Book Reviews

Book Review: Iron Gold

Title: Iron Gold
Author: Pierce Brown
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Dystopia

What It’s About: Ten years after liberating Mars from the Golds and specifically the dictator, Octavia au Lune, Darrow of Lykos decides to ignore the will of the Senate and do an Iron Rain on Mercury to liberate it from the Ash Lord.

Upon his return to Mars, where his wife, Virginia (known as Mustang) is the Sovereign after the Rising, he feels guilt for not knowing his son as well as he would like to, having been away at war for such a long time. As the Senate questions him about the War on Mercury, and after Darrow gives a speech about liberating Venus, Dancer brings out a witness–Cassius’ mother–who tells the Senate that emissaries were sent by the Ash Lord to ask for a peace accord. Chaos breaks out, and Darrow is escorted out alongside Sevro from the Senate. They both realize that someone had betrayed them before the Iron Rain onto Mercury.

Darrow strongly believes that the Emissaries from the Ash Lord and the peace accord that he’s offering is a ruse, with the intention to destroy them from within by getting the Society they’ve built in the 10 years since the Rising to devolve into a Civil War. It seems to be working in the Senate, and Darrow does not wish for this to be the norm of the world that his son, Pax, grows up in. So he calls in all of the Howlers, telling them that his plan is to get a small group of them to Venus to assassinate the Ash Lord in order to end this whole fight. Some agree to go with him, while others stay behind. Sevro convinces him to go see his kid one more time before they head out.

So Darrow wakes up Pax, and asks his boy to show him the bike that he’s made with his mom’s permission. They ride around on the bike, and when they return back to the mansion, Pax realizes that Darrow is leaving yet again. He gets upset and goes to the mansion, while Darrow finds his wife waiting for him nearby. They start talking and she is aware that he’s planning on leaving with the Howlers, so she has the Warden of the Republic, Wulfgar, called in along with other guards. Darrow fights them all off, and kills Wulfgar without meaning to do so. Horrified, he and Sevro hop onto an aircraft to go meet with the rest of the Howlers that are part of the plan to take down the Ash Lord. As he flies away, Darrow sees Pax hiding behind the trees, beyond Mustang, and feels sorrow that his boy had to witness that.

In the meantime, Lyria has been living in Camp 121 in Mars after her family had been brought out of the Red mines, with the promise that she would have a better life. It has been anything but that, and she and her family have had to scrape by. Her father is disabled after the loss of their mother, giving up on life. Two of her brothers and her brother in law are out fighting for the Republic, having signed up for the military after coming out of the mines. This leaves Lyria with her sister, Ava, her youngest brother, and Ava’s children. Life is not easy because Darrow’s old clan–Lambda–had been making the lives of the Gamma Clan difficult for all the stuff that they put them through in the mines from the time of Darrow’s childhood. Lyria and her family are part of the Gamma Clan, and they try to stay out of the way of Lambda for protection, but at the same time there have been killings by the Red Hand. That night, there is a commotion at the camp, and her brother goes to check it out. Lyria decides to follow and finds out that the Red Hand has shown up at the camp, killing her brother right on the stop when people pushed him forward.

She runs back home, and gets Ava and the children to leave the house–at the expense of sacrificing her father. There would be no way that Lyria or Ava could bring their father, in a wheelchair, with them in order to escape. Ava also reminds Lyria of Liam–Ava’s blind son, who was in the doctor’s tent–so Lyria doubles back to pick him up while Ava and the rest of the children head to the forest. Lyria has to make her way past the doctors and nurses, who do not believe that the Red Hand would massacre them, and picks up Liam. Together they run towards the forest to meet with Ava; however, they are pursued by the Red Hand. So in order to avoid them, Lyria and Liam hide in a compost pile along with another family, except that the Red Hand begins to burn it to flush them out. So they continue to run, until they get surrounded, and in that moment, a huge man falls from the sky. At some point in the fighting, Lyria pulls him out of the water, saving his life, and he liberates the camp from the Red Hand.

