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Golden Son: Book II of the Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown
Cover Artist: David G. Stevenson
Review by Drew Bittner
Del Rey Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345539816
Date: 06 January 2015 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Darrow, born a lowly Red toiling beneath the surface of Mars in hellish hard labor, has achieved his first goal: he has infiltrated the Gold caste that rules all. But now that he is at that exalted level, can he achieve his goal of overthrowing the social order...or will he be co-opted by it?

In Golden Son, Pierce Brown continues the fascinating, complex and gripping tale of Darrow, now Darrow au Andromedus of Mars' ruling family, House Augustus.

In training to command a fleet, after being ranked very highly among the graduates of his training class, Darrow's quarry is Karnus au Bellona, scion of his House's greatest enemies and rivals. What seems like certain victory isn't, and Darrow is humiliated not once but twice by Karnus. This casts him adrift and he loses all status, to the point where his adopted patron will not even speak with him.

Although his friends Roque and Sevro stand by him, his circumstances are dire. If he is not at the pinnacle of society, he cannot be the champion that the rebel Sons of Ares need. Darrow is smart and recklessly inventive, so he takes the initiative to reclaim his honor. He forms an alliance with an enemy, and sets up a challenge pitting him against former ally Cassius au Bellona. His deft stroke puts House Augustus at odds with the Sovereign, whose favoritism toward the Bellonas sends shockwaves through the Golds.

The stage is now set for a civil war that will shatter the society ruled by the Golds. Darrow must navigate ever more dangerous waters, as a few come to learn his secret and his circle of trust is pushed to its limit. His mission alienates some and engages others, but even military successes against the Sovereign will not protect him from treachery--and the Golds play for keeps.

Brown ramps up the action in this tale, raising the stakes as Darrow comes to learn what change will take. He is presented with a stark choice: will he honor his dead wife Eo and her dream of a better world, or will he lose himself to the feral thrill of revenge and destruction? Eo, who was murdered as a rebel in the first novel (Red Rising), remains Darrow's moral compass, and touchstone throughout, even as he comes to have strong feelings for Mustang, his fellow graduate and daughter of his patron.

Darrow's mission causes him to forsake and exclude his friends, a necessity that carries a heavy price. He is forced to learn the games of society that are far beyond a simple Red. And he revisits old friends among the Sons of Ares, who are now taking a much more violent and aggressive course of action, blowing up Gold facilities and installations. Darrow is shaken by that development, as terrorism wasn't the idea when he joined.

Brown also shares some key secrets, setting up very high stakes for the concluding novel of the trilogy. This is some truly amazing world-building, presenting a caste-based society that is cleverly constructed and yet all too evidently corrupt, its ideals twisted and its vision subverted. It will be too long a time before we can see how this all plays out, especially with the cliffhanger ending Brown provides.

<> Highly recommended.

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