Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Review: Gameboard of the Gods (Age of X, #1)


Gameboard of the Gods (Age of X, #1)Author: Richelle Mead
Series: Age of X, #1
Release date: June 4h 2013
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Hardcover, 464 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository

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 start with this: Gameboard of the Gods is a definite step up for Richelle Mead. It is her most ambitious project in terms of worldbuilding and structure, though perhaps not the plot.

Mead’s futuristic world is divided between two great forces: RUNA (Republic of the United North America) and EA (Eastern Alliance). Everything else are the provinces, barbaric in comparison, technologically and culturally inferior. Mead envisioned a world in which religion is considered to be a true danger for the society. It is tightly controlled by people called the servitors, one of them our Dr. Justin March. The RUNA is a glorious country, a place where people can feel safe and protected, guarded by a powerful military force. It is not a dystopian setting; if anything, it’s closer to utopia, based on the Greco-Roman social structure.
The RUNA held three things responsible for the Decline: biological manipulation, religion, and cultural separatism. All of the early genetic mixing had gone a long way to stamp out group solidarity, and the loose Greco-Roman models the country had adopted provided a new, all-encompassing culture that everyone could be a part of.

The worldbuilding is of the sink-or-swim variety, fascinating and in many ways almost visionary, but a bit overwhelming at times. Mead is an expert at showing rather than telling, but perhaps she took it too far at times. Her world doesn’t lack structure; the lines are very clear and there’s an abundance of details, but some (admittedly smaller) parts I simply failed to understand.

I mentioned at the beginning that there were some minor problems with the plot. A murder investigation is at the center of the plot, but it takes a back seat to character development and the paranormal element. The murder mystery itself is painfully neglected throughout the novel, serving mostly as a reason for the two main characters to work together.

The paranormal element is very present – this is Richelle Mead we’re talking about, but it’s always hidden beneath the surface, dampened somehow and rarely talked about. The RUNA is not a great place to discuss such matters, but both Justin and Mae, our two protagonists, are undeniably tied to something otherworldly.

Aside from being brilliant, Dr. Justin March drinks a lot, takes all the drugs he can get his hands on, sleeps with a different woman every night, and is generally a poor (albeit handsome and charming) excuse for a human being. Mae Koskien is no prize either. A genetically altered elite soldier, a castal girl of pure Nordic descent, desperately afraid of any kind of commitment, haughty and often overcome by a darkness that brings out her violent side. The two have nothing in common, except for the loneliness their superiority brings with it.

The two start by sleeping together under wrong assumptions and their relationship goes downhill from there. They are forced to work together on a string of cult-related murders, Justin as a brilliant investigator returned from exile for that very purpose, and Mae as his unstoppable bodyguard. If you expect a breathtaking romance from Justin and Mae, you might end up disappointed. There is a lot of delicious sexual tension between them, but the night of their first encounter is always a looming obstacle. Besides, being with Mae means a life-long servitude to an unknown god for Justin, and he is not one for blind obedience to anyone, not even a deity.

Mead could never be accused of lack of imagination, but with Gameboard of the Gods, she outdid herself in more ways than one, and for the most part, she held a tight control over all the bits and pieces. It was only at moments that the worldbuilding became too big for her and confusing for the reader. There is nothing more important to me than character development, and Mead’s thorough approach to it left me in awe. While Gameboard of the Gods could prove to be a bit challenging for less patient readers, it was a great read according to my taste and a promising start to an exciting new series.


29 comments:

  1. This is one of the most expected books this year. But that's Richelle Mead so it's logical. I wasn't sure about it cause I didn't enjoy Georgina series but this one sounds like something new! I can't wait to read it now. Great review Maja :)

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  2. I'm really looking forward to this! Richelle Mead's writing works wonderfully for me (let's just forget about Bloodlines for a moment) so my expectations for this one are pretty high. My patience for intricate world-building and subtle details generally tends to vary with my mood, but I'm sure I'll be able to find the right time to give this book the attention it needs. Great review, Maja!

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  3. I have the ARC to be read, next on my list once I'm done with two other books, and it looks very promising! I'm glad to hear the romance is not very typical in this!

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  4. I'm so glad you enjoyed this, Maja! I haven't read anything by Mead since VA ended and I was worried this one wouldn't be as good, but now I'm excited. Although there are a few issues with this one, I'm looking forward to diving into this world. Great review, Maja! :)

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  5. Oh wow! I love the VA and been dying to read this one. Thanks for the cool review, Maja. I can't wait to read this. The futuristic theme sounds promising.

    -Danniellle

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  6. Without a lot of worldbuilding (at first) to grasp on to, I kind of took this one at a run -- and ended up loving it. So unusual and I can't wait to see how it all plays out, now that many of the chess pieces are falling into place. Loved the ravens!!

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  7. It sounds like that even though this had a few issues, it was still Mead worthy and worth the read. I so wanted to read and review this one but I just didn't have the time. I am so happy to see that you really liked it. I think this will be one to pick up for sure.