Once everyone has been checked, and taken care of, the big man whose name is Kavax Telemanus speaks to Lyria and gives her thanks for saving his life, as well as giving her a pin that would let her get in touch with him if she ever needed help. He leaves to his spaceship, and after Lyria thinks it over–realizing that she does not have anyone left beside Liam–she runs over to his ship, and makes a plea for him to take her and Liam with them as they leave Mars. Kavax’s daughter tells her that it’s not possible because it’s against the Immigration rules of the republic, but ultimately Kavax’s fox finds jelly beans in Lyria’s clothing, making it seem like a sign that she’s blessed, and so they find her a position in their contingent, letting her leave Mars for Luna.

At the same time Ephraim ti Horn is working his way through the museum with his team of bandits, ensuring that they don’t trigger any alarms, to steal a sword from an exhibit. When he brings the sword back to the employer, they pay him, and he pays out his team–Volga, an Obsidian, Cyra, a Green, and Dano, the Red. He then goes to a bar, where he meets up with Holiday in order to celebrate her brother’s birthday. Holiday sees that Ephraim has become a shell of himself after her brother’s death while saving Darrow from the Jackal, and tells him that this is not what he would have wanted for Ephraim. After she leaves and he finishes drinking, Ephraim decides to commit suicide, but before he can, he gets captured by men and hooded. When he wakes up back again, he finds himself facing a Pink, who turns out to be part of the Syndicate, a criminal group. The Pink attempts to question him, threatening him to give out who was Ephraim’s contact for the Sword that he had stolen, and when Ephraim does not give the information, The Pink welcomes him with wide open arms, telling him that he’s passed the test to do the Duke of Hands’ job. The Pink is the Duke of Hands, and he gives him the next assignment with a promise of a large sum of money. Ephraim’s not convinced on it, but decides to think it over, and meets up with his team once he’s released to tell them what the deal is for. It would be an impossible heist to pull off, but they decide to go for it.

At the same time, Lysander au Lune and Cassius au Bellona are traveling with Pythia, a blue, in an old ship-Archimedes, when they come across a bigger ship called Vingabonda. It seems to be empty, and something is wrong for it to be floating around like debris. So they go to check it out, and find out that it has been attacked by Ascommani–Obsidian warriors who ransack ships. The two men find a group of crewmen who reveal to them that there is a gold on board. While Cassius takes the men back to the Archimedes, Lysander decides to find the Gold–who turns out to be a woman–and cuts her down. She disappears with his weapon, and kills some of the Obsidians who had invaded. Together, they run through the halls, leaving behind the remainder of the crew that he had found to perish, and barely manage to avoid the wrath of the Ascommani on the ship.

Once on the Archimedes, Lysander takes care of the woman in the medical bay, and realizes that she is a Peerless Scarred. She mentions an asteroid and “help” before passing out from her wounds, so Lysander talks to Pythia and Cassius about heading to the Asteroid because it’s closer than any of the other places they were thinking of going to in order to avoid the Ascomanni who are hunting them. Sure enough, as they come upon the asteroid two hours later, a contingent of military aircraft flies out, destroys the Ascomanni, and asks the crew of the Archimedes to let them on board. Cassius realizes what is going on, and quickly injects himself to change his appearance before they get captured. Lysander is instructed with putting away all of their precious items that may reveal who they are in a safe, just before they get boarded by the Krypteia of the Rim. They are placed in a cell and tortured with little food or water, before they arrive in Europa to meet with Romulus au Raa, the Sovereign of the Rim.

Darrow and his contingent have been hiding for a month on Earth, stocking up on items they need to do a jailbreak, and finally go ahead to put the plan into motion. He and his Howlers break into DeepGrave–the jail at the bottom of the ocean in Earth, where all of the Society’s criminals get placed. They get into the jail, but cannot find the prisoner they are looking for, as they find an Obsidian instead of a Gold. The Obsidian takes them to the Warden of the jail, and they threaten him into not telling the Senate what has happened in the Jail before they go to see Apollonius Valii-Rath, the Minotaur. They break him and a few other men out of the Jail, before putting them onto the ship they have, and leaving Earth for Venus. Sevro has his doubts about this crazy plan, and tells Darrow that he’s out after this. The men strike a deal with Apollonius to take down the Ash Lord through the Valii-Rath estate, and tell him what his brother has been up to since Apollonius has been put in jail.

