I gave book one, Red Rising, an enthusiastic 5 stars, and chose it as one of my top picks for 2014. Golden Son tops that, and makes me wish I used a five stars PLUS rating.
My result: Highly Recommended
Book one, Red Rising, starts on familiar dystopian grounds, then mixes in science fiction elements and Roman mythology to create something new. In a crowded dystopian marketplace, it is a step above. My review of Red Rising
Golden Son goes even further. The storyline leaves behind Hunger Games/Maze Runner style competitions, and moves into epic space battles and war on a grand scale. Darrow’s battle can’t be won on Mars, so Golden Son takes the battle to the rest of the solar system. With the move to a larger playing field, the series matures into a truly adult science fiction series. It has enough high stakes, adrenaline-fueled battle sequences to satisfy military scifi fans. Complex imperial politics and unexpected betrayals keep the pages turning, and Pierce Brown never slows the action for a moment. It’s one of those rare sequels that will leave you with a book hangover, and no idea how you’ll survive until the sequel.
With book two, the Red Rising series has grown up. It’s now firmly in the adult science fiction realm, although older teens could still handle the content just fine. Before, I could compare it to the best of the dystopian genre and feel like it was still a clear winner. Now, those comparisons are irrelevant, because this series just became something better. If you haven’t already discovered Darrow’s world, it’s time.
Because no book is entirely perfect, here’s the two minor quibbles I had with Golden Son. The characters are fantastic, and sometimes I wish I’d had a little more time to see them interact. The quiet moments are a little lost in the headlong rush between battles. But still, the most important relationships are given scene time.
And second, plot hints were heavy-handed at times. Never so that characters felt obtuse in their failure to see them, but enough that certain twists felt inevitable, rather than shocking. Most of the reviews I’ve seen don’t agree on that point though, so it may be just me. The over-telegraphed hints suited the story though, as they tied in well with the character arc of what Darrow needs to learn. They might even be intentional, as they match up with his blind spots perfectly.
In the adrenaline rush of fast action and fantastic characters, such minor quibbles are easily overlooked. Golden Son takes the series firmly onto my rave list. I’ll convert as many as I can.
Adult science fiction & fantasy books that older teens will love too:
- Ready Player One – For adults, it’s a trip down memory lane and a celebration of all things geek. (Get the audio version to get more geek for your buck – it’s Wil Wheaton.) For teens, it’s a high stakes video game with retro appeal.
- Good Omens – Neil Gaiman may already be a familiar name to young adults, as he has books for just about every age level. Good Omens just may be the perfect book to lead them into the next level, and expose them to Terry Pratchett’s zany humor in the process.
- The Magicians – A darker, more adult version of Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia, for teens who are ready to think about life after high school. Often pitched as Harry Potter grows up.
- The Name of The Wind – In the same vein, Name of the Wind shows what happens when the chosen one doesn’t end up saving the day. Both Magicians and Name of the Wind feature young men practicing their skills at magic schools.
What are your favorite crossover adult/teen books? I’d love to hear your answers in the comments.