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.
*I received a free ARC of The Immortal Crown from Dutton Adult in exchange of an honest review*
The Immortal Crown lets the readers know Mae a lot better, and seeing how different Gods are wooing her makes her seem more human, in a way, and more likable. Therefore, the story here is much better than Gameboard of the Gods in my opinion, and there are several reasons for this. One reason is that the world makes more sense in The Immortal Crown, and since Age of X is set in an epic fantasy world, it is easy to understand why the second book makes more sense. I also enjoyed Mae and Justin both more in The Immortal Crown than I did in the first book, Mae is more in tune with herself, the Goddess who is wooing her, and with Justin.
Justin and Mae spend very little time in RUNA during The Immortal Crown, so it’s a good thing we also follow Tessa to know what is going on in the motherland. They are first on a mission in Nassau, then they spend several days in Arcadia. And there is a lot of excitement and intrigue going on everywhere they go – it seems the Gods are really all waking up to a new awareness, and they are hungry for power once more. I really enjoyed the mythology in this installment, because there is a lot of focus on Norse mythology, which is one of my favorites, and it was very well done.
While in Arcadia, they go to see a psychic, and she talks to Mae, telling her something mysterious about the elect, and a war to come. Chilling as this is, Mae realizes that she has to do something to help, but that she also needs to make sure she will not be seen as a threat by others who are really wanting to worship a God or Goddess and work on their behalf to convert humanity to religion. I have to say that Mae’s character development in The Immortal Crown really appealed to me. I found her to be very self-centered and acting a bit spoiled in Gameboard of the Gods, but she has certainly grown, and is able to see outside of her own problems and perceptions now.
Without spoiling anything from The Immortal Crown, I can say that Mae is now on more than one quest, and she needs to keep her full attention in several places at the same time. Justin also has to work on several fronts, and especially while they are in Arcadia with a political delegation including Lucian Darling, he has to stay sharp. It also has several added layers of intrigue, because in Arcadia there is one state religion, and everybody in the country are seemingly following the religious leader. The women in Arcadia do not at all have an easy life, though, and their religion is used to keep the women dependent on men. Of course Mae and the other praetorian women who are in the delegation have to pretend they are just as demure and submissive as the local women, and this is certainly not an easy task for them.
Another thing I really enjoyed in The Immortal Crown is Tessa and her story. She is approached by a journalist in one of the more scandalous news stations, and at first, she, Justin and Cynthia think Daphne is trying to make an angle based on the fact that Tessa is from Panama. However, as that part of the story unfolds, it seems Daphne is a lot more interested in seeing who in politics might be involved with Gods and religion. And it is certainly a good thing Tessa is so smart, so that she can stop this story before it goes too far.
The writing is flawless, and the story flows nicely even when there are different points of views it is easy to follow which characters are ‘in charge’. There is also more of the mythology present, both from the Norse mythology and others that I am not familiar with. I am pretty sure the next installment in The Age of X series will be even more exciting, both because of all the things that happened in The Immortal Crown, and because of the chilling cliff-hanger the readers were left with.
No matter how many times she left her homeland in the Republic of United North America, she never quite got used to the shocking and often primitive differences found in the provinces. Nassau was no exception.
The weirdness of their conversation wasn’t lost on Mae. Three months ago, she would’ve thought it was crazy. Their society denounced religion and the paranormal as blind superstition.
Justin stood up and stifled a yawn. “You say that, but believe me, you wouldn’t like Arcadia. Independent, progressive women like you wouldn’t really fit in there.” “I think I know something about girls being forced into conservative roles,” she reminded him.
Incredible, Justin thought. They punish their women for what sounds like male weakness to me.
You’ve spent your whole life seeking the next best high from drugs or the arms of a woman, Magnus told him. When all along, all you had to do was surrender to the god who wants you. easier, isn’t it?