Lyria has been living in Hyperion, very rarely visiting her brother who is at a special school. She is in charge of Sophocles, the fox belonging to Kavax Telemanus, and on her day of she heads up to the museum on her own. There she gets accused of stealing something from a woman, and almost gets arrested before Philippe, an older Gray, comes up to the Police officers and tells them that he saw someone else steal the woman’s goods. He speaks with the Police officers, and they let Lyria off. She and Philippe start a friendship, meeting up occasionally to talk, and she feels like she is finally understood by someone, even though she is not willing to share what her life has been up until that moment.

Ephraim works with the Syndicate to plan the heist, and visits one of his former suppliers to ask for him to do a custom-made order. When he finally gets the order completed, it is the bacchus pendant that he’s always worn, but it is heavier. He then puts on the Philippe disguise, and meets up with Lyria. They have a deeper emotional conversation with each other about loss, and he gives Lyria the pendant as a reminder that she’s never alone.

Lysander and Cassius watch as Romulus is overthrown by his wife, Dido, who believes that there was a different story surrounding the destruction of the Docks at Ganymede. She reveals to them that she knows they are not who they say they are, and has the injections from Cassius’ face sucked out by a specialized insect. She threatens to have them killed if they don’t give her the code to the safe box where their items are stored. It turns out that Seraphina, the girl that Lysander had saved, had found evidence showing that the story of the docks is different then the Rim believes, but she had stored it within Lysander’s weapon’s handle. Neither of the men say that they will give the code, and as a result, Cassius has to fight for his honor. He manages to cut down two of Dido’s children and a cousin to Seraphina. Diomedes, Dido’s son, tries to stand up for Cassius saying that he is a guest and has won the fight defending his honor, but Dido continues to have people fight Cassius in the hopes that Lysander (who she believes is Castor) will give the code to spare Cassius’ life. Only when Seraphina steps into the fighting ring against Cassius and Cassius is close to being defeated, does Lysander hop into the ring and reveal to them who he is. Cassius gets taken out of the ring with the hope that he will be healed by Diomedes’ medical team, but he later ends up dying. Lysander does open up the safe, and Seraphina pulls out the holodrop that shows that Darrow was really the person who orchestrated the destruction of the Docks.

As part of Kavax’s group, Lyria goes to Quicksilver’s birthday party at his home, where everyone is meeting and discussing politics. She gets Sophocles from Kavax and takes him for a walk, where she meets Pax. They briefly talk, though she gets angry with him because how could he know anything about her pain, her loss, and her life while he’s been living in relative security. As the night winds down, and it is time to leave, Pax and Electra–Victra and Sevro’s daughter–join the Telemanuses on their ship. Once they’re airborne and flying over Hyperion, Lyria looks out the window over the city, and notices that something is blinking red. Other folks on the ship notice and barricade Pax and Electra in a safe room on the ship, just before the necklace causes and explosion that makes the ship lose its engines and its powers. There is a moment when the ship’s gravity is reversed, but ultimately, it hits the ground.

Ephraim and his group are waiting for the ship to fall, and as soon as it hits, they make a hole in it, get Electra and Pax out. Ephraim attempts to kill Lyria but cannot get himself to kill her, so he takes her with him instead, with the idea of letting her go free to hide elsewhere. As the group is leaving the shipwreck, Kavax attempts to fight back to save Pax. Kavax kills Dano, and Volga blasts off Kavax’s arms in order to secure their escape. Ephraim and Volga then give Electra and Pax to a couple of Yellows, who remove the trackers embedded into the children, and they move the children in a car.

