The Immortal Crown is the sequel to Gameboard of the Gods and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous book.
Lucian Darling wants to go on a diplomatic mission to RUNA’s neighbour Arcadia. Unlike the Republic, where religious practice is heavily restricted, Arcadia’s government and policies are intrinsically linked with their god. The region is considered dangerous and the mission has the potential to help smooth things over, not to mention Lucian’s campaign, or could tip relations over the edge. So of course Lucian wants to take with him religious investigator Justin and praetorian Mae. Justin thinks it’s suicidal but Mae has her own reasons for going and he can’t let her go by herself.
As before, it’s a mix of fantasy and science fiction elements. The fact that the gods are real, and Justin has ravens talking to him in his head, is an even bigger fantasy presence in this instalment. Then there’s the idea of this future world, divided into wealthy republics of the godless and countries where religion has prospered and rules the population. What science fiction does well is to take a current conflict out of its context and give it new life without necessarily pointing fingers at specific groups.
Here, the county of Arcadia is reminiscent of countries with strict Islamic rule, particularly with regard to their treatment of women. Mae is an alien concept to them; a fiercely independent woman who is also a deadly, elite soldier, not to mention untouched by the scars of Cain. As part of a diplomatic entourage, there is a fine line between being cooperative with their way of life and standing up for what’s right.
There’s one scene where Justin is cringing at how beneath Mae the household chores must be, but in reality, the praetorians are happy to be following orders. What is offensive to them is when another woman is put at risk by their actions. We also see how difficult it is for some of the women of Arcadia to accept different cultures too, they are too far indoctrinated into their hierarchy.
Back at home, the story follows Teresa who is starting an internship with a reporter from one of the less than reputable news channels. Anxiety levels are high as we, as the reader, know that this is not going to go well, that it’s getting uncomfortably close to the truth which could harm her new family and friends. But of course, she has no knowledge of what Justin really gets up to, so she thinks she is doing good. It’s edge of the seat stuff, waiting to see if she sees the light in time.
It’s a little slow to start, but soon the pace picks up and it’s a worthy follow up to Gameboard of the Gods. The beginning might be a bit recappy for some but I’m starting to realise this is only a big problem when the previous book is still fresh in your mind. I’m getting to the stage where a bit of a recap is quite nice as long as it attempts to weave itself into the story.
I’m loving this series and can’t wait to see where it all goes.
Book Source: Purchased