Title: Gameboard of the Gods (Age of X #1)
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Dutton Adult (Penguin)
Released: 4th June 2013
Rating: 3 of 5 stars
So I don't usually (almost never) review adult books, but for Richelle Mead I will make an exception. Like many of us, I think, having loved Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series (Bloodlines is a story for another day), I was eager to see what more she had to offer us. While this wasn't entirely as good as I was hoping, it was still a fairly decent and enjoyable read that leaves me hopeful for the rest of the series.
Religion is now, for the most part, forbidden, as it is this that is mostly blamed for the Decline. The two forces in power are the RUNA (Republic of United North America) and the EA (Eastern Alliance). These are surrounded by provinces, which are typically considered backward. Justin March is a servitor exiled to one of these provinces; his job was to investigate religious groups and believers in the supernatural, but one of his reports led to him losing his job and his citizenship. Now, however, a spate of ritualistic murders has the government calling him back. Mae Koskinen, an elite soldier with enhanced skills, is assigned to protect him. But as the investigation goes on and more truths come to light, unknown powers start to assemble for their own power play, with the world as their gameboard and humans as pawns.
In this new venture Mead brings to life an intriguing and complex world, with a remarkably tiered society and a clash between the scientific and the religious, or the mythological. I did feel this lost some of its effect as I found myself somewhat confused at times; we are thrust straight into this new world and after a while you start to get a feel for it, but I think it would benefit from clarification about a few things. Still, this did not completely hinder my enjoyment of it, and I found myself taking things in with interest. I liked seeing such a mix of ideas, with technological and scientific elements, and the supernatural, coming together nicely. The murder mystery aspect of this was also decently done, although I think it took a while to really kick off and could have been used to better effect. The ending, really, is where all of these elements were at their best, where we finally get some answers and some intrigue and some pace, and if the whole book had been done at that level, this would have been given a higher rating.
Mae is a pretty badass character - she has to be, I suppose, given that she is who and what she is. Even so, she's impressive. And when you learn about her past, and later as we find out more about her, she is easy to feel sympathy for. Justin did not get the benefit of such warm feelings from me, at least not consistently. Truth be told, I found him annoying at times, impossible to deal with and, I felt, with something of an entitled attitude when it came to Mae; part of the reason he excels at his job is because of his powers of observation and being able to take in every minute detail, and I felt like he was almost invading Mae's privacy when he could simply have asked her things. By the end of the book, though, this had changed, and I became more sympathetic towards him. I quite liked reading from both their perspectives; this is all in third person, which made a change for me, but it was nicely done. The one perspective I didn't appreciate was that of Tessa. I'm not sure why, but she grated on me almost as soon as I met her. As well as that, for some reason she constantly sounded younger than her 16 year old self. I'm not sure if that was just me, but in any case, I was never in a hurry to get back to reading from her point of view.
All in all, Gameboard of the Gods was, if somewhat underwhelming, still an enjoyable read. I particularly love the mythological side to it, and I really can't wait to see how this develops in the sequel, particularly with the ending of this one being what it was. Richelle Mead has once again proved herself a wonderful storyteller, and I look forward to coming back to this series.