The Immortal Crown is everything I wanted from Gameboard of the Gods, and more. More supernatural powers, tighter mystery, more romantic tension, a reason for the third POV to exist. It’s one of the rare sequels that truly enhances and exceeds its predecessor.
This time around, Justin and his supersoldier bodyguard, Mae, are warned that they’re about to become embroiled in a “war of the elect”. While neither is sure what that means, it’s pretty obviously something not. good. So when Lucian Darling has the brilliant idea of taking them to Arcadia, a fundamentalist theocracy, as part of a goodwill delegation, Justin’s adamantly not interested. Unfortunately, Mae, and their respective deities, have other plans for our heroes.
Arcadia is terrifying. Nehitimar, (interestingly, the only god so far not from traditional mythology,) takes the worst of all the Abrahamic religions’ ideals and wraps them in even more misogyny and violence. Add in a crazy and dangerous
Meanwhile, Tessa’s plot is separate from Justin and Mae’s, but far more successful than in book one. She’s still obsessed with Gemman media and takes an internship with a reporter to learn more about the subject. This internship leads her to a conspiracy that might implicate important RUNA politicians in secretly engaging in religious worship. While investigating this lead, we finally get to see Tessa as Justin’s protege, and see more of Gemman daily life without the “wide eyed foreigner” thing that bothered me in the first book. Though the plots converge at the end, it makes a lot more sense for her to be doing something completely different and I felt like we actually got to know the character.
There’s a lot more magic this time around, which was mostly good. I’m going to need some parameters in the next book, because, especially at the end, people pull out some full on swords and sorcery shit, in what had previously been sci-fi with magic aspects. It works while the characters don’t understand the magic system either, but pretty soon we’re both going to need to learn its limits. Some of the “just have faith” messages got a little hokey, but for the most part I liked the way the gods interacted with their subjects. And that brings us to the climax. Fairly major plot spoilers below.
If you can’t think of a better way to make your female lead vulnerable than rape, you need to stop and do re-writes. If you can’t think of a better way to drive the romantic leads apart than rape, you need to just stop.
Especially considering Mae was raped prior to book one already, had a very emotional scene, (complete with flashbacks,) dealing with the possibility of being raped again when she first met the Grand Disciple, there is no excusable reason to have her raped a second time to end this book. It’s never a good plot point. I understand the plot called for her to have a crisis of faith that would allow a chaotic entity to step in, and I’m interested in seeing where that goes, but there has to be another way to do it. And frankly, the reveal of who it was felt convenient and muddied both the plot and the magic system.
I really love this book and I’m disappointed that it and my review end on such a sour note. I hope the next book can recapture the excitement and intrigue of the first 400 pages, but I don’t think we’re in the right place going forward.
4/16/14: Better than the first in almost every way, but rape is not an acceptable plot point to drive the hero and heroine apart. Let me repeat. RAPE IS NOT AN ACCEPTABLE PLOT POINT!
Full review to come.