When they arrive at the location they are to meet with the Duke of Hands, Ephraim tells Lyria to stay quiet, and together with Volga, they pull the kids out. The Duke is pleased with the work they have done, though he sends the remainder of the payment with irritation. He mocks Pax, and reveals that Cyria actually stabbed Ephraim in the back in exchange for money–giving information on Eprhaim. He ends up killing her, but before they are able to do anything else, a pipe clangs. The Duke has his Obsidians to take a look, and they notice Lyria, but she manages to escape through a vent–having been used to doing so in the mines–and continues to run. The Duke forgives the Obsidians for losing her, telling the commander of his force that he will owe him later, and tells them to go find her.

Gun in hand, Lyria runs through the construction zones, finding locations to hide and also taking risks to get out as far as possible. At one point, she encounters a group of Reds who try to take advantage of her, but she shoots them with Ephraim’s gun she stole from the car. She manages to make it to a checkpoint, with the intention to head home to where Kavax is. At the checkpoint, however, she is stopped due to having a weapon, and tells the officers of the story. They have a hard time believing her until Holiday steps in, muzzles her, puts her in a straight jacket and tells the officers that they have to keep their mouth shuts. She has Lyria run with them to the ship, and as they are flying, Victra attempts to attack them to get to Lyria, even though Holiday asks her to stand down.

They arrive at the Citadel and Lyria is put through questioning by Daxo (Kavax’s son), Niode (Kavax’s wife), and Theodora (a trusted servant to the Sovereign). She tells them as much of the truth that she is able to remember, but they do not believe her and start to use an animal on her that can detect lies, when the Sovereign arrives. Seeing the scorpion-like truth-seeker, Mustang is furious–she has told Theodora to destroy them when she became the Sovereign, but it is clear that Theodora has saved a few just in case. Mustang kicks everyone out except for Holiday and speaks with Lyria alone, who reveals more information. She tells them about the gun, when she met Philippe, and about the Obsidian that was with Philippe at the abduction. She also tells the Sovereign that The Duke of Hands has her son. At first they try to look through footage to find Philippe, but it seems that all of the footage has Philippe’s faced burned out. Only when Lyria mentions the gun does Holiday realize that she did not receive a gun when she went to pick up Lyria. They get the gun, scan the fingerprints, which leads them back to Ephraim.

Ephraim and Volga hide in a hotel room overlooking the city, and they get into a fight because Volga is upset over the children. She tells him that he is acting like he has nothing to lose, and that he’s trying to not feel anything when people around him want to help him heal; he basically tells her off in a way that insults her race so she walks out, slamming the door behind. Then Ephraim makes his way to the hangar of a private, chartered spaceship and checks in under a disguise. He waits extra time for Volga, even going as far as waiting for her in the ship itself. As she doesn’t come, he uses the restroom before they get ready for takeoff and when he returns, he finds the ship to be eerily silent. Walking back into the passenger section of the ship, he finds Holiday and Lyria waiting. He is surprised and relieved to see that Lyria is alive because he had heard that one of The Duke’s Obsidians had killed a Red girl the other day.

Holiday and Lyria get Ephraim to agree to kidnap Pax and Elektra back. He agrees reluctantly, so long as they free Volga as part of the deal. Ephraim calls the Duke of Hands, and the Duke’s men meet him, kidnap him, disorient him, and then bring him to meet the Duke. Ephraim and the Duke talk about potentially doing more business together, though Ephraim begins to seduce the Duke. When The Duke tells Ephraim to come closer and sit on his lap, Ephraim takes this as an opportunity to grab his gun and use the Duke as a shield to the Value where the children are being kept. Unfortunately the plan that was set up with Holiday would no longer work since he’d been gone for 4 hours and the closest military group was 2 hours away from him, so Ephraim had to improvise. With some difficulty mostly stemming from the Duke attempting to get Ephraim killed, they make it to the Vault, and Ephraim gets the kids out of their cage. They then have to get back out, but there are more roadblocks as The Duke’s men show up to try to kill Ephraim. Once again, he uses the Duke as a shield and gets the kids up to a ship. Just as they get on the ramp of the ship, Ephraim gets shot by The Duke’s Obsidian bodyguard, and Pax has to pull him up into the ship so that they can take off.

