This recap was written and submitted by Vlora! Thank you.
Mae and Justin go on a trip to a neighbouring province, Arcadia, to further diplomatic relationships and find Mae’s niece and end up uncovering a terrorist attack, finding Mae’s niece, and steal a powerful religious artefact. Mae is helped by goddess Freya, who handily turns out to be allied with Odin, the god Justin is reluctantly serving. They also realize they have feelings for each other, but end up fighting after Mae is attacked and abused, because book two is too soon for them to have their happy ending.
what went down
- The book starts off with Mae and Justin off investigating religious leads in a volatile province. They watch a show of a woman who claims to be possessed by several spirits and tells the fortunes of the people in the audience. Justin and Mae suspect she’s the real deal after she warns them of the “Electi” (people like Mae and Justin who have been chosen by the gods and can have special powers).
- Back at the hotel, Justin and Mae are attacked by supernatural beetles, which can only be killed with the mysterious knife Mae received at the end of book one. They follow the one surviving beetle back to where the fortuneteller’s show was earlier that night and suspect her of attacking them, but when they go inside, they see she has been stabbed and is on the verge of death. She tells them that she’s an Elect and can sense that Mae is one too even though Mae thought she had broken free of her supernatural ties. The ravens tell Justin that Mae is an Elect and has the potential to serve a god whether she is currently tied to one or not. It turns out that the person who stabbed the fortuneteller and sic’d the beetles on Mae and Justin was a patrician from the RUNA, who was also an elect. They realize the struggle of the gods vying for power in the RUNA is something they need to worry about, because it leads to the Elect attacking each other.
- Back in the RUNA, Tessa and a friend of hers are attacked by a desperate worshipper of a cult Justin shut down in his role as servitor a while ago. Tessa’s friend knocks him out and saves the day, but when Justin comes home, he uses the situation as an excuse to provide his family with extra protection. Mae helps out with a rotation of her army buddies and hires Rufus, an extra bodyguard who is ex military.
- Tessa’s friend aks Justin for an internship, so Justin uses his connection to high-ranking politician Lucian Darling to get him an internship in government. While he visits Lucian, Lucian asks Justin to accompany him on his trip to Arcadia, a province with an organized government where religion and politics go hand in hand. Lucian is running for Consul (one of the most powerful political positions in the RUNA) and thinks that furthering relationships with Arcadia will bring him good press. Justin refuses because he thinks it’s too dangerous and he has no personal interest in the mission.
- Lucian goes ahead with announcing Justin and Mae are coming on the trip to Arcadia anyway. Justin refuses again, but then Mae asks him to go and he agrees. Mae wants to go to Arcadia, because after she accidentally cut herself with the mysterious amber knife, she had a vision showing her a house with a red flag. The red flags are used in Arcadia by girl trafficking organisations who want to announce they have girls to sell, so Mae thinks she might find her niece there.
- While Justin and Mae prepare for their upcoming trip into dangerous territory and find out that Mae will have to pose as Justin’s concubine in Arcadia, because women are oppressed second class citizens there, Tessa accepts an internship with Daphne, a sensationalist reporter.
- In Arcadia, Justin, Mae and the rest of their delegation stay at the house of a high ranking politician. Mae and Val struggle with holding themselves back when they see how the women of the household are mistreated by the men. They go on sightseeing trips and Justin is invited to meet the religious leader of the country. He manages to bring Mae as his secretary and soon realizes that the religious leader is a true Elect who abuses his power and wealth. He suggests to Justin to send missionaries into the RUNA to strenghten their countries’ ties. Justin declines, but says he’ll think about the other suggestion, which is to send cultural lecturers. He then recommends to Lucian and the others not to accept.
- In the RUNA, Tessa shadows Daphne, the journalist, and often feels uneasy about her morals. Daphne suspects that Lucian’s political party might somehow be tied to religion and uses Tessa to find out more. Tessa meets the wellness counsellor of Lucian’s party and sees a statue of a god in his home. A couple of days later, she feigns to have dreams about the god in an attempt to get him to admit that he’s illegally involved in religious activites. He admits nothing, but sends her to an expert. The expert happens to be meeting with the priest who has been teaching Justin in the ways of Odin and mentions to Tessa that Justin is somehow involved in religion as well.
- Meanwhile in Arcadia, Mae uses the knife again and discovers her niece is being held captive nearby, but can’t do anything to get her out at the moment. Justin does some weird spirit-merging with one of the ravens in his head and flies to the religious leader’s residence to overhear that he is planning to attack the RUNA. The suggestion to send cultural lecturers was a cover for sending hackers who will take out the RUNA’s media stream (basically the internet 2.0) on which the RUNA is reliant and use the resulting confusion and uproar to spread the message of his god.
- Justin is sick after using Odin’s power to spy in raven-form, but decides he needs to do something to save the RUNA. Justin uses someone working for the religious leader (can you tell I forgot his actual title yet?) of Arcadia who is dissatisfied because he has to share his concubine (whom he loves) with said leader. Justin convinces the man to defect with the promise of getting him and his loved one to the RUNA, where he can be freely with her by demonstrating the power of his own god (Odin) and a lot of faking and manipulating. This way, he ensures, that he has someone on the inside and can take the hackers out right after they come to the RUNA, so he recommends to accept the religious leader’s suggestion of sending lecturers. In the process, Justin accidentally starts an Odin cult among Arcadians who are dissatisfied with their own religion.
