Series: Age of X # 2
Published by Dutton Adult on May 29 2014
Gameboard of the Gods introduced religious investigator Justin March and Mae Koskinen, the beautiful supersoldier assigned to protect him. Together they have been charged with investigating reports of the supernatural and the return of the gods, both inside the Republic of United North America and out. With this highly classified knowledge comes a shocking revelation: Not only are the gods vying for human control, but the elect—special humans marked by the divine—are turning against one another in bloody fashion.
Their mission takes a new twist when they are assigned to a diplomatic delegation headed by Lucian Darling, Justin’s old friend and rival, going into Arcadia, the RUNA’s dangerous neighboring country. Here, in a society where women are commodities and religion is intertwined with government, Justin discovers powerful forces at work, even as he struggles to come to terms with his own reluctantly acquired deity.
Meanwhile, Mae—grudgingly posing as Justin’s concubine—has a secret mission of her own: finding the illegitimate niece her family smuggled away years ago. But with Justin and Mae resisting the resurgence of the gods in Arcadia, a reporter’s connection with someone close to Justin back home threatens to expose their mission—and with it the divine forces the government is determined to keep secret.
The Gameboard of the Gods was my least favorite of Richelle Mead’s books. I’ll admit that I didn’t always understand what was going on in Gameboard, and I didn’t understand the heavy emphasis on physical appearance. I haven’t read any of her other adult books yet, but I loved all of the Vampire Academy and Bloodlines books. But still, I have such faith in her work that even though the first book in this series didn’t really click with me, I still wanted to check out the sequel. SCORE! It was great, and all is right and proper in the world again. And now that the world and the characters of the Age of X series have been established, we can sit back and enjoy the continuation of the story.
Here’s a little tip: If Gameboard isn’t very fresh in your mind, check out the Recaptains. It’s run by numerous bloggers you probably know, and as you might guess, the purpose of the site is to provide a recap (including spoilers) of mostly YA books. I found it very helpful before diving into The Immortal Crown.
Several themes from Gameboard continue here. First and foremost, we have the relationship between Justin, the investigator of religious extremism, and the Praetorian, Mae, who is essentially his kick-ass bodyguard. They had their moment of intimacy in Gameboard, but they are now back to keeping their emotional distance from each other, walls fully in the up position. Of course, there is the continuing religious mistrust, and as the various gods make their presence more and more conspicuous, we wonder: Can they be trusted? What is their endgame?
Most of The Immortal Crown plot involves a supposedly friendly, diplomatic visit by Mae, Justin, and several other government officials and Praetorians to Arcadia, the RUNA’s southern neighbor. But both sides have their own separate (and possibly very dangerous) agendas. The people of the RUNA view Arcadia like a pesky, troublesome little bother. There are skirmishes, there is the need to keep the little guys appeased, but there is never any question in the eyes of the people of the RUNA that THEY are the big dogs, and THEY are running this joint. That made me even more shocked to see what life in Arcadia is really like. Think of some of the awful cults we have had here in America where women are valued only for their ability to breed, where men may have a dozen wives, where women are constantly covered head to toe, and where it’s acceptable and encouraged to rape young girls. This is Arcadia.
As despicable as they are, they still must be dealt with. And even while both sides are devising various plots and schemes, Mae has one of her own. She learned (in a VERY interesting way) that her niece was kidnapped and being held in Arcadia. I loved Mae’s resourcefulness and cleverness in these scenes. I especially loved seeing her kick ass all over Arcadia. She wiggles out of some very close calls in ways that are both jaw-droppingly fantastic, but also believable. Because, you know, it’s Mae.
I’m feeling all sorts of enthused again just writing this review. If you didn’t really care for Gameboard, or if you’re only familiar with Mead’s YA books, I encourage you to give the Age of X a shot. While it’s written in a style very different from The Vampire Academy and Bloodlines, it’s got all of the elements that make those books so fun to read. The ending of The Immortal Crown pretty much knocked my socks off, and it sets Mae and Justin up for some major changes in the third book.
On a totally superficial note, I much preferred the design of the Gameboard cover. It had a very distinctive look, and I loved the icy look of the blue and white. This one is just so generic.
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.