Darrow au Andromedus will break your heart. In Pierce Brown’s gripping follow-up to last year’s should-have-been-huge debut Red Rising, both author and lead character have cranked up the emotional stakes laid out in the series opener, which introduced readers to Darrow, the vengeful Martian rebel intent on bringing down an oppressive interplanetary society from within. With Golden Son, Brown avoids the sophomore slump, charging the novel with the kind of dystopia-toppling action you’d expect in a trilogy ender, not a middle volume. On virtually every level, this is a sequel that hates sequels—a perfect fit for a hero who already defies the tropes.
Darrow, originally born a low-level Red, has successfully infiltrated the Golds, the ruling class in the color-coded society he vowed to fracture after his wife’s wrongful death. Now, two years after graduating from the violent Gold Institute and embedding within one of the solar system’s most powerful families, Darrow tries to spark civil war using his newfound status, his loyal (or are they?) lieutenants, and the peerless wit that made him the secret agent of the rebellion in the first place.
If it sounds like a lot, that’s because Brown has packed his pages with an astonishing amount of cinematic action and twists that fly by at vertiginous speeds—with provocative pops of Darrow’s philosophy on human nature between them. The narrative universe bursts with as much epic mythos as the Roman legends on which it’s based. The same goes for the physical galaxy Brown has populated with feuding families at lavish banquets, vivid terraformed fortress planets (Mars has never looked so good), and grand space chases, transforming our humble cosmos into a veritable Star Wars.
This isn’t a retread of the first book’s winning formula; Brown opts to surprise instead of satisfy, which is why certain delicious curveballs will blast readers out of orbit. With a novel that moves as swiftly and shrewdly as Golden Son, it’s best not to guess where the ship will take you. Thank Apollo that a movie franchise is already in the works at Universal, lest Hollywood miss out on a sci-fi adventure exceptionally worthy of your attention. A