The Immortal Crown (Age of X #2)
Penguin Books Aus
Copy courtesy of the publisher
Servitor Justin March and soldier Mae Koskinen are assigned to investigating religion, which is banned in the new nation of RUNA (Republic of North America). It is Justin’s job to assess each ‘church’ as it pops up for how much of a threat it might be. RUNA doesn’t believe in the supernatural or the gods and neither did Justin….until very recently when he realised that in some ways, they were all just pieces on the gameboard of the gods.
Justin and Mae are then assigned to a diplomatic trip into Arcadia, RUNA’s most dangerous neighbouring country. They’re accompanying Lucian Darling, Justin’s old friend and an ambitious politician. Arcadia has some very different rules to RUNA, especially concerning the role of women and the importance of religion. Although Mae can go, she will not be permitted to protect Justin or anyone else and must stick to the roles women carry out in Arcadia. Justin’s job is to use the diplomatic trip to investigate a powerful religious artifact. He hasn’t quite accepted that he is an Elect – a human chosen to carry out the work of a divine – and although he has studiously refrained from making the full commitment, he is well aware that he is teetering on the brink. This will obviously have severe complications on his status as a servitor, an investigator into religion.
Mae has her own reasons for wanting to go into Arcadia. She has recently been the recipient of the mark of the divine herself and she has been shown that Arcadia is where her long lost illegitimate niece is being held, awaiting being sold as a concubine when she reaches puberty. However Mae is without her usual weaponry and she is restricted in her movement and freedom. If she’s going to rescue her niece, and any other young girls that are being held there too, she’s going to have to do it quietly, on her own. She can’t risk damaging the diplomatic mission, which means she’s going to have to cross one of the most dangerous borders herself with no support.
The first novel in this series, Gameboard of the Gods was the first Richelle Mead novel I ever read. Then I read all of the Vampire Academy series, the Georgia Kincaid succubus series and the Bloodlines novels that had been published. This series is quite a departure from her previous work and the more I read her other books, the more I kind of wondered about this one. It seems quite different in style…there’s a lot of information and explanation. Quite simply – more words, less in the way of action. I’ve found both books in this series now very slow to start off, in fact it’s only probably the last third of the book that really accelerates the plot and provides the action and the interest. Richelle Mead is also quite famous for her endings, so it’s probably no surprise to anyone that the ending of this one provides quite a shocking act and reveal that will leave some readers quite desperate to hear what happens next.
However, I am undecided on this series. I see flashes of brilliance: a lot of effort has obviously gone into the research. The world building is okay but the characters I think, are what confuses me the most. Mae is almost like a robot. I really don’t feel any connection to her at all, I don’t really care about her. She’s a gifted fighter, so you never feel like she’s ever going to be in danger from anything but apart from that she has very little in the way of personality. Justin….I don’t know. I feel as though the best moments of Justin are when he converses with the ravens in his head. I realise how odd that sentence sounds if you haven’t read these books… Justin has been chosen as an ‘Elect’ by a god and the god uses two ravens to communicate directly to his thoughts. The way in which that particular story developed in this book was interesting. I love the ravens and their conversations with Justin as they try to ‘recruit’ him in a way, to committing properly to their god. They also provide advice and opinions on things that are going on and are not-so-subtly trying to push him towards Mae, who is tied up in the deal that Justin made, the one that he doesn’t want to give in on.
I see so much potential in this story and I think there are some glimmers of brilliance. It’s really meticulous – but at times, I think that it’s too meticulous. It reads quite clinical and I feel as though all this attention to detail doesn’t let the personalities of the characters really shine through. Justin and Mae had a one night stand in the first book and for reasons, Justin has attempted to make sure the experience is not repeated. So because of that their interactions read a bit…stilted with each other, but not in the trying-to-repress-sexual-tension way but more like the this-is-just-awkward way. In fact I get almost no chemistry from them whatsoever, which is so unusual in a work by Mead. Usually the chemistry between characters is absolutely off the charts but this one, I’m just not feeling it.
I am curious to see how the stuff with the Elects plays out but this is not a series I’ve become desperately invested in, like with her others. I could never see myself desperately marathoning all of these books.
Book #120 of 2014