After finishing the last page of Golden Son I was too paralysed with shock to even consider formulating a coherent review of this book. One and a half weeks later, I think I'm finally capable of constructing something half decipherable, but it's definitely not going to be in the pretty, logical structure I usually review in. This novel was a roller coaster ride comparable to the feels of Deathly Hallows and I've spent the last couple of weeks continually asking "why, Pierce why?!" Simultaneously of course, I had to give this book five stars. It had engaging action, beautifully constructed characters and such a rapid pace you couldn't possibly be bored. I struggled to put this down, and it only ended up taking two days to finish the 442 pages.
How is it that a second-book-in-a-trilogy cinch the top place (so far) in new books I've read this year? I'll admit, I definitely wasn't expecting it. I was praying to the gods of literature that I wouldn't regret starting this trilogy and instead, found myself comparing Golden Son to Red Rising and lamenting that it was just so much gorydamn better. Almost all the issues I had with its predecessor were addressed in this book. It was as if Brown had actually listened to his critics and made something that was already very good, into something almost flawless.
First, lets talk about Darrow. So some readers pointed out that in Red Rising, Darrow was a rather heroic figure. Sure, he had faults, but there was a lot of other Gary-Stue like qualities which seemed to hang around our main man like a bad smell. Personally, I liked Darrow. I didn't connect with him as I did with, say, Katniss. But I didn't see him as an infallible/unbelievable character either. In Golden Son, the complete opposite happens. People around Darrow appear to be making all the smart decisions, and Darrow appears to be fucking it up quite constantly. In fact, it is humbling here to see that Darrow relies quite heavily on the assistance from others, and damn, he needs it. Because stuff goes down real bad for Darrow in this novel, and it all happens so fast you'd miss it if you skipped a couple of pages.
Then we get to the pacing. Fantastic, action-packed, the opposite in every way to boring. I noted that in Red Rising I had a bit of an issue here in terms of world building. Again, that would be my only real criticism of Brown's writing - that in the pursuit of being so rapidly progressive with plot, the reader can sometimes be left behind. I did have to re-read a few pages in order to grasp what had really happened. I think perhaps for the author, the world is so concrete and cemented in his head he may forget the rest of us don't have the privilege of having such an amazingly imaginative mind. During the most fast paced of action I did feel left behind, and I was even slightly confused about how the Jackal knew about Darrow's past...if someone could clarify how Darrow revealed himself to the Jackal that would be very much appreciated.
The characters. Oh, the characters. From Augustus to the Jackal to Sevro and the Howlers. How beautifully constructed they all were. We knew that Darrow shouldn't have been so trusting with some of them, and yet, as a reader it's hard not to get drawn into the little sub-plot lines which run alongside the main arc. Sevro's backstory was absolutely enthralling and fitted together so well with the plot. This was a definite highlight for me as a reader, and it made possibly my favourite character even more appealing. At the same time, Brown never constructs flawless characters, and by delving into Eo's story we see another side of her that is sort of glossed over in Red Rising. It is ultimately left to the readers discretion what they think of Eo - making the ultimate sacrifice or selfish and manipulative? Personally, I think misguided, but I love that there is that ability there for the reader to take a different approach depending on their moral viewpoint.
And finally...the feminism. I don't know if such a controversial word should be used here, but I definitely felt as if the female characters kicked ass here, and in a way which empowered them far more than in the first book of the trilogy. Mustang, for example, no longer the weakened/defeated damsel, became the mastermind strategist behind some of Darrows best military moves in Golden Son. She was calculating, at times ruthless, and very self-sufficient. Mustang doesn't need Darrow to exist, that is clear. Whatever happens in the ultimate book, it is clear that this fearless character will write her own destiny. Eo, manipulative or misguided, is shown to be a driving force behind Darrow's actions. She shapes his worldview and becomes a sticking point for him as he continues to weave his way in and around Gold society. Victra, faithful and headstrong, as loyal as anything and just as deadly. Octavia au Lune, formidable and regal, her muscle Aja (who reminds me in my imagination as Enobaria from the Hunger Games Trilogy) incredibly vicious. I loved all of them, and cannot wait for more.
Lets not talk about the ending. I can't without spoiling it, but it reminded me of something out of a George R.R Martin book - so much death, so much excitement, so much unexpected twists and turns! I honestly cannot wait for the third book in this series, as Golden Son is by far one of my favourites of 2015.