Series: Age of X #1
Published by Dutton Adult on June 4, 2013
Genres: adult, paranormal, post apocalyptic
Source: ARC from publisher
Buy it: Amazon • Add it: Goodreads
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.
When I requested this ARC, I had no idea it was an adult novel. All I saw was “a new series by Richelle Mead” and it was on – I didn’t read the summary or check the Goodreads rating or anything. I made the mistake of assuming it was a YA novel so when I did (finally) get around to checking it out, I was surprised and even a bit disappointed to find out it wasn’t. But I’d requested it and the blurb sounded interesting so I forged ahead.
I had no idea I’d end up enjoying it as much as I did.
The world building in this book is ridiculously good. Mead makes this futuristic but flawed society so believable that I had absolutely no problems seeing it, even seeing myself in it. It was easy to sink into the world of Gameboard of the Gods, a world riddled by destruction and disease, yet resilient. A world both ugly and beautiful at the same time. A world not so unlike our own. It was like a glimpse into a possible future, a fantasy easily turned reality. This world is divided between two ruling nations: RUNA (Republic of the United North America) and EA (Eastern Alliance). The rest of the world is made up of provinces, cultures considered to be technologically and culturally inferior and even barbaric in some cases. The whole world (the provinces more so) is still in a state of recovery after devastatingly apocalyptic events almost wiped out its inhabitants. In this new, post-apocalyptic world, the powers that be have decided that religion is public enemy number one; it is therefore very closely policed by servitors, people appointed by the government to ensure that no religion violates the laws and regulations set forth for the purpose of keeping them virtually powerless.
Enter Dr. Justin March, one of the three main characters. He’s one of the most brilliant men in the world – he’s also a drunk, a druggie, a womanizer, and most of the time a complete (albeit handsome and incredibly charming) asshat. Much of the book focuses on his exile from RUNA, a mystery that isn’t revealed to us until near the end of the book. When we meet him, he’s been hanging (hiding) out in Panama for the last four years, wasting his time being the trophy guest of a wealthy inhabitant and generally being a poor excuse for a human being.
Enter Mae, a beautiful but no-nonsense super-soldier of RUNA. She’s a member of an elite military group known as Praetorians and when we first meet her, she is showing a rare moment of weakness as she prepares for the funeral of a colleague (who we later find out was also her lover). At said funeral, she gets into a knock-down-drag-out fight with a fellow soldier and, as punishment, is suspended from normal Praetorian duty and assigned to a strange and seemingly dishonorable mission.
This is where things get weird.
Turns out, there’s some crazy shiz going on religion-wise and the government has become so desperate to figure it out so they can put and end to it that they’ve decided to temporarily suspend Justin’s exile. They send Mae to retrieve him, return him to RUNA, and basically be his body guard as he resumes his servitor role and investigates several mysterious deaths believed to be linked to religious activity. During the course of this little adventure together, Justin and Mae fall for each other but also discover some rather unsettling truths about each other.
Our third main character, Tessa, isn’t given nearly as much character development. She is a young girl, the daughter of a friend of Justin’s for whom he manages to get entry into RUNA – and therefore access to better education and, hopefully eventually, a way out of the Panama province for her family. She’s brilliant in her own right and we really get to see that toward the end of the book. I wouldn’t be surprised if she takes on a greater role in future installments of the series.
There’s plenty of action in this book but if you’re looking for sappy romance, you won’t find it here – though it would be hard to argue that Mead didn’t excel at creating some great sexual tension between Justin and Mae. It also tackles some tough subjects – substance abuse, religion, and even racism and segregation. On that note, I have to share something that another Goodreads reviewer said and I found hilarious:
Oh hello segregation, welcome back. No one but these guys missed you:
I laughed my ass off. *ahem* But, uh…back to my review.
This book is not for the casual reader. While I loved it and seriously debated between a 4-star or a 4.5-star rating when I was done, even I found it to be a bit challenging at times. Nevertheless, it’s incredibly well written; captivating, engaging, and all too believable. A very promising debut for the newest series from the amazing Richelle Mead.
Note: I was provided an ARC of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The book is set for publication on June 4, 2013. This review has also been posted on Amazon and Goodreads.