Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead
Reading Level: Adult
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Release date: June 4, 2013
Series: Age of X #1
Reviewed by: Tynga
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.
Dr. March used to be the best Servitor the RUNA (Republic of United North America) had, until he filled and turned in an highly controversial rapport of his latest investigation. He was thanked (to be polite) and shipped off to exile, wherever he wanted to, as long as it’s far away. After 4 years away from glorious Vancouver, Justin is thrilled to come back to investigate a series of weird murders, RUNA needing his particular field of expertise. Mae got herself in trouble after fighting at a funeral, surprisingly (..not) super soldiers’ fights are frond upon, and this lack of control nearly got her suspended. Instead, she finds herself bodyguard to good looking but annoying Dr. March. Nothing to improve her mood…
I’m a huge Richelle Mead fan, and I was anxiously waiting this new adult series. I loved her Succubus series and its highly likeable characters and truly miss this series. I’m afraid to say though, that even though I liked Age of X #1, I still prefer Georgina.
Let’s get the negative aspect out of the way before I tell you why I liked Gameboard of the Gods, shall we? My biggest issue was the lack of a glossary. I read an eARC from Edelweiss, and I hope.. no pray, that there is a lexicon included in the print version. See, Mead created a very Sci-fi oriented world with very unique terminology and 30% into the book, I was STILL confused with it all. At that point, she posted a glossary on her blog, which made my reading experience much more enjoyable. It was that much more complicated to follow at first because there is a proper and a slang version of the terminology, for example:
Patriarchy, Patrician, Patricians – Those who clung to their ethnic heritage and were exempted from genetic mandates after the Decline because of financial contributions to the early government. Patricians identify with a particular culture (Irish, Egyptian, etc.) and select for features associated with that culture. Many patricians still live off of that early wealth and have established aristocratic mini-societies on special regions allocated to them, called land grants. "Caste" and "castal" are slang terms for patricians used by the rest of the country.
It’s not that easy to understand with an actual definition, imagine how confused I was without one.
The second aspect I wasn’t crazy about is actually a character. Richelle Mead wrote her story from three different point of views: Mae’s (a supernatural soldier), Justin (an investigator of religious groups) and Tessa (a teen from the Provinces), all in third person narration. I think I would’ve prefer if it was narrated in first person, seeing as she bothered to have multiple POV, but my concern is Tessa. I thought she was simply useless to the story. The novel would’ve been much better without her, and unless Richelle has got big plan’s for her in future books, I don’t even know why she existed. I guess Mead wanted her to give us an outsider’s perceptive of the RUNAs world, but it fell flat. Sure she provided an important clue to the investigation near the end of the book, but that proof could’ve been brought directly to Mae and it would’ve been just fine.
Now that it’s off my chest… the good parts! After I overcame the lexicon, I truly enjoyed the very original world Richelle Mead created. The world survived what they call The Decline. Humanity faced a terrible virus called Mephistopheles and half the population died. After much research they discovered that mixed genetic background provided resistance to the virus, and its hereditary disease, Cain. The RUNA was then created, controlling birthing to increase diversity and crashing any religious beliefs at same time. It’s a very engrossing setup and I liked how Mead highlighted the different living conditions between RUNA, Land Grants (where people who bought the right to stick to their ethnicity) and the Provinces (uncontrolled lands).
The technology also provided a very strong sci-fi aspect to this mix of dystopian/paranormal set-up. Everyone has identity chips, egos (super advanced smart-phones) and they have driverless cars, etc. Some of the technology is also more invasive. Mae, the lead female, is a Praetorian, a super soldier with an implant that increases their body’s response, improving their natural abilities.
Mae and Justin really sealed the deal for me. I truly loved them both for different reasons. Justin is this super good looking guy who had a different woman in bed every night and is very self-centered. Despite it all, he is very likeable and I loved how he cared for Mae while trying to stay away. Mae was also amazing. She has a hard past and is wary of relationships in general. She is strong and fierce and has a fun side underneath her stern facade. A couple of secondary characters also spoke to me, particularly Dag and Val, I hope we see more of them in the next novels.
I was really engrossed in the plot once I understood the world. Multiple aspects interspersed throughout the whole novel and I enjoyed its complexity. There’s the investigation of a series a murder, and both religious and paranormal aspects seems involved, there’s the complicated relationship between Mae and Justin and their respective private issue. All in all, a lot of food for thought and an original lore to tie it all.
The conclusion proved satisfying even though I’m still craving some answers. I find myself particularly curious of Dominic and I hope we get to know more about his past in the next novel!
If you pick up Gameboard of the Gods, and I encourage you to, do yourself a favor and read Richelle’s glossary (if its not in the book) before you read the novel. It’ll save you a lot of trouble and won’t shadow your reading experience. Contrary to the summary’s suggestion, I didn’t get any Vampire Academy vibes from this novel, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.