Title: The Immortal Crown: An Age of X Novel
Author: Richelle Mead
No. of Pages: 432
Origins: Dutton Adult
Release Date: 29 May 2014
Bottom Line: Still exciting and intriguing and left me wanting even more
“Gameboard of the Gods introduced religious investigator Justin March and Mae Koskinen, the beautiful super-soldier 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.”
Thoughts: The Immortal Crown starts up several months after Gameboard of the Gods ends. Mae and Justin are working together to discover various reports of supernatural activity, while Tessa, Justin’s ward, is learning to adapt to life outside of Panama and the inundation of information available to citizens of RUNA. Readers get the chance to meet new gods and powers, see how other countries have incorporated religion or not, and get a clearer picture of the stakes involved with the gods’ increasing involvement.
Whereas the first book set the stage for the series, introducing all of the characters and establishing the plot of the entire series, this second novel feels very much like a carefully plotted but incomplete chess game in which the opponent has yet to make the move that will decide the fate of the game. Ms. Mead is moving towards something, something big, but what that is and how the players will get there is still unknown. This second novel is all about jockeying for position, answering some questions while raising others, and in general making it impossible for readers to know exactly how the series will unfold. In many ways, a reader feels much like Mae and Justin – at the mercy and whims of the gods and essentially powerless to stop the momentum. However, fans will not complain.
What makes the Age of X series so interesting is the debates about the place religion should have in society. The RUNA believes that religion has no place in society and yet allows hundreds of thousands of small sects to grow and thrive as long as their underlying message does not interfere with governmental policies. Other areas, like Arcadia, allow religion to become their government. Yet, nowhere in this new world is religion completely absent. The differences between the RUNA and other countries and provinces may be major in economic-political areas, but religion plays a role in every single one of them. It’s a fascinating study on how ingrained religion or at least some form of faith is in humankind.
While The Immortal Crown does not quite fall prey to the second book syndrome, it is not as thrilling as the first book. This is due to the fact that the story is now somewhat familiar and that Ms. Mead uses much of the novel to set the stage for the rest of the series. Mae continues to kick major ass though, something that is always a highlight, even while Justin still waffles about his future. The scenes occurring within Arcadia are interesting but questionable as to how the American South can morph into something akin to Sharia law. The truly fascinating sections of the novel are those in which the gods and goddesses directly or indirectly act with various humans. One gets the distinct impression that there will be more of this cross-cultural interchanges as the story progresses. To see gods and goddesses from all the various cultures interacting in some fashion is a fantasy dream come true.