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,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)[ If there was one thing that I had issue with, it's that if Darrow had repaired his friendship with Roque, none of the events in the ending would have happened. Servo and Mustang kept telling him over and over, "Fix that, Darrow" and he would agree, but never makes strides to actually do it. I just wanted to shake him and say, "You are at war! You need all your allies to be completely on your side!!" My problem was that the foreshadowing for that was too obvious. I knew that eventually it would lead to something devastating. (hide 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.”
OMG THE ENDING THO.
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. BITCH BEHAVE.
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.
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This has to be the CUTEST graphic novel series I’ve ever read. My kids and I love it so hard. The best part is that it’s a perfect graphic novel for mThis has to be the CUTEST graphic novel series I’ve ever read. My kids and I love it so hard. The best part is that it’s a perfect graphic novel for my young kids (3 and 6) to understand and enjoy. It’s also great for me to do lots of voices to entertain them. I love the fact that it’s a sci-fi story for kids that features a female heroine. That doesn’t happen often enough! Zita is brave and a good friend. Though she has her moments of insecurity and bad decisions, she doesn’t give up easily. Also, the artwork is beautiful! I loved reading about Zita’s adventures and I’m so happy First Second put these on my radar....more