Friday, 23 August 2013

Review - Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead

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

Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead
Series: Age of X #1
Published by Dutton Adult on June 4 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 448
Rating: 3/5 stars
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.

I went into Gameboard of the Gods completely blind. All I knew about the book was that it was the first in a new series by one of my favourite authors, Richelle Mead, and that it wasn’t a YA title.

I wasn’t thrilled by the first 45-50%. It was, to be honest, rather boring. I didn’t feel any emotional ties to the characters, with the exception of Tessa. I was particularly unimpressed with Justin. He was a shallow, self-involved tool. I’m writing this review a week and a half after reading the book and I actually forgot his name. Apparently that is precisely how much I liked reading about Justin. I found the mystery surrounding Justin with regards to the ravens in his head was… uninspired. I didn’t really care that much about what happened to him. I did think that the ravens, Horatio especially, were much-needed to Justin’s psyche. I was elated when Horatio called Justin out on being an asshole (on multiple occasions!), because he was saying exactly what I was thinking.

Mae was kind of bland to me. I found she didn’t really make much of an impression on me either way. In my notes I have written “emotionally stunted robot woman”, so clearly I wasn’t a big fan of Mae while reading, but she doesn’t enrage me like Justin does.

My biggest issue with Gameboard of the Gods is that it needed more character depth. I think that this is partly due to the use of third-person point of view, but I found the characters to be quite stereotypical.
The only character I really enjoyed reading about was Tessa, which is probably due to her being from the ‘provinces’. She read like more of a real person, and I loved reading about her immersion into this new and unfamiliar culture that was quite abrasive towards her.

Richelle Mead’s writing, while different tonally from all of her other books, is a pleasure to read. This book is written in a very cool, unemotional style that I believe was meant to cohere with the impersonal culture of the RUNA. It wasn’t my favourite Mead book by a long shot, but it was clear that the author was branching out and loving every minute of it. At only one point did the writing have any emotional draw to me – when Mead described the cultural isolation of Tessa’s first day of school in Vancouver. That scene was truly perfect, from the way that Melissa and the teachers spoke to Tessa like she was hard of hearing, made her repeat herself because they couldn’t decipher her accent, and generally acted as though she had never set foot in civilization before. Mead captured the feeling of other-ness as she described the “attitude and demeanor that screamed to the world that she hadn’t been born and raised in this glittering, frenetic society”.

The plot of Gameboard of the Gods really didn’t do much for me. Contrary to most of the complaints I’ve read about it, I think I would have been more satisfied if it had been focused more on politics and government workings and less on religious activities. It read more like a series of random scenes compiled in a semi-logical order than a finished product with a beginning, middle, and end. Well, it had a very distinct beginning, it was as it moved into the middle that everything became muddled.

As a final note, I really wish Porfirio had been a nicer dude, because he has the most badass name ever.

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