Thanks to the awesome that is NetGalley, I received an early release copy of this book, like two days before the release date, but whatevs. Early is early, and I was more than happy to have it in my sweat little hands–hey, I live in Arizona and it’s 100+ degrees every day, don’t judge the sweating.
If you read my review of Gameboard of the Gods (the first book in the Age of X Series) you’d know I am not one of those raving lunatic fangirl types who worship every word Mead has ever put on paper. But this series is quickly dragging me into her cult.
Mae and Justin and Tessa are fabulous characters to follow and the plot is so totally plausible and the writing is solid and the themes tackle hard subjects. But I’m going to skip all of that and jump right to the end of the book and work backward:
THE EPILOGUE REVEAL IS FUCKING AMAZING.
You will not guess it in a million years. There are hints, but they are so subtle you don’t realize they are there until you’ve read the reveal. It yanks the “ohmyfuckinggodnoway!” from you so fast it comes out on one breath, the words all smashed together. And then your brain zips back through the book and collects all the little bits and you have a face-palm moment, because YOU’RE A GODDAMN BOOK LOVING BITCH AND YOU *SHOULD* HAVE SEEN ALL OF THOSE HINTS. But no, you didn’t see them because, dare I say it?
Mead is kinda brilliant.
The climax of the book…
By this point in the book, I had some serious H-A-T-E for the villains of the main plot because Mead didn’t give me, as a reader, a single thing to like about the villain. They are just simply, terrible, repressive people who mistreat other human beings–woman, mostly–in the name of their god. Which makes my job as a reader easy, it makes me root for the good guys and hope like hell the bad guys get everything they deserve…
There is a ton of buildup to the climax, and then it all happens off scene, meaning NOT IN THE PAGES OF THE BOOK. It’s like one of those sexy time scenes an author just doesn’t want to write or it doesn’t fit in the book, it is summed up in maybe a few sentence well after the time it happens.
I was mad.
I am still mad.
I wanted–no NEEDED–to SEE, to EXPERIENCE, to FEEL the justice that came out of the villain going down. That is the point of making the reader hate the villain, isn’t it?
We follow three main characters through the book.
Mae and Justin spend a huge chunk of the book together, then they are separated. Mead handles this amazingly. I always love seeing how Mae and Justin both view/feel about the things they experience together, and then how they handle themselves apart. Sometimes it’s like Mae is a different person when she’s with Justin and vice versa. Mead doesn’t fret about tormenting Mae and Justin either. She puts them through the ringer and squeezes until you aren’t sure they’ll recover even the tiniest fraction of their former selves.
Tessa is our third POV character, and she has such a HUGE character arch from the beginning to the end of this book. At more than one point in Tessa’s story you really aren’t sure if Justin has lost his “sweet provincial girl” to the corruption of the world he brought her to, or not. She makes some seriously questionable choices in her quest for knowledge, and doesn’t come out unscathed. Her arch demonstrates a little more of that Mead brilliance that has me swooning into her cult.
The humanizing element of the book is the themes. The themes are so intertwined with the plot the book would seriously be broken without them. Mead explores human politics, the role of religion in politics and society and the separation of religion and politics. The gods…she gives religion a body and a face, several actually, and they are all conflicting to one another. She explores how human influence demoralizes religion and how religion drives human behavior–however “right” or “wrong” the religion and human behaviors are.
I totally, 100% recommend this book. And will be buying the audio of it even though I already have the book and it was free. It’s that damn good.
Happy Reading. Happier Writing,
blurb from goodreads:
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.