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  8. Oh wow the world building sounds great. I haven't read anything by Mead *gasp*, I know. But I do have this one and it will be my first. I'm really excited now, sounds like she transitioned into the adult world pretty darn well. Great review, Maja!

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  9. Glad you enjoyed, I need to try her adult stuff since I loved her ya

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  10. Hmmm.. I'm not too sure about whether I'll try out this book the main characters seem to be seriously messed up plus I hear the best part of Mead's books is the romance or swoon worthy characters so I'm on the fence regarding this one....

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  11. Your first paragraph is EXACTLY how I felt about this book. I'm still ruminating on it but that is what is going on in my head at the moment. I think you liked this one more than I did. I still need to think a bit before I start my review of this book, but you are right about the patience for the book! :)

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  12. I saw a lot of mixed review, I'm glad someone liked it like me! Well you liked it even more than me but still!

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  13. Wow it sure does sound that Richelle outdid herself with this book. I really do like the sound of the premise to this book, but I'm not sure if it would be all a bit too much for me. The pacing and everything that Mead throws in this novel however do sound highly fascinating, and do look as they'll give the me the extra push in giving this book a go. So glad that you thoroughly enjoyed this! :)

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  14. I'm suppose to be getting this one and wasn't exactly sure what I should even expect from it. I'm not a die hard fan, but I've read a couple of her books and liked them, and this has such a great concept. I'm glad that it really was fantastic and I'm much more excited to read it now!

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  15. I basically agree with everything you said here. It was ambitious and perhaps to much at times with all the details, and yet somehow I just adored all of it. I think I love that both the MCs were so flawed but lovely at the same time.

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  16. Honestly, I've yet to read anything by Mead. However, it seems like an intriguing premise. I actually don't mind that there isn't some huge romance-- I feel like it's too unrealistic for some books and it doesn't sound like it would have worked here. Glad you liked the start of this new series!

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  17. I haven't read anything Mead's written (though I have the Vampire Academy). This book sounds really intriguing and I tend to like stories that require a lot of world building. Even if it does sink sometimes, I think it still seems worth the read. Great review :)

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  18. Richelle outdid herself? I find that hard to imagine. I mean, I only read 4 books by her and in already speechless. Eek, so excited for this!

    Well written review, Maja! <33

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  19. I've read and loved RM's VA series but I wasn't really sure about this one because they are very few dystopians I love, but I shouldn't have doubted RM's work. She creates the most addicting and engaging worlds and from what you described, I think I would love it. Great review, Maja!

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  20. I think that I'll let Gameboard of the Gods be my introduction to Richelle Mead's works. I love it when authors become ambitious in the stories they tell, as long as I can believe that the author will eventually have it all under control. Since Mead is a well-established author with lots of fans to her name already, I'm going to assume that she's up to the challenge you seem to think that this series will entail. Also, the whole religion and paranormal aspects have piqued my interest. Wonderful review, Maja!

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  21. Good to see you enjoyed it. I'm hearing mixed thoughts on it. I think this is going to be one book that is yes or no. I like the sounds of it with the gods though. Thanks!

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  22. I'm thrilled to hear you enjoyed this one, because I feel like my tastes are very similar to yours. I have this on deck for the weekend, and I can't wait to dive in! It sounds like one of her most unique worlds yet, and I'm curious to see whether I'll like Mae and Justin. They sound like difficult characters, but sometimes those end up carving out more space in my heart in the end. Lovely review Maja!

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  23. I am reading this now and right now struggling a bit with it. I know that Mead takes an extraordinarily long time to develop characters and plot lines so I know to be patient with her. Heck, I didn't become a fan of VA until book three. I hope I can get it done by the end of the week. It is slow going!

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  24. I just started this book and so far so good. I'm 10% in and I can't wait to finish reading my favorite blogs so I can be back to reading it. :D My favorite part of the books so far are the ravens. :)
    Great review, I hope I will enjoy it as much as you did.

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  25. I'm not reading this yet, Maja. I'm picking this book up today, but I'm so thrilled to see your 4.5 stars! I heard another friend of mine didn't like this one, but lately my tastes have been very different than hers. I trust your opinion. :)

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  26. I love this author, YA or adult. Can't wait to check this one out and the world building does sound like her most interesting yet.

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  27. You explained this brilliantly, Maja! I agree, this won't work for the less patient reader and I've seen some DNF's already. I was in for the long haul and I'm glad because it paid off. Characterization is the most important thing for me in reading and you're right, Mead did a great job. Not that she made her characters very likable, Justin was an ass, IMO. Excellent review! :)

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  28. I've never been much interested in the Vampire Academy books but I love the sound of this one and am interested to check out Mead's writing.

    Ronan Valerio (Seattle Criminal Attorney)

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  29. I am definitely excited to read the next book in this series, and I am a little sad that I have to wait until next year. I hope that any readers who have not yet had the pleasure of reading this new series from Richelle Mead give it a chance with an open mind and enjoy it as much as I did.
    Recommended Mike Addiego Fishing Lodge Alaska

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