Author: Richelle Mead
Series: Age of X #1
Publication date: June 4th, 2013
Synopsis (according to 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 picked up a copy of this book at my local library while perusing their new books section. I have read a few of Richelle Mead's young adult book series and found her writing to be inspiring. I was curious to see what one of her more adult books would read like. This book took me completely by surprise.
The book opens on a futuristic world in which religion is carefully monitored and, for the most part, almost entirely eradicated. Supernatural powers are believed to be false and those who talk about them are religious zealots who should be watched closely or done away with entirely.
Mae is a soldier of the toughest of the tough and the most feared branch of military known as prætorians. After a violent outburst, Mae is sentenced to the temporary loss of her most prized possession, her prætorian uniform, and a seemingly boring job to deliver a message to an unknown man. Little does she know but meeting Dr. Justin March would be anything but boring.
Justin March is a womanizing con-man who also has the fascinating ability to observe things most others would not be able to see. Especially when it came to human behavior. He often used his talent to garner favor from higher-ups and women alike. After his exile from RUNA (the Republic of United North America), he never thought he would be in that world again. Mae and her message come as a complete shock to him. The message lays out the fundamentals of a string of upper-crust aristocratic killings. His talents would be essential to finding out who is behind the gruesome, and strangely ritualistic, murders. Justin, in a rare unselfish moment, agrees but only on the stipulation that he can bring a 16-year old girl, Tessa, with him on a student visa.
One thing that Justin and Mae did not think would happen on their journeys together was that they would start to like each other and even consider romantic feelings for each other. The hard-as-nails prætorian and a womanizing manipulator? Not the most conventional of couples. But their feelings for each other may not just be sexual and physical. They may actually have been selected by the gods themselves to be together forever.
This book, like many with a LOT of detail to their worlds, was sometimes hard to follow. I still am not 100% certain what the difference is between Gemman, plebian, and castel are. I had to make some assumptions due to context clues throughout the book. Sometimes that can be a hindrance in books I read. I find a new term that only is significant to the book's fantasy world. I can't look it up in the dictionary. I just have to hope the author outlines it in the reading. I find that sometimes an author is so wrapped up in their fantasy world they have created that terms such as these are just second nature to them. They don't really describe them in detail because they already know in their mind what they mean by them. They forget to read their writing from an outsider's perspective. It's an honest mistake and one that happens often. Thankfully, in Mead's latest work, I was able to, for the most part, pick everything up rather easily.
The greatest addition to the alternative point of view of the writing between Justin and Mae was the added perspective of Tessa, the 16-year old that Justin bargained for in his return to his duties. Her outlook on the world of RUNA as an outsider, truly helped me as a reader, see and experience things the same way. Her struggle to understand her new world was exactly what helped me in several situations where I knew nothing about this new society and needed some enlightenment. It was a very good idea to have a character like that in this book.
Gameboard of the Gods is probably one of the most thorough dystopia worlds ever witnessed. It has it all from supernaturally driven crimes, the struggle over religion and how that effects society, and, also, a romance that can leave the reader breathless and rage-filled from one page to the next.