- Mae gives Justin a passionate kiss before he leaves to take care of the hacking situation, but uses the knife to talk to the goddess sending her visions again while he’s gone. She discovers that her niece will be send away soon and that she has to act immediately if she wants to save her (and the other girls) being held captive. She trades places with one of the girls belonging to the politician at whose house they are staying, which works because they both have to be covered up in company all the time. Mae gets her niece and the other girls out and takes them to the border of the RUNA. She even makes a sidetrip to steal a powerful religious artefact, which used to be a staff, but changes to something else in her hands.
- Justin is surprised to find Mae gone when he returns, but rolls with her plan and gets Lucius to pretend Mae is acting under his orders. They smuggle the girl posing as Mae back into the RUNA without anyone noticing and catch the hackers without a hitch once they’re there. Lucian is on board because the whole thing makes him look awfully good and he rises in the rankings, meaning he will almost certainly be the next Consul.
- Tessa realizes Justin treats her as family and that she trusts him even if he is involved in illegal religious activities, so she decides to delete all the information on her microphone that connects Justin and Lucius to religious activities so Daphne will have no proof. Daphne admits that she only hired Tessa because of her tenuous connection to Lucian, with whom she wanted to get an interview. Tessa cuts ties with her.
- When Mae returns, she and Justin admit their feelings to each other, but Justin tells her he can’t be with her even though she is the only one for him and he has never felt so connected to anyone else. The reason is of course that once he “claims” Mae, he will have to promise servitude to Odin, but he doesn’t tell Mae the details.
how did it end?
- Mae is crushed and considers tying herself to Freya, because the goddess has helped her find her niece (who Mae had to give up to her niece’s father) and given her special powers, but then Justin arrives at Mae’s house and claims he changed his mind. They have hurried, forceful sex, but afterwards he says some things that make Mae realize he isn’t Justin after all. He takes off and she tries to catch him, but he just vanishes. She calls Justin to confirm it wasn’t him and when Justin realizes something is wrong, he hurries to her side.
- Mae obviously feels violated and traumatized and just wants to take a shower to wash the guy off her, but Justin convinces her to go to the hospital to test her for a DNA sample of the guy first. It turns out that there is no match to the DNA sample in the RUNA’s database. They return to Justin’s place, where he tries to comfort her and tells her why he thought he couldn’t be with her, but that he has changed his mind because she is worth tying himself to Odin. When he wakes up Mae is gone.
- Mae tells Justin that she got herself reassigned to some dangerous border area. After being attacked, she does no longer believe in Freya’s ability to protect and guide her and realizes mixing with gods has a price. She wants to be away from Justin, because she doesn’t want him to give up his freedom for her, but Justin just feels that she’s leaving him and tells her what she’s doing is a mistake. She gives him the artefact she stole and the knife she used to communicate with Freya, and they part on bad terms.
- Justin drowns his sorrows in alcohol and tells the ravens he is ready to commit to Odin if he helps him find Mae’s attacker. The ravens tell him he is already tied to Odin, because he claimed Mae as his own when he told her she is the only one for him. It was only Justin who assumed sex had to be involved. Justin is obviously pissed and goes to a bar, where he is approached by Daphne who tells him she knows about his and Lucian’s ties to religion. Justin already learned that Lucian is one of the Elect and wants Mae to be his partner, because she is also a powerful Elect, so he isn’t surprised, but alarmed at Daphne’s knowledge. He tells her he doesn’t believe her, but that she’s free to convince him. They leave for her apartment (which means Justin is probably making dubious choices again).
- Mae isn’t feeling like she fits in on her assignment and still feels horrible. She is approached by someone who looks like a plebeian, but turns out to be another god, who wants her in his service. He offers revenge on her attacker and Mae considers the offer. She asks him for his name, and he tells her he’s called Loki (YES THAT LOKI. Way to drop a bombshell on us at the very end, Mead. This is going to be so good.)
- In the epilogue we learn that Mae’s attacker/rapist is actually her ex-boyfriend who is supposed to be dead. He seems to be the servant of some god who allows him to change faces Game of Thrones’ The Faceless Men style. He was also the bodyguard Mae hired to protect Justin’s family.
Arcadia – Country based on religion-centric government that is formed out of southern/southeastern formed US. Its relationship to the RUNA is characterized by a lot of political tension and skirmishes in the border area.
Decline – the denotation for the time after a vicious virus (Mephistopheles) decimated the world’s population. Out of the resulting chaos emerged new countries like the RUNA, who mandated gene swapping programes, because people with more diverse genetic backgrounds had better chances of surviving the virus.
Elect – person who has the potential for a direct connection to one of the gods and can be awared special power by a god
Province – any country not part of the RUNA or its sister country the Eastern Alliance. Provinces can be more or less organized governments (like Arcadia) or completely disfunctional wild regions (like all of Europe, basically).
Patricians – Members of societies who cling to their cultural heritage (Mae, for example is a patrician of Finnish origin). After the Decline, the Patricians were exempt from the gene swapping rules, because they made huge donations to the baby RUNA.
Plebeians – the average RUNA citizens, who usually have dark eyes, hair and tanned skin. They are the result of the genetic mixing that was ordered by the RUNA after the Decline.
RUNA – Republic of United North America. Country with the most advanced technology in the world (but followed closely by the Eastern Alliance, with whom it has friendly diplomatic relations).