REVIEW: Iron Gold by Pierce Brown

Last Updated on March 8, 2024

In Pierce Brown’s Iron Gold the Ash Lord and the Last Fury hold Venus as their final bastion of the old order of the Society, and Darrow returns home to petition the senate for enough troops for one last push to finish the war. Out on the rim, mistakes have consequences that threaten to throw the entire solar system back into never-ending stalemate, while back in the heart of Rising territory the political move from a military society to a democratic one is not as easy as Virginia and her allies hoped for. In yet another heart-wrenching, reproductive-pieces-to-the-wall action packed masterpiece, Pierce Brown picks up where he left off in Morning Star.

Cover for Iron Gold by Pierce BrownDarrow’s decisions come back to haunt him in Iron Gold. Throughout ten years of war he has made some hard decisions, some rash decisions, and some flat out wrong decisions–and some of those debts are about to come home to demand payment. He goes to face the senate for ordering the Iron Rain on Venus against their orders. As he relaxes with his family and friends and desperately tries to unwind from ten years of war, we see into his restlessness and his inability to let the war go, as he struggles to transition from leading by authority to being a part of a democracy where he is no longer in absolute power. Pierce also really begins to dig into Darrow’s life as a soldier and a figurehead, and the impact of that on Virginia and his son, Pax.

Lyra  is our view into the lives that Darrow and Virginia have freed. It’s a life of refugee camps and struggle, and really showcases that freedom doesn’t mean freedom from struggle or prejudice or death. It’s an endless war against hatred and the collective self of human society in all its dirty individual brutality, and shows that the glowing lights of the heads of state can paint a picture of glory and life but in the end the destitute always suffer and die, no matter who is in charge. If there’s a better SFF depiction of a Syrian refugee watching the West revel in their victorious glory from afar delivered in one chapter of SFF, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it.

Effram is your more stock standard, knees groaning, cynical-as-fuck war veteran moved into the dark mercenary arts and I am here for it. The older I get and the more I groan when I wake up and wonder how this happened, the more I love this trope. In this case he’s an art thief leading a young crew of experts to steal the sword of the Lightbringer—the Gold who led the ancient war to wrest Earth from old humanity. Only, he’s stolen from somebody you shouldn’t steal from, and he’s about to lose control of his life and drag his crew down with him.

Lysander is with Cassius near the Outer Rim trying to restore honour to Gold by protecting the needy, versus dominating them, when they encounter an emergency call and run into a threat potentially greater than the war between the Society and The Uprising.

The opening scenes of Darrow and his family and friends reflecting on their lives and world and the job ahead does well to reset us as the reader into this world. Pierce really goes for the reader’s throat to nail down the friendships they’ve built and earned and lost, and sets an incredibly morose mood for Darrow’s chapters throughout the book. If anything, the three new points of view helped keep the book moving as we got really down in the dumps with Darrow throughout his chapters in a very emotionally insightful story arc. If I had one complaint about this book (pretty sure it’s my first one, four books in) it’s that the emo-hammer fell a bit hard for me throughout his story arc, and without the other points of view, I likely wouldn’t have enjoyed the book as much.

Brown, as always, is a magnificent storyteller overall. As we move throughout the solar system, amongst the many factions, and watch in horror as mistakes and battles and cruelty bury millions, and infighting buries even more, he juggles the brutality of politics, war, factional divides, and new dangers for the emotionally weary reader like an orchestra conductor. Effram and Lyra were the stars of this show for me, and they showcased Brown’s ability to really flesh out this world he’s built through different perspectives, without it feeling completely different to what we’ve come to expect from him. And with 24hrs of audio to listen to on this book voice by four different narrators (shout out to the great work of Tim Gerard Reynolds, John Curless, Julien Elfer, and Aedin Molony), you know you are being taken very deep into this world.

Iron Gold is a magnificent bridge to the next books, with the additional points of view ramping up the scope and stakes of Brown’s world, and the strain on Darrow’s friendships and loves ratcheting up the emotional tension to match the physical danger of war in the future. Highly recommended.

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Adrian Collins

Adrian Collins

Adrian Collins runs Grimdark Magazine and loves anything to do with telling darker stories. Doesn't matter the format, or when it was published or produced--just give him a grim story told in a dark world by a morally grey protagonist and this bloke's in his happy place. Add in a barrel aged stout to sip on after a cheeky body surf under the Australian sun, and that's his heaven.

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