The story: Having made it through the Institute and secured a patronage from one of the most powerful men on Mars, Darrow has continued his studies in warfare and leadership. This goes further afield than his own planet and includes commanding fleets of ships in epic space battles. He’s fully embedded in the Gold ruling classes, while also working hard to break it apart from within.
My thoughts: I’ve read enough YA thrillers to know that sometimes they fall down flat when they try and move past the trials of book one into the wider universe of their fictional book world. Golden Son manages this feat magnificently, despite having a far vaster and more complicated world than any other series I’ve ever read.
Where in Red Rising we were focused on just one tiny part of the universe Pierce Brown has created, in Golden Son we see much more of it. We also learn more about the structure of society and how it all fits together. Politics and strategy play a far greater role in this book, and there’s an emphasis on how all actions and decisions have consequences.
Darrow in this book is conflicted, and this is reflected in the relationships he has with others. Constantly operating under the fear of being found out, he struggles to maintain friendships and build trust with those around him. While Darrow is a fascinating protagonist to read about, all of the secondary characters are also really well developed. They all have their own motivations and stories, and they made this book feel real, rather than just a story.
The whole book is one power play, battle or risk after another, which makes for a gripping read. There’s never sense that any of the characters are ‘safe’ – as their fortunes rise and fall with every throw of the dice. There’s also a massive cliffhanger at the end that I really didn’t see coming and had me immediately buying the third book in the series.