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.
I’ll be completely honest here. I totally didn’t know what to expect from Gameboard of the Gods, which is kinda bizarre considering Richelle Mead is kind of already a household name with her Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series. I bought her first book sometime ago and read the first 10 pages and was truthfully not impressed; the writing felt a bit amateur, bland, and empty, making me a bit less eager to read something from her this time around. But Vampire Academy was written so many years ago, and considering the fact that it has been ages since then, her writing must have become better.
And it did. Significantly so. If Vampire Academy didn’t reach out to me in the first ten pages, Gameboard of the Gods did, and every time I think of this gem of a book, all I can think of is just how awesome and suspenseful it was. If you thought her previous series were good, THIS is BETTER.
WORLD BUILDING – AMAZING!
The world building here is at its finest. It’s big, it’s ambitious, it’s incredibly structured and imaginative, and it’s not even fantasy at all – far from it! Imagine a Greek-Roman society but make it a bit futuristic, as well as ancient mythological gods and goddesses from different cultures. I loved how it incorporated such religious deities and themes while also staying true to its futuristic utopian setting (yes, it’s not a dystopian!). I also loved how Mead portrayed a supposedly pagan community that thrives on idealistic and radical ideas, while also introducing to us a variety of gods, goddesses, and supernatural phenomena. Like, how can the two mix, right?! That’s basically a juxtaposition right there, but she does it right and does it well. I’m not going to venture too much about it, because saying so might give something away about the storyline, but I can instead assure you that the author has created an absolutely thrilling and engaging world you won’t get enough of. Add gods and goddesses to that mix, fanatic cults, superhuman folks, AND a radical government, you got yourself a unique and exciting formula there, my friend!
CHARACTERS – WELL-ROUNDED, WHILE AT TIMES INFURIATING
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the characters. The cast all had distinguishable personalities, had distinct voices, were smart, feisty, and level-headed, knew what they wanted and how to get it, and over-all were pretty well-rounded. But even though they were likeable most of the times, they did some actions that really infuriated me, as in, I actually would throw them out the window if I could. These times were mostly when they acted like an asshole and a bitch, though… like, there was this one instance that some characters withheld information that could’ve helped the case, and the excuse, “I forgot”, and “I didn’t think it was important!” made me want to go HULK, SMASH!! on them.
But then again, after giving it much thought, it made me realize that these reactions of mine were only because of Mead’s spectacular way of making me more involved and engaged with the character, to the point that I would feel for them. They do something great, I feel happy. They do something questionable, I feel angry because as a reader I have more understanding with regards to the context/situation, and I freaking know what they did wasn’t healthy. You have to applaud Mead for that… it’s not often I get angry at characters and find such a response being a good thing!
WRITING – SPECTACULAR!
As I’ve gushed earlier, Mead has significantly improved her writing style here. Yes, I know; I only have 10 pages of Vampire Academy for comparison, but damn, the difference was just astounding! Given that the plot is darker and sinister, she was able to write it in a way that’s consistent to the premise – the narration really does give you the impression that something malicious and evil is or will be happening, while also keeping you on your toes and at the edges of your seats. It is suspenseful and enchanting, and the prose is hard to resist, as Mead has showcased here her remarkable skill of “showing, not telling” style. Even though the narration is set in third person with multiple POVs, it was still able to successfully give me a clear view of the surroundings, while also allowing me into the thoughts of the characters. You will get to know them and love every minute of it.
The relationships among the characters were also brilliantly written. Even though something ridiculous happened in the beginning that I really couldn’t appreciate, it redeems itself when the characters start from square one, finding themselves entangled
unwillingly in a mystery whodunit story. Along the way they will banter with each other, argue with each other, discuss theories and logistics together, and protect one another and you will find all of these in the end absolutely endearing. It was definitely a meaningful journey to me seeing them grow, learn more about themselves, and find each other’s worth.
Altogether, this is a remarkable sci-fi, PR, mystery read. It’s an Adult book that would rile up your imagination and excite your nerves as you charge head-on to a fascinating world Mead has created. Since there’re a lot of themes that I personally deem sensitive to certain audiences (sex, drugs, alcohol, the works), I don’t recommend this for those 15 below, but if you’re mentally and emotionally mature for it, then go ahead!
All I can say is Gameboard of the Gods is Richelle Mead’s best yet.
Final verdict: 4.5 stars
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