Series Review: Books 1 & 2 of The Age of X series by Richelle Mead

Gameboard of the Gods
In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists, Justin March lives in exile after failing in his job as an investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims. But Justin is given a second chance when Mae Koskinen comes to bring him back to the Republic of United North America (RUNA). Raised in an aristocratic caste, Mae is now a member of the military’s most elite and terrifying tier, a soldier with enhanced reflexes and skills.

When Justin and Mae are assigned to work together to solve a string of ritualistic murders, they soon realize that their discoveries have exposed them to terrible danger. As their investigation races forward, unknown enemies and powers greater than they can imagine are gathering in the shadows, ready to reclaim the world in which humans are merely game pieces on their board.

The Immortal Crown
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 read Gameboard of the Gods and The Immortal Crown back to back, and I'm so glad I did.  These books were just as outstanding as I'd predicted them to be, and once I got into Mead's futuristic society, I didn't want to leave.  Good thing, too, because these books were fairly long----each one over 400 pages and they weren't easy YA reads. 
I love the world Mead has created for this series.  The imagery was excellent, and reading about the futuristic society of the RUNA made this series feel like Mead's most intellectual series yet.  I loved the politics of the RUNA and the whole concept of the praetorians, the supersoldiers, was so unique and well-executed. 
Gameboard of the Gods starts off with a love scene that reminded me right away that we've left the YA world.  I thought that scene would have set the tone for the series, but it was apparently, a one-time thing.  It looks like the Age of X series will be full of "the chase," which is fun to read about in its own right. 
As always, Mead excels in her characterization.  Mae is everything I've come to expect from one of Mead's heroines: smart, strong, beautiful, and completely self-reliant.  Watching Mae learn to lean on others for support will be very interesting.  I didn't like Justin much at first, but he really grew on me throughout these two books, and by the end, I was in flat-out character crush mode.
I think that the premise of the Age of X series, with the intertwining of the old god mythology and the new, advanced society, is what made this series stand out for me.  The setting and crux of the books are so unique, and so well-written, that I just couldn't put them down.  Book two ends on quite a shocking note, and I can't wait to see where Mead takes this exciting new series! 


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