on GoodReads.

14 Responses to “Review: Golden Son by Pierce Brown”

  1. Ilex

    I’m reading this book right now, after having a lot of the same problems you did with Red Rising. Thanks for a review that is making me a little more enthusiastic about getting through it!

      • Ilex

        I’m not very far — I just started Part 2 this morning, so just over 100 pages, not quite 25%. But you’re not kidding about the number of heads rolling already! I can’t even guess at who’s going to survive this book (except presumably Darrow, so he can narrate Book 3). I’m kind of scared to get to the ending, what with the way it’s already going.

  2. Kai A.

    I totally agree with everything you said. Red Rising felt like a big prequel (at least for me) preparing us for GOLDEN SON. Ahh… *memories coming back* Damn, the last 50 pages or so was so intense I cried right after reading. Mustang and Darrow better end up together, really. Our ship must sail! It’s like the only glimpse of happiness (okay, so maybe not really) in the whole book.story. I’m still hoping, Pierce Brown!
    Kai A. recently posted…[Blog Tour] Review: Red Queen by Victoria AveyardMy Profile

    • Steph Sinclair

      That’s a great way to look at RR. I totally did feel like a prequel (the first half definitely). I CRIED TOO. I’m so surprised Brown did that. So harsh. T_T

      I will be devastated if anything bad happens to our ship. I mean, he left EVERYTHING on a sour note with that ending. I am not okay.

  3. Natalie M.

    This review is all things I felt about Golden Son. It’s like everything is going smooth and hunky-dory, then Pierce just yanks the rug out from under your feet and carves out your heart with a steak knife. THE FEELS ARE REAL.

    • Steph Sinclair

      THEY ARE SO REAL. I had gotten to the point where I was literally okay with Darrow and his Gary Stu-ness. I mean, things were getting really rough and I wanted all my favs to come out ahead… then that ending happened and KILLED ME. I AM DEAD. THIS IS ACTUALLY A GHOST OF THE ONE YOU ONCE CALLED STEPH.

  4. Angela @ Angela's Library

    I’m so excited to see that you loved Golden Son! I’d looked forward to its release for so long that I was nervous it wouldn’t live up to my expectations, but I ended up adoring this book and was so relieved that Pierce Brown managed to step up his game after Red Rising. I love how Darrow can fail spectacularly and then turn around and do something totally epic and brilliant – I never know what to expect from him, except that he’ll blow my mind.
    Angela @ Angela’s Library recently posted…Blog Tour, Excerpt, and Giveaway: Deceived by L. A. StarkeyMy Profile

  5. Brian

    Totally agree with you about Reaper and Mustang. I need this to happen! I’m surprised so many other reviews leave that part out.

    The scene in the Lykos cave crushed me.

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