Ephraim manages to contact Holiday once they are off the ground, and they are heading towards the Sovereign-loyal forces. Unfortunately, he is losing a lot of blood from his gunshot wound and dying, but is trying his best to deliver the kids in order to free Volga. Lyria, having heard that the kids are save, feels relieved. Mustang is also relieved, and she asks Lyria for forgiveness for failing her as the Sovereign, and also for her help to then build up the Society to be better. Lyria forgives her, and Holiday promises to send some chocolate to Liam on Lyria’s behalf as she drops off Lyria in her own suite. Things go wrong, however, Lyria takes a shower and gets knocked out by a woman after leaving the shower. In the meantime, Ephraim has received an incoming call from The Queen–the leader of The Syndicate–who tells him that this is her ship, and that he will bring the children back or face her wrath. He disagrees and tries to keep going towards the forces loyal to the Sovereign, only for the ship to turn around. Seeing that he’s lost control of the ship, and wanting to keep his end of his promise to the Sovereign in exchange for Volga, he decides to detonate the engines of the ship, causing the ship to go down in an accident.

Back at the Rim, Lysander meets with Seraphina’s grandmother who has played a senile woman, though being really sharp over what is going on. She reunites Lysander and Pythia, telling them that Dido will bring Romulus on Trial for treason against the Rim due to the destruction of the Ganymedi docks that Romulus may have suspected. He has sought her council on that matter, and it was she that told him to forget about it, to stop looking into the destruction any further, and to work on keeping the Rim under peace. She then asks that Lysander go find Romulus to set him free, and take him to his sister who is waiting with her own army to fight back against Dido. The Obsidian that she relies on is to lead them to Romulus, and Lysander and Pythia follow him until they nearly come to the cells. There, Lysander betrays him, and gets taken into custody, giving the information to Dido. Dido tells him that she isn’t planning on asking for treason against Romulus, but rather asking that he co-reigns with her.

The Olympic Trial happens, and she does indeed tell the court she is not bringing treasonous charges against Romulus, as it is evident that he did not know of Darrow’s duplicity. Suddenly, a Chance–one of the individuals from the Whites–comes up and tells one of the Olympic Knights something. They all deliberate, and Diomedes is a sheet of white, because it does not look good. The Knights say that the Chance has brought charges of Treason against Romulus and they will have to take it under consideration; Dido tries to fight back and say that it’s obvious, but she knows the rule as well as they do. So the Knights ask Romulus a yes or no question, regarding whether or not he knew the truth about the destruction of the docks. He says that he did–which surprises everyone– and reveals that he had one of his men meet with emissaries who had the original recording, killing them and destroying that recording though he did not expect a copy.

As a result, he is condemned to death for Treason, and so his family and him go to the desert, where he tells everyone goodbye. Seraphina is upset with Romulus–she does not understand why he did not pursue Darrow for the destruction of the docks and why her father is choosing to die for this–he tells her that if the Rim is to go to war, they need to go as a united front, not a broken one because of his actions. Romulus speaks to Lysander and tells him that the au Lune family and the au Raa family go back years–they stood side by side together in the conquering–and so there is great potential for them to make a great change in the current world to bring peace. Seraphina sits on a dune, and Lysander joins her as Romulus strips in the toxic air, and starts to walk to the burial spot of his ancestors. He makes it within 10 steps of the spot, before stumbling and dying there, as the many men before him. Lysander later meets with Dido and Seraphina, both of whom are grieving Romulus’ death. Dido is angry of course, and had a hard time understanding why Lysander would want to bother her at this hour. Lysander then reveals that he would like to join her war, to give more credence to it, and create an alliance with the Ash Lord to fight back against Darrow and the Society. Dido smiles for the first time.

