Golden Son by Pierce Brown Five Stars

18966819Title: Golden Son (Red Rising #2)

*Note: This is a review of the second book in a series. If you have not read the first book I suggest reading my review of Red Rising instead to avoid spoilers.

This review contains major spoilers for Red Rising, but not for Golden Son. 

Author: Pierce Brown

Publication date: January 6, 2015

Genre: Science Fiction

Synopsis: The mines of Mars are an unforgiving place. There the “Reds” labor believing their work is critical to both humanity’s survival and the process of making Mars habitable. Never realizing the Martian surface was settled centuries ago and humanity’s population has never been higher. This was Darrow’s childhood.

After successfully infiltrating the “Gold” upper class Darrow might just have the chance to spark the revolution to help free his people. Darrow’s plan to destroy the upper class from within is challenged more and more each day. Not just by Darrow’s enemies who long for his death, but by Gold friends who make him question his hatred of the upper class as well. It’s up to Darrow to decide whether he is after retribution or freedom from oppression.

Review: Resuming four years after Red Rising started, Golden takes the conflict and world building in this series to a new level. The first book took place entirely on Mars, but most of this one takes place primarily in outer space. The change in setting gave me an idea of the true scope of this society that I lacked in Red Rising.  It also made the book feel less like a dystopian and more like a space opera even as the story-line focused more on the rebellion. I’m not the biggest fan of dystopian novels at the moment so I appreciated the new direction.

Darrow’s character development takes an interesting turn in this book. In Red Rising Darrow consistently did some pretty remarkable things and the only time he really failed at anything was his dual with Cassius. Golden Son begins with Darrow failing epically. The way Darrow dealt with and eventually learns from his defeat adds interesting depth to his character arc.

Time jumps aren’t something I usually enjoy in fiction, but I understand why this one was necessary. Darrow’s life training with a razor and learning to command space ships wasn’t really relevant to the rebellion and everything Darrow is trying to accomplish. In an interview Pierce Brown stated that the reason for the time jump had to do with the fact that the story was written in first person and the time jump was to get to the next time period in which Darrow could narrate. While many books have the narrators learn skills in ridiculously short periods of time in order to avoid these time jumps I’m inclined to agree with the author here and say this one was for the best.

I really appreciate how well developed side characters in this series are. It’s very clear most, if not all of them each has his or her own motivations, goals, and schemes. I especially liked how the characters who learned Darrow’s true identity in this book each reacted very differently. So many books brush over reveal scenes, and have characters accept one another’s huge secrets without  much skepticism or negative consequences. There isn’t much to say on this topic without getting into major spoilers, but let’s just say Golden Son had some realistic character reactions in this regard.

Golden Son is well paced. I started this one directly after finishing Red Rising and had a lot of trouble putting it down to do things between sittings. This is especially true of the last hundred pages or so which were particularly difficult to put down.

What readers should know: The first book was somewhere on the hazy edge of young adult, adult, and new adult where I just couldn’t decide on an intended audience. In Golden Son Darrow is 20 and though this book probably has less potentially inappropriate content than the first book it is most definitely not young adult anymore. That said, if a person was able to handle the content in the first book they should be able to handle this one.

Rating: This book resolved the minor problems I had with Red Rising and earned a five out of five rating for its excellent side characters, good pacing, and great world building. If you’ve read Red Rising I highly recommend continuing with the series.

five blue jays

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson 5 stars

68428Title: Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn book 1)

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Publication date:  January 1, 2006

Genre: Adult High Fantasy

Synopsis: In the Final Empire ash rains from the sky, and strange mists rule the night. All is it has been for the last thousand years of the Lord Ruler’s reign. Many have tried and failed to overthrow his oppressive regime in which the majority of the population are kept as slaves. Most think hope was lost long ago, but Keliser thinks hope remains.

Keliser is legendary as the only slave to escape the Pits of Hathsin alive. After a two year leave Keliser returns to the capital where he was a once leader in the criminal underground gathering together the most skilled criminals in the empire’s capital telling them he’s planning the biggest heist since the Final Empire began: to assassinate the immortal Lord Ruler.

