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. Gameboard of the Gods, the first installment of Richelle Mead’s Age of X series, will have all the elements that have made her YA Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series such megasuccesses: sexy, irresistible characters; romantic and mythological intrigue; and relentless action and suspense.
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Dutton Adult
Source: Publisher in exchange for an unbiased review
Four stars: A challenging beginning to an exciting series.
Justin is surviving as an outcast in Panama. It has been four years since he was forced to leave the RUNA. Tonight while at the local nightclub, he encounters a beautiful woman, who is part of the elite soldier faction of the RUNA. Lust drives Justin and Mae together, and they find out after the fact that Mae is supposed to be escorting Justin back to RUNA for a top secret murder investigation. Justin has finally gotten his wish to return home, but it is under extreme circumstances. He is thrust into an impossible murder investigation with Mae as his personal bodyguard. Talk about awkward! The clock is ticking, if Justin can't solve the crime before the month runs out, he may be forced into exile. The problem is that the case isn't black and white and there might be truly be supernatural forces at work, which is the last thing the RUNA wants. Can Justin and Mae work together and solve the case?
What I Liked:
- I am a huge fan of Richelle Mead so when I received a copy of The Gameboard of the Gods I was ecstatic! Once I plunged into this book, I will be honest, I had difficulties. This book is nothing like her YA series, which is fine with me, but I must warn you, if you are expecting this to be like Vampire Academy or Bloodlines you may disappointed. This book is complex and challenging at times, but once it takes off it is thrilling, exciting and satisfying. Mead proves once again that she is incredibly talented, and I can say without a doubt, that I will continue to read everything she writes. She is an author that is always on my auto buy list!
- One thing I love about Mead's work is that she is meticulous in sculpting her characters. This is indeed true with Mae and Justin. There is an extraordinary amount time spent developing and fleshing out her protagonists. Mae is feisty, deadly and logical. She is a trained soldier for the RUNA and she excels at what she does. She can easily take down a group of armed men. She is driven and dedicated to the RUNA. She can be explosive and due to an angry outburst she lands into some trouble. There is nothing soft or feminine about Mae. She is a kick butt chick and a forced to be reckoned with. Justin, on the other hand, is more laid back. He has a penchant for booze, drugs and women. He is a womanizer and makes no apologies. He is also a scientist and meticulous with his research,and he pays strict attention to details. He is brilliant and flawed. Even though both of these characters have their flaws, they are easy to like. I truly loved the characters in this one. I especially liked the two ravens who live in Justin's head.
- This book is incredibly complex and it makes you think. I loved the main theme at the heart of this book which focuses on man embracing science and letting go of religion. Thus, there is little tolerance for religious organizations in The RUNA. All religious groups are closely monitored as the government views religion as unnecessary and potentially evil. Yet, when man turns his back on the gods, trouble ensues. Can man truly exist without religion?
- The plot of this book is multilayered and complicated. I have always appreciated Ms. Mead's talent for carefully laying out her story lines in all of her books. Once again, she takes her sweet time introducing her various story threads in the first half of the book. Then in the last third of the book, she works her magic as all the plot lines skillfully weave together. The final part of the book is fast, furious, and amazing as everything becomes clear. The book draws to a satisfactory ending without a cliffhanger, but Ms. Mead is a master at laying out her exciting new threads for the next book. This book gives us just a small taste of what is to come as it only scratches the surface on the gods and the gameboard that involves humanity. I cannot wait to see how the story progresses!
And The Not So Much:
- I had a hard time settling into this one. This book is a sink or swim story. You are thrown into the middle of this strange society reformed after an apocalyptic illness. In the beginning there is a great deal of information coming at you, and at times it is hard to keep it all straight and make sense of everything. I struggled a bit staying focused on this one and I floundered around as I learned to swim. However, I am familiar with Ms. Mead's style and I know that she often starts out slow and steady, but her payoffs are always worth the the wait. I must advise that you be patient with this one. Set aside time to read this when you are not interrupted or tired. You need to focus to totally grasp it all. Even though it is a bit frustrating, it all starts to make sense the further you go. For instance, in the first chapters you are introduced to Justin and you get just a sentence that tells you he has these ravens inside his head who talk to him. These ravens have continuous conversations with Justin and I was completely confused since there was no further detail on the why and how these ravens are in his head. It isn't until the second half that everything is explained. Just keep in mind, it will all become clear, you must be patient!
- I am such a stickler for detailed world building, and I have to admit that I think Ms. Mead faltered just a bit with her world building. She takes extreme care in developing her characters, but I don't think she spent quite enough time on her world. I had so many questions and I never had a clear vision of this new society. I wasn't even sure how far The RUNA extended and as to what the rest of the world was like and how they survived the plague of Cain. There is little discussion on the decline and the illness that caused the great changes in the world. I would have loved a bit more detail with the world building.
- The theme of religion is very prevalent in the book, and I enjoyed the questions posed. I wanted to understand better, though why The RUNA felt so intimidated by religion. Was there some type of revolutionary religious movement that made the government want to ban all religions or was it just that man had made such scientific advances that they no longer felt religion had the answers?
- The romance or lack thereof may be a disappointment for some readers. Ms. Mead is know for her breathtaking romances. Mae and Justin upon their first meeting have a sexual encounter which is all lust and sex. Thereafter, they decide it is all a mistake and the rest of the book there is this awkward dance of attraction and sexual tension that goes nowhere. Again, I am well aware of how Ms. Mead writes her romances, so I am prepared to settle in and watch the tension continue to mount until it finally explodes. I know it will be worth the wait. So for all you romance fans, there is not much to satiate you, only the hint of one.
- Tessa, a young Panamanian girl, is a third point of view in this book, but her storyline really never takes off. In fact, I thought her character and her story thread were completely undeveloped. Tessa in the last portion of the book is a total non factor and she for the most part disappears. I found this to be a bit disappointing because she is a big presence in the first half. I am anticipating more development with her character and I expect to learn what her gifts are.
Gameboard of the Gods is a challenging read but worth the time. I struggled a bit to find my footing as I was thrown blindly into this futuristic world. There are few explanations in the beginning, but as you go things begin to make sense. Be patient and give this some time and you will be rewarded. I was impressed by the complexity of the story and I loved seeing how everything wove together at the end. Ms. Mead has proven once again that she is indeed an author you should be reading.
"You can put on as many airs as you want, but in the end, that dress is the same as you: an old, cheap design dressed up to look like it's worth more than it is."
"How could he be so stupid? Well, it was easy because it was hard for him to say no. When it came to the pleasures of life, he had a tendency to think that if one was good, ten were better."
"Fiction offers no danger. Only its followers."
"Passion born from emotional upheaval never ends well."
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.