Love bursts forth like Athena from the head of Zeus after a shy college student meets Ash, a guy who plays chess at the local bookstore. Ruby, a quiet pre-med student struggling with her coursework at a university in Portland, Oregon, hangs out at Athenaeum Books to study and indulge in the barista’s irresistible ambrosia bars. When handsome Ash challenges her to a game of chess, she demurs. She has work to do, and chess stirs memories of her late father, a medic killed in the war. Ruby wants to follow in his footsteps, but she finds it hard going.
She finally accepts the undefeated Ash’s challenge to play. When Ruby checks his king, Ash is baffled and is insistent to discover how she beat him. The aloof Ash finds himself attracted to Ruby’s intelligence, natural allure, and lack of guile. Although Ruby embodies all of these attributes, she doesn’t seem to know it. Their friendship blooms. Against her usual caution, Ruby accepts Ash’s compelling dares of outdoor adventures that push her beyond her comfort zone, and these experiences change her in an indefinable way. She’s finding courage and she is falling in love with Ash. He reciprocates and begins to open up to Ruby.
Now it is Ruby who is baffled. Ash has a first-hand way of talking about historical events, and he has wounds that mysteriously appear and then strangely disappear as quickly. Also puzzling is his relationship to Sage, the barista and owner, and Langston, an aloof poet who also frequents the bookstore. When Ash finally reveals his true identity—he not only looks like a Greek god, he is one—Ruby hesitates, but not for long. After all, Ash—now Ares, the god of war—has promised that their marriage will stop all wars on Earth. Already peace is ensuing as Ares’ obsession for war is replaced by his love for Ruby.
Ares transports Ruby to Olympus, where he declares his love for the mortal Ruby and they petition Zeus to allow them to marry. It is here that the story’s rapid unfolding and unveiling of secrets is taken to a new level when Ruby is introduced to the various gods and nymphs and the opulent splendor of their homes and adornments. Here Miley has created an intriguingly flawed Olympus, one where vainglory and selfishness prevail; where Zeus is lecherous, Apollo scornful, Persephone apathetic. She makes these characters and their interactions come alive on the page.
The story gathers speed when Ruby discovers that Zeus has forbidden the gods from meddling in the affairs of mortals or with mortals, for that matter. Zeus sets about thwarting Ruby’s marriage to Ares by going back to his old ways—he starts making deals with the other immortals. The immortals intervene, once again, in mortal affairs and stirring up the ages-old status quo amongst themselves. Before long, mankind becomes the expendable pawn in the immortals’ plots and schemes as the immortals form alliances for dominance of Mount Olympus.
It is up to Ash and Ruby to save mankind and to restore order. Their quest takes them to Tartarus, a sunless abyss, where they encounter ordeals and the most fantastical creatures from Greek mythology: Charon and Cerebus, Chimera and the fifty-headed Hecatoncheires. The heroes’ ordeals are suspenseful and their journey adventurous as they experience challenges that lead to a thoughtfully crafted conclusion. This reviewer is looking forward to reading Miley’s next work in the End Game series.
Adults, new and otherwise, will be entertained with Ruby’s experiences as she negotiates the intertwined worlds of mortals and immortals. Miley takes you from Portland, Oregon in a war-torn future to opulent Mount Olympus to the darkest halls of Hades as she keeps you turning the pages in this entertaining novel that successfully intertwines ancient Greek mythology with a contemporary story line that has just the right amount of romance, action, and adventure.
A mythic twist on New Adult college romance and a rousing tale of personal courage, The Immortal Game has deservedly earned a place as a First in Category in the Dante Rossetti Awards for Young Adult Fiction 2013, a division of Chanticleer Writing Competitions.