Nearing Venus, Darrow and Sevro have a disagreement–Sevro thinks they should turn back, that this is all pointless and they’ve lost a lot of their men for this cause all because they’ve followed Darrow. Still, Darrow sticks to the plan, and they bring the fight to Venus. They show up at the Valii-Rath home, and Apollonius takes control of the estate and the people that are part of the Valii-Rath banner from his brother. Then they make an assault on the Ash Lord’s home, which does go well, but the small military presence around the home surprises both Darrow and Sevro. They fight their way to the Ash Lord, only to find him on his death bed–dying from some kind of disease that turns out to have been given to the Ash Lord through a proxy from Apollonius for having betrayed him. The Ash Lord has been this way for three years, which makes Darrow and Sevro realize that they were not fighting the Ash Lord all of this time. Further, the Ash Lord reveals that their children were taken, and the information was given by someone close to the Sovereign, but he refuses to provide who was the person who betrayed them. Darrow is in shock, while Sevro is angry, and so they have a fight–Sevro refuses to go into war with Darrow any longer, because he believes that he needs to go look after his daughter and be a father. He tries to remind Darrow of that, but Darrow cannot face the fact that he caused this by walking away from his son, and doesn’t want see any more disappointment from his son. Instead, he chooses to leave Sevro and go to Mercury with the intention of fighting another war.

My Thoughts: The story starts off a little slow especially because now we don’t only have Darrow’s perspective, but also the perspective of three other people. While the prior books did introduce Lysander in the past, and Ephraim was briefly mentioned as going into the Rising after the death of Holiday’s brother (and his husband), this is the first time we get to know who they really are and what they really think about the whole Rising situation. Then we meet Lyria, whose purpose in the very beginning of the book is unclear. Her portion of the story paints the picture of what life has been like for the Reds or other peoples who were liberated after the Rising, which helps set the stage as to why there is some tension. Still, it was hard to read because there were many times when I was reading Lyria’s, or Ephraim’s perspectives that I wondered whether or not these two characters served a point. I wasn’t sure of their purpose with respect to Darrow’s actions, and it turns out that they really do not have a point until nearly 3/4ths into the book, where it is revealed that Lyria was really a tool used by Ephraim to get to Pax and Elektra–the children of Darrow and Mustang, Victra and Sevro.

I honestly feel like the book could have gone without their life stories and backgrounds, and still had the same kind of effect, while keeping the whole story shorter. The chapters are what I call “fluffy language”–pieces of information that really serve no use whatsoever to getting the point across. And unless Lyria and Ephraim serve a purpose in the next book that is closely tied to helping Darrow, Mustang, Sevro or Victra, these were just wasted pages to read.

Lysander on the other hand was an interesting add to the story. We last heard of him when he was leaving with Cassius after witnessing Darrow murder his grandmother, Octavia au Lune. For all that we know, he had really looked up to Darrow for all that Darrow had done at his time in the Institute. Seeing now how he feels after being essentially homeless for the last ten years and not getting a chance to earn his Peerless Scar like everyone used to, it seems that there is a bit of bitterness towards the destruction of his home and the society that was. As the story progresses, it becomes evident that he would like to return the Society to peace, perhaps going even as far as what it once was–returning it to the glory days of the society pyramid. At the same time, he does realize that his grandmother was a Tyrant–on who would cling to power at any cost, so he doesn’t want to be like her. It is in Romulus that he seems to find his role model at the end, when Romulus owns up to his willful blindness of the destruction of the Ganyemedi docks, and walks to his death. He does it with such peace, without holding on to anger and power–and that gives Lysander an idea of how he would like to be as a leader.

I’m curious to see how the next book in the series will paint Lysander, what choices he will make and where they will take him. I also wonder and hope that Darrow sees the errors of his ways and returns to his family instead of going onto war. Or at least reunites with them so that they can have a united front against the upcoming war with The Rim and the Ash Lord’s daughter, Atalantia au Grimmus.

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