Photo courtesy of Joan Allen Photo

The stakes have been raised in the second installment of the “Red Rising” trilogy. In the midst of political conflict, friends become foe, enemies become alliances and true love is forever but a reach away. In “Golden Son,” Pierce Brown does what few authors are capable; he delivers a story that is profoundly better than the first, which seemed impossible considering the epic nature of the first book.

To the world, Darrow is a “Gold”, the privileged elite of society that rules the worlds of the solar system with cruelty and absolute control. In secret, Darrow is a “Red”, a slave condemned to the mines of Mars as have his people been for generations. Commissioned by the Sons of Ares, Darrow infiltrates the Golds and begins a revolution to destroy the corrupt society. With each step, Darrow’s mission becomes more dangerous as the society spirals into chaos.

Where the first book started slow in an effort to set up the characters, the second starts with an immediate heart pumping battle scene. The action continues throughout the book producing a climax ridden storyline. This constant upheaval of the known allies and secret knowledge keeps the reader on edge until the very last page which will nearly stop a heart.

Brown is consistently realistic when dealing with hard situations. Surprisingly, this style gives the novel an unpredictable feel, because there are no guarantees. The book is told in first person from the viewpoint of Darrow. Because of this style choice, the reader is only given the information directly provided to Darrow which makes the other characters more of a mystery. The reader is constantly on edge, waiting for the next twist, deceitful action or loyalty change.

While the book is action-oriented, character development is woven artfully in between and during action sequences. In the first book, the protagonist, Darrow, seemed to be infallible, always finding a way to get out of whatever predicament in which he found himself. In this book, he is flawed to the point of failure. The golden boy, chosen to bring the suffering to justice, has all of his dreams ripped out from under him. His battle to regain his power is fraught with deceit and uncertainty.

Brown also creates a strong character in Darrow’s love interest, Mustang. Her character embodies strength and cunning. She is not the lovesick girl Darrow might have mistook her; she makes it quite clear that she is a genius.

Another phenomenal aspect of “Golden Son” is it’s cinematic potential. This true science fiction novel, when adapted to the big screen, would rival any “Star Wars” action sequence. Moving away from the war games that panned out in the first novel, the full-fledged battle among the planets of the galaxy would create a CG technology filled masterpiece.

The “Red Rising” trilogy has been heralded as the next “Hunger Games” and has been said to be reminiscent of “Game of Thrones”. “Golden Son” lived up to the hype and will stay in the hearts of science fiction fans for generations.