Monday, June 30, 2014

Review: The Immortal Crown (Age of X #2)

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.

The Immortal Crown, by Richelle Mead, is the second novel in the new Age of X series. The RUNA (Republic of United North America) is a new country that encompasses the former United States and Canada. In this post-apocalyptic era, humans are encouraged to mate across racial groups to increase their immune system to the Mephistopheles virus that nearly destroyed the world's human population. Justin and Mae are assigned to a diplomatic delegation into neighboring country, Arcadia (former southern United States). This expedition is also headed by Lucian Darling, Justin's old friend and rival.

In Arcadian society, women are commodities (literally second-class citizens) and religion is intertwined with government. During the trip, Justin discovers powerful forces at work, even as he struggles to come to terms with his own reluctantly acquired deity (Odin). Meanwhile, Mae has another reason for joining this delegation. Although she grudingly poses as Justin's concubine, she has a secret mission of her own: finding the illegitimate niece her family smuggled away years ago. Justin finally learns the truth behind the Arcadian's meeting with Gemman delegation: Arcadia wants to conquer the RUNA and impose their religious deity on the Gemman people.

While Justin and Mae try to escape out of Arcadia without arousing suspicion, 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. The war between elect-special humans gets real when Mae experiences a tragedy that leaves her both vulnerable and scared for her life.

Once again, Mead delivers another excellent novel in her new Age of X series. Dystopian science fiction genre has become more popular thanks to the successes of book-to-film franchises, The Hunger Games and Divergent. The ending will surprise and motivate fans to wait for Book 3. While the first book introduces readers to the world of RUNA, the second book focuses more on the budding relationship between Justin and Mae and their reliance on gods who await their return to the world. I speculate that the third book will focus on the elect-special humans and particularly how Justin, a servitor who refuses to accept a deity, will survive on the gameboard of the gods. This series is so good that I highly recommend it.

Stay tuned for the next novel in the Age of X series! 

[February 2019] At this point, there is no official announcement on when Richelle Mead will resume this series. I liked the world-building and mythology that she was able to weave so seamlessly in this sci-fi thriller series. Plus, it's a series targeted for young adults over age 21!! However, I do think better marketing would have helped this series pick up sales. Ultimately, it will be up to her publisher to decide if a third book, The Eye of Andromeda, is warranted. See Richelle Mead's official response from Goodreads:

The publishers dropped the Age of X series before the release of book 3 due to low sales. However, despite the low sales Mead commented, "For those still upset with its status, here's the thing. In two years, The Immortal Crown has sold as many copies as The Glittering Court has in one month. You don't even want to know how it compares to VA's sales. I still love Age of X, but publishers don't. So it currently has no one to publish it. Which isn't the end of the world. I have enough "street cred" to self-pub it, but contracted books have to come first. I've signed a legal agreement with publishers, and I have to deliver their books by the arranged deadlines. Which is okay. Because I love those books too. But it all requires a lot of patience to get everything out at the appropriate time!"

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Review: Side Jobs (Harry Dresden Series Anthology)

Side Jobs, by Jim Butcher, is the first anthology of the Harry Dresden files. It contains 11 short stories plus a never-before-published novella that takes place right after the latest installment, Changes. Here is the synopsis:
Here, together for the first time, are the shorter works of #1 New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher-a compendium of cases that Harry and his cadre of allies managed to close in record time. The tales range from the deadly serious to the absurdly hilarious. Also included is a novella exclusive to this collection that takes place after the cliff-hanger ending of the April 2010 hardcover, Changes. This is a must-have collection for every devoted Harry Dresden fan as well as a perfect introduction for readers ready to meet Chicago's only professional wizard.

Fans of the Harry Dresden series will appreciate this collection. This anthology is a mixed bag, ranging from Butcher's first attempt to fiction that wasn't of professional publishable quality to short stories around and between novels. First-time readers will feel lost reading this anthology; you are better off starting from the beginning with Stormfront. Loyal fans will appreciate the clarification that the short stories offer, including hearing another major character's point of view of Harry Dresden. There's also a special treat for fans who may want to skip the short stories and head straight for the never-before-published novella taking place after the wild and pivotal breaking point in Changes. I highly recommend this novel to Butcher fans who just want to learn more about crazy, wizardly world of Harry Dresden.

Stay tuned for the next novel in the Harry Dresden series, Ghost Story.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

New Anime: Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal Premieres July 2014!

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal will premiere this summer on July 5, 2014! It is a new Sailor Moon anime for the 20th anniversary of Sailor Moon produced by Toei Animation and originally created by Naoko Takeuchi. The new 26-episode series will stream worldwide twice a month for one year with Kotono Mitsuishi reprising the starring title role. The anime will also star Hisako Kanemoto as Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury, Rina Satou as Rei Hino/Sailor Mars, Ami Koshimizu as Makoto Kino/Sailor Jupiter, and Shizuka Itou as Minako Aino/Sailor Venus. The new anime is scheduled to run on the first and third Saturdays every month, beginning July 5 at 7:00 p.m. (6:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time). On May 16th, Viz Media, a North American anime and manga distributor, announced that they have licensed Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal after their panel at Anime Central. Cruncyroll will do Internet streaming. For more information, visit Anime News Network (ANN). It is available for purchase on DVD and Blu-ray.

ANN gave a synopsis of the story inspired by Naoko Takeuchi's original manga:

Usagi Tsukino is a second-year middle school girl who is a little clumsy and a crybaby, but she is full of energy. One day, she meets Luna, a black cat with a crescent moon on her forehead, and she transforms into Sailor Moon, a sailor-uniformed pretty guardian of love and justice! As a chosen guardian of justice, Usagi seems to have a mission to find the Illusionary Silver Crystal with the other guardians and to protect the princess. Meanwhile, the queen of the Dark Kingdom, Queen Beryl, also sends minions to the town where Usagi lives to obtain the Illusionary Silver Crystal, which has immense power. This causes strange events to unfold ...Can Sailor Moon really find the Illusionary Silver Crystal with the other Sailor guardians, and protect the princess ...!?

I am so ecstatic that I was jumping for joy when I heard the news. Sailor Moon is my favorite childhood anime series. I cannot wait to see how the new adaptation plays out next month! Watch the official trailer below: