“Welcome to the Republic of United North America.”
When Mae Koskinen utters that single phrase, it gives me goosebumps. That’s just one small taste of the powerful writing and strong emotion of Richelle Mead’s spectacular storytelling.
The Immortal Crown pretty much picks up where Gameboard of the Gods left off. If you haven’t had time to reread the first book in preparation for the sequel’s release, never fear, Mead hits all the high points to refresh your memory. Justin March and Mae Koskinen are investigating the presence of supernatural elements in RUNA as well as the return of the gods and their influence. We already know Justin’s been marked by the god Odin, a god he works diligently to keep at bay, but The Immortal Crown calls into question whether Mae has escaped notice after the events in Gameboard. Naturally, nothing is clear cut, and things will get very messy before there are any answers.
Justin March, I think I could love you. For as much as he made me a little crazy in the first book, Justin’s character achieves amazing growth and maturity in this one. The changes in him seem to happen right before your eyes; Mead effortlessly manipulates the story to bring about the most logical and reasonable adjustments. Sometimes I had the impression Justin himself was even surprised by his thoughts, actions and emotions. The implication it has for Justin’s involvement with Odin adds definite tension and uncertainty for the future.
This story touches on some very interesting sociological and religious issues. They’re extreme situations that aren’t really too far removed from what plagues parts of the world today, and Mead uses this fictional world to extrapolate some interesting scenarios. What would really happen if we were to allow government and religion to be closely intertwined as they were in eras long ago? I can’t help but think how far we’ve come to eradicate some of the social stigmas and discrimination that we see in the RUNA and the provinces, but it also hammers home just how far we have to go. Freedom of religion isn’t really free.
Another aspect of the real world tackled in The Immortal Crown is foreign diplomacy. The Arcadian-RUNA relationship is precarious at best, stemming from the many cultural differences between the two nations. As Lucian Darling’s delegation visits Arcadia, they’re faced with the challenge to respect differences while not sacrificing their own morals and ideals, something that at times seems impossible. This whole situation adds an element of excitement and danger to the story, and at times I was certain war was imminent. When Justin ultimately agrees to a pact that could change everything, it seemed almost unavoidable. Mead is definitely setting things up for something big, we just don’t know exactly what that is yet. Whether or not countries will become enemies or allies in the face of danger is a pivotal component to be determined.
Big scene stealers for me are the ravens, Magnus and Horatio. They have some terrific one liners during their exchanges with Justin, and I appreciate the levity they add to many of the dark and dangerous situations. As Justin’s role and inclinations change, so does his relationship with the ravens. I’m not sure if this made me feel better or worse in the grand scheme of things, since I can’t decide what outcome to hope for in Justin’s involvement with Odin. His relationship with Mae seems to be deepening, but I can’t help my suspicion over why Odin wants Justin and Mae united. Is it symbolic? An act of power?
I keep mentioning Richelle Mead’s fantastic writing, but I can’t say enough how her style really adds to the reader’s enjoyment. The imagery alone is a large part of what makes this story for me. Sure she puts together a thrilling plot, but it’s how it completely comes to life that’s dazzling. It’s as if you’re immersed in the setting right there with the characters which creates an unforgettable reading experience – every expression, emotion and description seems so very real.
One last thing – HOLY PLOT TWISTS. Mead seems to be moving things along, tidily wrapping up story lines and giving us exactly what we want. I should have been worried, because things are never that easy, but I let my guard down. I let myself believe everything would be fine. In several major, game-chnaging moves, Mead turns everything upside down and leaves us hanging. I need the next book…there’s really no other way.