Series: Age of X book #1
Author: Richelle Mead
Review: 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. [Goodreads]
I'm a HUGE Richelle Mead fan and expected to devour this book in a day or two like all of her other books. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. I spent several nights discussing how I should be reading the book instead of sitting on the couch texting a friend who was also lamenting abut how she couldn't get into it.
The Good: I love the overall concept. Religious extremists unleashed a virus called Mephistopheles that killed 50% of the worlds population, creating a time known as 'The Decline.' Canada and the US merge to create RUNA and forcibly cross-breed with EA (Eastern Alliance, mostly China and Russia) to create people that can fight the virus (Plebians). Ethnically pure bloodlines (known as Castes), were given land grants and suffer 'The Mark of Cain', essentially genetic issues due to Mephistopheles. Religion is looked upon as very dangerous in RUNA and only a few groups that are registered are allowed to worship. Everyone is microchipped, females are required to have contraception implants at age 14, cars drive themselves and there is improved technology. RUNA is a world power and looks down on those who live outside of its borders.
The Not So Good: I'm not sure how many books are planned in this series, but there was a lot of world building throughout 400+ pages. There is a lot going on and this book needed a glossary, timeline and map. After finishing the book I've discovered a glossary on Mead's website (http://richellemead.com/excerpt/gogglossary.htm). I wish I had the forethought to look for this when I first started reading the book.
Ehh: The book is told through three narrators, Justin, Mae and Tessa. I love the alternating narratives (this is the first Mead book I've read written in the third person, not a problem but she really excels at first person). I really didn't love any of the main characters. Justin March: imagine a womanzing, drug addicted Patrick Jane (the Mentalist). We're told Justin is an expert on religious groups but I'd say his biggest talent is reading people. He's metro-sexual and over confident in almost everything he does. The best parts of him are the voices in his head. There are two ravens residing there that provide most of the comic relief in the book. What I found most frustrating about Justin is that he doesn't bother to try to figure out what god is after him-he explains that there are hundreds of gods that have ravens but come on-in FOUR YEARS he didn't even bother? At the end of the book he essentially does one google search and figures it out on the first try.
As for our female protagonist Mae: she's a gorgeous super soldier with an interesting back story (and perhaps one of the most awful mothers ever). Unfortunately, we don't learn about her background until the last quarter of the book and prior to that she is written so detached and cold I just didn't care much about her. Although Justin and Mae have an explosive first meeting, the romance seems to be going nowhere (I'm sure that will change in the coming books, but right now I don't see too much chemistry between the characters).
Finally, Tessa. She's a 16 year old girl from Central American that Justin brings to RUNA. She experiences discrimination at school due to her provincial hair style and accent. I liked her well enough, I just wish she had a few less sections and Mae had more. I'm guessing she has a big story arc in the coming books, and I'm wondering if a different god will 'elect' her at some point.
Overall, this book didn't click with me but I'm still excited about the series and hope that since the world is established, Mead will focus on the characters and storylines.