Devourer of books with a preference for fiction. Quite good at competitive reading. Happily hoards books of all kinds. Gets stabby going too long without reading.
This review may contain some spoilers for the first book in the series, Red Rising and some spoilers for this book. You probably shouldn't read this review unless you're caught up with the series. Go read the book instead.
This book kicks off two years after Darrow won the war games rather spectacularly by taking on the corrupt Praetors and staging a show unlike anything previously seen. He appears to be well on his way to winning more glory for himself and his patron, Nero au Augustus, when things start going horribly wrong once more. For a while, it looks like Darrow is going to be abandoned by his powerful patron and no longer be of use to the rebellion and the Sons of Ares, but a power play at the right time launches his star once more. Of course, Darrow's rapid rise comes at the cost of more battle and bloodshed, as a civil war kicks off, with Darrow at the centre. He learns that he may have some allies, even among the Golds, and more about what Ares is planning. What he might have done well to remember is that the higher he rises, the further he also has to fall.
I really don't want to spend too long talking about the plot of the book, because I think it's better if you go in not knowing a lot. If you are reading this review before you've actually finished the book, go away. I knew absolutely nothing about the plot when I read it and it made each new twist and revelation more exciting. While there are sections of this book that also lag, the pace is pretty frenetic and I felt rather exhausted at times keeping up with the story. Darrow has come a long way, but keeps being surprised that the system isn't as fair as it's purported and that even in Gold society, the paths to power are often rigged in favour of the strongest. And who is strongest can turn on a dime. He occasionally puts his trust in the wrong people or not enough trust in people he should have kept close. Because he's come such a long way, it's sometimes difficult to remember that he's only twenty years old, and twenty-year-olds are not exactly known for their patient natures.
There are some truly cinematic battle sequences in this book, either in space, involving massive starships or duels between individuals. Because I'm not all that into the science fiction aspect of these books, I tend to skim over all techno babble that seems inevitable in books like this, but I am fascinated by the way this futuristic society has actually engineered the various castes for specific tasks, such as spacecraft navigation and control. The way the Golds have created themselves as gods in the mythology of the Obsidians was also intriguing to me, and I loved Ragnar, one of the new supporting characters. Sadly, in the two years since he left the Academy, Darrow has become separated from his two strongest allies, Mustang and Sevro and I wished for more "screen time" for both of them. Both are great characters and it would be nice to have the story focused not so entirely on Darrow. There are some really cool things revealed about Sevro's origins, however, which I hope to see explored further in the final book.
This books ends on a major downbeat for Darrow and I can see why a lot of people were unhappy with it. Having heard that, I purposefully waited to read these until the final book, Morning Star, was about to be released. Since that is now out, I can read the conclusion of the story without waiting. I am going to have to take a short break, though, as these books are so relentless in their storytelling that I need to recover in between each book. Golden Son manages to keep the story moving, expanding the scope and the world-building, it's not just a bridging book with nothing much happening before you get to the exciting conclusion. I just hope that the ending can live up to the promise of the first two books in the series.