Published by Dutton on May 29th 2014
Source: NetGalley, Publicist
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 was both excited and apprehensive about this book. Gameboard of the Gods hadn’t been an easy read for me. My previous experience of Mead’s writing was her stellar series Vampire Academy and I admit I mistakenly went into Age of X expecting the same wit, fun and snark. Instead GOTG was overwhelming at times; Mead impressively creates a whole new world with layer upon layer of social statuses, castes, tension, history and of course “The Gods”. While this was frustrating at times as Mead had to sacrifice her strength for characterisation for most of the book to introduce the reader to this deeply complicated although fascinating world, luckily I persevered and was rewarded close to the end with character development that finally got its hooks in me and made me very excited for The Immortal Crown although the fact that I had to refresh my memory with the extensive glossary at the back made me nervous. Luckily I needn’t have worried as the book took off from page one as the reader is thrown right into the thick of the story with the welcome knowledge that we now have a clue what’s going on.
Mae and Justin are back, investigating religious groups to ensure they pose no threat to the RUNA despite the uncomfortable knowledge that the Gods are not only real but have an interest in both Mae and Justin as “Elect” members who have the potential to serve as powerful servants to the Gods and ensure their bidding is fulfilled on earth. As Justin tries his best to resist succumbing to his feelings for Mae and thus enabling the God Odin to claim him as one of his own, old friend Lucian Darling pops up and invites him and Mae on a diplomatic tour to Arcadia, a country opposed to the RUNA and its secular ways. When Mae experiences visions from an unknown god containing clues of her niece’s whereabouts somewhere in Arcadia, she encourages Justin to accept the invitation under the guise that it would be a good career move to partake in it. As Mae and Justin find themselves in peril as war between the gods and their elects starts to spark, Justin’s ward Tessa is adjusting to life in the RUNA and finds herself too at risk of being used as a pawn in the “Game board of the Gods.” Will Justin, Mae and Tessa escape unscathed from the interactions with the powerful beings or will they find themselves pulled deeper into a battle that could possibly change everything?
I really enjoyed The Immortal Crown. While still overwhelming at times I really felt that Mead had hit her stride with this book and both characterisation and pacing were solidly on point. I loved the introduction of Arcadia and found the delegations’ trip there fascinating. Arcadia is made up of the former Southern states of the US and its history of religious fundamentalism has clearly thrived in Arcadia. Many of the characters in Arcadia reminded me of the show Big Love which featured a certain sect of Mormons who manipulated the ideals and values of the religion to their own benefit and it was prevalent here with the abuse of polygamy, lack of women’s rights accepted superiority of men. At times it was sickening to read how yet again women were cast as the evil temptresses who must pay for the sins of man. The dynamics of the society in comparison to the RUNA were fascinating to explore and one of my favourite parts of the book.
The Gods were a part of book one that I found problematic as the overly secular rhetoric turned me into a mini Dawkins 😉 however I found their addition much easier to accept in this book and was excited with Mead’s use of mythology and the aspects she concentrated on, particularly the Norse gods who make an appearance! I admit I squealed!
Having more of a handle on the society this time around, I was more comfortable and at ease to enjoy the fabulous world Mead has created and her meticulous attention to detail is staggering and have firmly placed this world as one of my favourites to get lost in!
As I mentioned above, the lack of characterisation in book one was one of its disappointing aspects but gladly I felt wholly invested in Justin, Mae and Tessa’s exploits this time around and loved the dynamic they all shared. Justin came off as a feckless, selfish idiot at times in book one but now knowing the pressure he’s carrying on his shoulders endeared him to me much more. Likewise, Mae who appeared cold and uncaring as the icy, blonde super soldier has noticeably thawed in this outing and her protective nature towards her friends and loyalty are both admirable and appealing. Tessa who seemed pointless in book one, happily finds her niche in this book and takes on the position of unofficial guide for the reader as we see the world through her eyes and learn about it right along with her.
The development of the story and its pacing never stalled and I was always enthralled and eager to find out what happened next. The stunning and shocking ending definitely blindsided me and ensured my continued investment in this series and emboldens my plea to those who abandoned book one to give this series another shot. I very much doubt you’d regret it! Fantastic!