Gameboard of the Gods
Author: Richelle Mead
Release: June 4th 2013
Genre: Science Fiction, Paranormal, Mythology, Adult
#1 in the Age of X trilogy
Sequels: The Immortal Crown (#2), The Eye of Andromeda (#3)
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.
I admit, I did expect a little more from Richelle Mead, but in the end, I'm more than satisfied.
I think what might have thrown me off at first was that it was actually an Adult novel and not Young Adult as I'd originally thought. Nonetheless, it didn't spoil the experience too much, especially since there is a sixteen-year-old involved that represents the Young Adult genre a little.
Gameboard of the Gods did start a little unflattering, and for the first 6-8 chapters, it was a bit of a rocky acquaintance. When the ball finally got rolling though, the book was good. Especially the last 150 pages were one simple line of urgency and tension that kept me glued the book and finishing it in one sitting after all.
The characters were mostly well done, although I didn't form any particular, deep bonds with anyone. I liked Justin, maybe because he reminded me a bit of Adrian— well, no, actually, he's a carbon copy of Adrian, now that I think about it. He's Adrian in ten years. I don't know what that says about Mead, but I'm not even mad at her for recycling a character, especially since besides that, her other characters were more original and nice. Mae, or Maj, was very intriguing since she was this lethal killer machine and at the same time simply a woman like every other, and I liked how well Mead made her two conflicting sides appear. What I loved about Tessa was that she was so much like Justin without the "negative" things, like the vices or the arrogance. She was a cute little gem.
Writing was perfect, which was expected, though. The only unexpected thing was that it was written in 3rd person, but since this is my first Adult novel by her, I don't know if maybe her Georgina Kincaid series isn't also written in 3rd person? No clue, but I think it fit the story very well, especially since the narrative switches between personal narrators of the individual characters, that way we still catch glimpses of each character's own thoughts and feelings.
The only thing that bugged me about this, besides the rocky start, was probably the whole execution of the world-building and mythology. It's what contributed to said rocky start, because until a good 100 pages in, we don't get to know anything about the country or the way it functions. Having read the whole novel, I'm still not quite sure what exactly happened so that it came to the whole Gemman country in the first place, or how the geographics work. If Vancouver, which lies in Canada, is the capital, and Panama, Central America, is already out of the zone, which area does this RUNA cover? There's talk of the Nordic grant, so... Scandinavia? But that's in Europe? So.. the RUNA covers Western Europe, up until like Russia or something, Canada and the US? We never get the whole scoop on that, and it infuriated me to no end. Especially since this is a freaking Adult novel, so she really can't get away with cheap answers like this.
Besides, the mythology didn't even start until well after the halftime mark, and I was growing more and more frustrated since the whole thing mostly centered on the character arcs, politics and relationships. The novel is called Gameboard of the Gods, so what about those gods? I'm holding out hope that the gods will have a bigger part in the next installment, especially since Justin finally gets his answers on the whole mythology thing in the end, but I'm still pretty angry that I was promised a mythology book and in the end it only paid half the rent.
Instead of information on both the culture/world-building and deities, we get a whole lot of info dumps on the characters and their pasts, which, don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with that, but there were four or five times when the characters simply sat down and told their life stories, and it got a bit of annoying. They disrupted the whole plotline for their backstories, getting it all out there in the open in one go, and it was all a little overwhelming. Especially since this happens two times, and practically one right on top of the other. No. You don't get to take the easy way out and explain a character's behaviour because of their past and then instead of uncovering it one by one, they lay it out neatly in front of you themselves. I mean, yeah, there's still plenty of uncovering going on, but still... it's just cheap and I don't like these info dumps.
All in all though, there were some really nice and unexpected twists in there, I love the god that's onto Justin and I think it's making way for something really spectacular, so I'm definitely in for the sequel. If you're into political stuff and things like that, then maybe this won't disappoint you at all and might be a great read for you. I myself am simply a little disappointed, because I know Richelle Mead can do so much better. Still, it was fine, so I'm not complaining too much. Maybe it's just because it's the first Adult novel I have read that she has written, but if you expect this to be anything like Vampire Academy or Bloodlines, you're sadly mistaken.