RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
There are so many YA books that straddle the line of are they a young adult novel or not? I’ve read plenty of those, some of them even in Barnes & Noble or local independent shops shelved in the literary fiction section (Pure by Julianna Baggott) or the sci-fi/fantasy section (Vicious by V.E. Schwab). Red Rising, due to the sheer age of the protagonist, is YA. But Golden Son has me begging to differ.
The novel is kind of a hot, filthy mess of genres and I refuse to give it a strict YA label.
Golden Son picks up two years after Red Rising leaves off. Darrow, in the thick of his Institute training, has exacerbated the blood-feud with the Bellona family. In order to fulfill his honor to (and the glory of) the Augustus family, Darrow ends up changing sides, pledging allegiance to potential enemies and ends up starting a civil war of the Golds, all to overthrow Octavia au Lune, and protect his friends and family. The Sons of Ares rear their ugly head, Darrow finds out some secrets, and it’s all one big crazy mess of political and brutal battles.
There is so much going on in this book, it’s difficult to give a brief synopsis without spoiling everything. But there it is. Golden Son is an obvious continuation of Red Rising, and fixes all the plot problems I had with its predecessor (i.e. the Sons of Ares and their part in liberating the Reds from under Mars) with a bunch of wrenches thrown into the mix.
This five-star rating was a last minute decision. Golden Son suffered from the convenience-storytelling, again. With the amount of backstabbing and betrayal that happened in this novel, it seems always so convenient that Darrow had an army set up, that Darrow had expected so-in-so to betray him, that Darrow knew everything about everyone whenever he wanted or was perversely acute in reading people.
Darrow has a lot of heroic qualities that makes him perfectly likeable, but just know that something more complex is missing. His love for Eo and his feelings for Mustang? Yeah, I got those down pat. His Reformer qualities mixed with his brutal, warrior-esque desire to kill everything? Not so much. He’s blood-thirsty and logical at the same time. It’s so conflicting that I ended up just going with it because the story was such a mess anyway (remember the backstabbing, betrayal and side switching?) that I wanted to focus on who was on Darrow’s side and who wasn’t. I’m still not sure, but all of them are pretty psychotic if you ask me.
If I were Darrow, none of them would be on my side for the sheer fact that everyone he spoke to could probably kill me. Trust in every character’s loyalty was lacking, big time. Maybe Darrow is just deceptively gullible and I am a paranoid weirdo.
But enough with the frustrating moments of this book; it did get five stars for a reason.
Golden Son was entertaining. It was heavier in content than Red Rising, with the gruesomeness so overbearing that made me (often) gasp in shock. It had the political read of a G.R.R. Martin book with the battle scenes of the 300 movie (Brown’s jacket copy does say they are ‘like Romans’, so Spartans are close enough.) I’ve become particularly jaded by some YA books, so if I can be surprised (and interested in the surprise) then the author has done their job.
And Brown definitely surprised me (spoiler-ish: Sevro knowing Darrow’s secret, Flitcher’s reveal, and that Red Wedding like gala at the novel, ugh!) It wasn’t cheap thrills that kept me hooked, I paid dearly for those thrills. My Kindle was thrown twice in horror, so investing in that case/cover might need to come in handy for the third book in this series.
A whole other year away. UGH.
In the end, the tl;dr—A fast paced, Roman-esque, space adventure with the backstabbing and betrayal you’d find in Game of Thrones. Definitely going to keep you up at night reading forever.
This book is the second part in a series.
IF YOU LIKED THIS BOOK, YOU MIGHT LIKE: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Game of Thrones by G.R.R. Martin, Pure by Julianna Baggott