Title: Gameboard of the Gods
Author: Richelle Mead
Series: Age of X #1
Source: Received for review from Netgalley
Release Date: 6/4/2013
Description from Goodreads:
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 received this book for review from the publisher via Netgalley.
Have you ever found a new author and loved him or her so much that you would read anything he or she wrote? That happened to me. Last year, I read Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series, and I loved it. I knew then that I wanted to read more from her. I continued on to the Bloodlines series, and while I didn’t love the characters quite as much as I did with VA, I still was very happy with Richelle’s writing and storytelling. So when I found out that Richelle was writing a new series, one for adults, I couldn’t wait to read it. Gameboard of the Gods was the first book I ever requested from Netgalley (and technically the whole reason I even joined Netgalley), and I was very excited to be approved. Needless to say, I had high hopes going into Gameboard of the Gods.
Honestly, right from the beginning, I was confused. When the story starts, Justin March is exiled from RUNA (a dystopian future combination of most of the US and Canada) in Panama, gambling and being talked to by invisible ravens. Mae Koskinen is a praetorian (a kind of super-soldier who has an implant that ramps up their abilities) who had a friend/lover/something to die and gets into a fight at the funeral. This leads to a punishment and her serving as a private bodyguard to Justin. When they first meet, neither knows who the other is, and they end up sleeping together. Both are shocked when they find out the other’s identity and causes some tension in their relationship. When Justin comes back to the RUNA, he brings along Tessa, the daughter of one of his Panamanian friends, so that she can get a RUNA education.
There was nothing completely unlikable about Justin or Mae, other than the fact that they both seemed to be extremely stubborn. And Justin’s ravens just had me confused for most of the book. However, I didn’t find either of them to be overly likable either. Honestly, for the first half of the story, I just didn’t really care about any of the characters. There was just nothing connecting them to me.
The whole point of Gameboard of the Gods is that there are murders going on, and there’s a mysterious video from one of the crimes that doesn’t make sense. It’s a big “What is going on?” It seems like something supernatural, but the government of the RUNA has decided that there’s no such thing as gods, goddesses, or supernatural beings.
During the first half of Gameboard, Justin and Mae are both investigating different reigions/cults, trying to get some answers about the murders, but also going about Justin’s usual duties as a servitor. A couple of strange things happen that I didn’t really understand, and I found myself getting frustrated. Honestly, the first half was so slow-paced and confusing that I considered DNF’ing. I actually had to take a break and put Gameboard down for almost a week. I really went back and forth on whether or not to pick it back up.
I will say that I’m glad I did decide to keep reading Gameboard. It never quite got up to par with the Vampire Academy series, but I definitely felt like it got better. Right after the 50% mark, things started making more sense. We got more back story, more action, and more importantly, more answers. I started to actually find myself enjoying the story and effortlessly continuing on in reading.
The ending wrapped up most of the events within Gameboard of the Gods, but it had some twists that were left open, since it’s supposed to be part of a series. I will probably pick up the sequel when it comes out, but it’s not a book that I’m dying to get my hands on.
Honestly, I’m not sure whether I would recommend Gameboard. I’ve seen mixed reviews on Goodreads, so it’s not a sure bet. If you can get through the first 50%, it does pick up, but like I said, if you’re expecting something on the same level as Vampire Academy or Bloodlines, I think you’ll be disappointed. I thought the story was okay, and I’m hopeful for the rest of the series, since first books are usually kind of slow. I’d say it’s worth giving a chance.