The Immortal Crown is the second book in Richelle Mead’s Age of X series. Last year I read the first book, Gameboard of the Gods, in a read-a-long. Despite having some poor focus problems this week I don’t think the read suffered at all. It was everything that I expected and more.
* Spoilers ahead for those who have not read Gameboard of the Gods *
We return to Justin March, a religious investigator employed by the government of RUNA to pursue dodgy supernatural activity and crimes. Assigned to protect him is Mae Koskinen, a praetorian supersoldier of Nordic descent. The two also are the chosen of the Gods – Justin’s is Odin, who has employed two raven servants, Horatio and Magnus, who speak directly into Justin’s head. Mae has had dealings with the Morrigan in the past. Both are the Elect, a human touched by the hands of a God, though Justin is still resisting becoming Odin’s pawn. Together they live with Tessa, a young woman who Justin brought to RUNA from Panama for an old friend.
When a diplomatic venture brings them to Arcadia, a neighbouring country, the two find themselves tested in incalculable ways. Arcadia’s primary religion is the service of Nehitimar, a demanding God who prefers the subjugation of women and the all-ruling empowerment of men. In Arcadia religion and politics are one and they scoff at RUNA’s separation of church and state. Mae and Justin have to bow to their customs and Mae finds herself struggling with the ambitious, grasping, and dominant culture. Still, she has her own personal mission; to locate and rescue her young niece who has been abducted from RUNA. Justin struggles with the assignment even as the Arcadians push against the RUNA delegation.
The Immortal Crown is another slow building book, not dissimilar to Gameboard. It took a while to draw me into the book. However, the last fifty pages of plot are solid and riotous and sad, and now I cannot wait for book three. The best thing about this book is that Mead does not rehash the world-building elements from book one that seemed to weigh the plot down. She writes this book as an episodic romp and pushes the reader off of the first page. This helped immensely, as much of my gripe about book one was in the density of the world. But in The Immortal Crown the characters are fleshed out and the dynamics already present. The only building that Mead does is devoted to Arcadia, which was not brought up in book one to begin with (or very little) if memory serves).
The characters are the real reasons to pick up this series. Mae is rigorous and disciplined, but soft and human when it serves. She does let her guard down when she has to and I appreciate these moments from her the most. Justin has grown on me. I liked him so much more in this book than in the previous one. He is still the loveable ponce but now he is more assured in his tasks, more yielding to Mae, and the relationship with the invisible ravens has only gotten richer. I am most curious to see what happens with both of them in the future.
Added to the book is a side plot-line involving Tessa and a questionable reporter, Daphne Lang. This plot line, while necessary, felt a bit overlong to me. I understand that we still had to see what was happening in RUNA, and that this experience will benefit Tessa later in subsequent books, but it was overdone. For me. I was more interested in what was going on in Arcadia than RUNA for the course of this book, but, then again, we are supposed to be.
I look forward to book three.
4 out of 5 stars.
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