Joining the criminal crew is Vin, a teenage girl who has just made a shocking discovery. Vin learned she is no ordinary street urchin of the slave class, but a Mistborn. Mistborn are the most powerful type of Allomancers, individuals who gain extraordinary abilities through metals. Vin must learn Allomancy and involve herself in noble politics. Together Vin, Keliser, and the others might just be able to accomplish the impossible and free their people from slavery.

Review: I’ve read Brandon Sanderson books before and heard the hype around this one, so I was expecting a great read and was not disappointed. This book was sitting on my shelf for about a year before I finally sat down and read it. It’s just that the cover of my edition (not the one shown) was off-putting, and the text was small. For some reason I’d managed to convince myself the book was longer than it is. Something also told me to wait for summer before starting any more relatively long books. In the end this was probably a good idea.

Once I started this book I found it difficult to put down. Anyone and anything interrupting my reading did not find me in a pleasant mood, but those who saw me between sittings constantly noted that I seemed unusually happy. They were right, this book made me extremely happy. I know that is an odd thing to say about a book following a rebellion, but it’s true. My emotions had nothing to do with the content of this novel, but everything to do with the fact that it was extremely well executed.

While I was instantly captivated from the prologue onward I began the story thinking that the plot was somewhat predictable, and somewhat disappointed in this regard because so many people rave about the plot. It was not until the second half of the novel that I began to see what these people were talking about. Brandon Sanderson managed to make a plot that could have seemed cliche feel fresh.

There is not much I can say without spoilers, but I have read so many books where the characters have a plan and everything works out as they thought. Even from my own experience I can tell you there are far too many variables in life for everything to go as expected, and Sanderson understands this.

Rather than the fact that some plans don’t work making the characters seem unprepared or incompetent it brought out their strengths and flaws which in turn made them seem much more human. This is because when plans failed the characters had to find a way to work around the setback or even use it to their advantage.

Sanderson did a great job slowly integrating his amazing world building and magic system in the plot. Even though we spend quite a bit of time with Vin as she has lessons in Allomancy I very rarely felt like there was the slightest bit of info-dumping. Even when I was starting to worry a section was heading in the direction of info-dumping Allomancy is so interesting that I probably wouldn’t have cared all that much if parts of the narrative had gone in that direction.

So much of fantasy relies on the same sets of magic systems often heavily influenced by Tolkien or some form of mythology (often certain mythologies in particular). While Allomancy still feels similar to other fantasy magic systems in some ways, it is different enough to be refreshing and interesting.

The writing in this book is very straightforward and easy to read. There are no flowery prose here. While I’m not the biggest fan of flowery writing, some readers might find this novel’s writing to be clunky at times. This wasn’t really a problem for me, but as I was reading it was something I thought others might have a problem with.

While I read this roughly 600 page book in two days I acknowledge that it is relatively long. While I read this book in two days others might find it to be somewhat of a time commitment. However, once I got into the book I was not bothered by the length at all. In fact I almost wish the last few chapters had gone into greater detail, but I suppose if they had there would be no need for a sequel.

The ending feels complete, but there are still some plot threads left for the sequel which I can’t wait to start. In fact, by the time this review is posted I may well have started The Well of Ascension.

What readers should know: While this is an adult fantasy novel it has a relatively low level of content that could be deemed “inappropriate.” The language is cleaner than most young adult novels I’ve read with very little cursing.

As this is a fantasy novel some amount of violence is expected. While there are fight scenes and characters who die blood filled deaths none of this is described in detail.

Rape is mentioned and alluded to on several occasions, particularly in the prologue during which a young slave girl is taken to be raped and then killed by her master narrowly avoiding this fate. Nothing is described in detail as the prologue is from the point of view of a character not even present at this encounter.

Rating: This is a great read, and one that I highly recommend. The Final Empire is perfect for someone trying to get introduced to high fantasy as a genre as it is fast paced and captivating from the beginning. People who want to get into Brandon Sanderson should consider either starting with this novel if they’re into high fantasy or Steelheart if they’re looking for a shorter read. Steelheart is a young adult novel involving superheros.

five blue jays