In this dystopian novel, Mae Koskinen is a praetorian (an elite soldier with enhanced reflexes and skills) and after a disagreement with a fellow praetorian that lands the other in the hospital, Mae is put on suspension with a special assignment: to protect Justin Marsh, an exiled investigator of religious groups while he solves a case involving ritualistic murders plaguing the government, the RUNA (Republic of United North America).
What sounds like a simple mystery turns into something bigger as Mae and Justin start sensing there is something bigger out there, and humans are merely pieces on a board to maneuver at will.
This book came at a strange time for me. I had just finished reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, another dystopian novel where religion is a no-no and there is a distinct class hierarchy. I requested this book plot unread as I had previously enjoyed the Dark Swan series as well as the Georgina Kincaid series. That being said I actually had to warm up to the story since I'm not generally a dystopian genre type of girl. Maybe it was a good thing that I had just finished Brave New World as I kept coming back to that book to compare and it made the book better. I did like that Mead doesn't just info dump on you with all the phrases and terms of her world. She gradually tells you the story and explains what the words mean.
With the gods element, I was hit with the impression of American Gods by Neil Gaiman as well as the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. Actually, I kind of would say this book was Brave New World meets American Gods with a lot of Richelle Mead. Not completely, just the vague sense that I'd read something similar. The characters were fresh, and instead of having a big bad male character always having to save the pretty, but mouthy heroine who's always getting herself into trouble, we have Mae who is the big bad heroine saving Justin, the handsome, mouthy guy. Justin actually wasn't a hundred percent likable, and you kind of hoped Mae would punch him a couple times, but I don't think this is a negative since it gives the character room to grow throughout the series.
The only negative part to me was that the case that they're pulled in to solve never felt that important. Not even to the characters, but maybe that's a good thing. Maybe that is the point. That there's something brewing that is bigger than the characters themselves.