Title: Gameboard of the Gods
Author: Richelle Mead
Series: Age of X #1
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Genre: Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Fantasy
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 Xseries, will have all the elements that have made her YA Vampire Academy andBloodlines series such megasuccesses: sexy, irresistible characters; romantic and mythological intrigue; and relentless action and suspense.
Scorpio Richelle Mead is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy books for both adults and teens. Originally from Michigan, Richelle now lives in Seattle, Washington where she works on her three series full-time: Georgina Kincaid, Dark Swan, and Vampire Academy.
A life-long reader, Richelle has always loved mythology and folklore. When she can actually tear herself away from books (either reading or writing them), she enjoys bad reality TV, traveling, trying interesting cocktails, and shopping for dresses. She's a self-professed coffee addict and has a passion for all things wacky and humorous.
So I was really excited for this book to come out and I bought it right away. Then once I realized how long it is and that it's written in the third person (I have nothing against third person and usually end up enjoying it, but for some reason it always freaks me out at first) I kind of put it off for a while. I finally woman-ed up and started reading it. It didn't grab me right off the bat, but as a diehard Richelle Mead fan I stuck with it. I'm really glad I did because this book paid off in a big way.
The story takes place in a futuristic world where Canada, the US, and part of Mexico are now one country called the RUNA. In this country religion is closely monitored and viewed as ridiculous cults. There are also a lot of harsh laws about birth control and procreating due to a genetic disease that killed off a lot of people in the past. We have three main characters: Justin who worked for the government investigating various religions/cults, but was exiled out of the RUNA years earlier due to a mysterious incident; Mae who is a praetorian (the most deadly of the RUNA's military) who comes from a hoity toity family; and 16 year old Tessa who is a genius living in a poor, somewhat primitive country. Chance and fate throw the three of them together back in the RUNA working to solve a string of mysterious murders. We quickly learn that in this world that has, for the most part, turned its back on religion and the supernatural, there are greater forces at work that have plans for both Mae and Justin.
The first thing that caught my attention about this book was that it is not your typical dystopian novel (of which there are plenty). There is nothing flat out evil about this world like there is in typical dystopians. The world in this book is realistic, believable, and contains both good and bad aspects. It's a very detailed world with a strong backstory. I am so used to dystopians that make me think: well this is just ridiculous, but I enjoy reading about it. This book was not only enjoyable, but also well-developed and completely believable.
I also loved the various mythologies used in this book. It included Norse mythology, Greek mythology, Irish mythology, and others I've yet to figure out. I found myself doing a fair amount of Internet research about various Gods and Goddesses while reading this book. I always appreciate a good story that also teaches me a thing or two.
The characters are all fantastically well developed. Mae is a badass warrior with a sensitive side and a troubled past. She was probably my favorite because she managed to be tough, smart, and complex all at the same time. Justin is a drunk who dabbles in drugs and women, but is also brilliant and likeable. I still am not totally sure how Mead managed to make a character that could be really obnoxious likeable. I found myself rooting for him without even realizing it. And finally we have Tessa. Tessa is a sweet teenage girl that is in some ways naive, but also brilliant and able to see the RUNA and its citizens with a critical eye.
As I've come to expect from Richelle Mead, this book was well-written and filled with intriguing subplots. She is the master of creating detailed, realistic worlds and mythologies that suck you in. This book was everything I hoped it would be and I regret not reading it sooner. It is long, but didn't feel long while I was reading it. I was totally invested in these characters and this world by the time I finished. I am so glad this book is the first in a series. I can't wait to find out what's in store for these characters and what Gods, Goddesses, and mythologies will pop up next.