Thursday, July 4, 2013

Review: Gameboard of the Gods

Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead
Age of X # 1
Published June 4th 2013


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.
*An ARC was provided by Dutton Adult in exchange for an honest review*

Gameboard of the Gods is a book I was very eager to get into.  Mythology is impossible enough to resist but paired with a dystopian setting? Sounds amazing to me!  Plus Richelle Mead is an author I'd promised myself I'd finally read this year (and about time too), so this really was a win/win scenario!  Unfortunately, Gameboard of the Gods didn't really fit into what I came to expect from reading the blurb, and while there were some elements of the book that I enjoyed quite a bit, other things really left me wanting and others just fell flat for me altogether.

In Gameboard of the Gods, we're introduced to a futuristic world following what the blurb tells us is: ''a near destruction of the world by religious extremists''.  It's never made clear when this near-destruction occurred or even how, but since then, the world has begun to return to something not so different from our own current way of life.  Technology, information & the military have re-emerged stronger than ever - at least in what we know as North-America anyway, and the governing bodies work hard to control and restrict most re-emerging religions in an attempt to avoid whatever happened to bring on the 'Descent' in the first place. 

The two main characters, Justin & Mae have vastly different jobs and realities at the start of the novel.  Justin is an exiled ex-investigator with unique gifts and the mind of a genius, living in the poverty stricken Panama (more or less South-America).  Left to his own devices and broken by the reality of his situation, Justin is free to wallow in his addictions - drugs, gambling & women.  Mae on the other hand is a praetorian - a genetically enhanced super-soldier that lost her cool for a moment  and got into a fight with another soldier. Because of the momentary lapse, she gets re-assigned...to Justin.  That's because the RUNA (Republic of United North America), a.k.a. Justin's home before his exile suddenly want to give him his old job back. It seems there have been a series of seemingly ritualistic murders or 'sacrifices' recently and they believe Justin may be able to solve the case.  As both characters adjust to their new circumstances, and to each other, it becomes clear that there is a lot more going on here than meets the eye..  Soon both Justin & Mae are wrapped up in a mystery that even they might not be able to handle!

This was one of those cases where the blurb on the book jacket doubles as an introduction for the actual book's plot.  What's mentioned inside the cover flap never gets fully explained...and that's what I was most curious about: how was the world was almost destroyed?  What caused it to evolve into the future Richelle Mead has imagined for us?  Another question I had: Where are the Gods?!  These have to be the most elusive and mysterious bunch I've ever read about.  If it wasn't right there in the title, I wonder if I would have guessed what was going on here until the very end.  I was expecting full on Mythology, at least more than a whisper here and there for the better part of the book.

As I mentioned, any set-up or explanations to this futuristic world was limited, but the actual world-building itself was kept to a minimum too.  There was the RUNA (by the way those letters only get explained after like 80 pages!) the technological and controlled ''jewel of the world'' and then there was the rest of the planet.  Outside of the RUNA, people lived in poverty and the societal structure resembled something out of the distant past instead of the future. A lot of other terms like praetorians, castes, plebians and Gemman take a while to be defined and some of them never felt fully fleshed out in a satisfying way.  And since we're talking words, I might as well vent at what I thought was an overused word: grimace.  Being French, it's a word I'm used to, but I've never really liked using it in English - it just sounds off to me >.<  and within the first 100 pages 'grimace' or 'grimaced' appeared 10 times!  I would have killed for a synonym.  (Not really but you catch my drift.) I know it's a personal thing, but I had to get it out. *sigh*

Now I know I'm coming off mostly negative in this review, but Gameboard of the Gods did have it's fair share of positives too.  The action scenes and intrigue were especially well crafted.  Many of the scenes read like I was watching a movie unfold in my mind.  It had the right balance of words to keep the pace high and I had no problem imagining it all unfold right before my eyes. The mystery worked really well too especially for the first 3/4 of the book, it kept me reading compulsively - I wanted to discover more clues and put them together.  I love a good mystery though and my obsessive need to know might have played a role in that. Beyond that though, I honestly liked getting to know the characters, despite their heavy flaws. I found that their distinct personalities & quirks worked well with this world as well as the story at hand.  This was also one of the cases where the alternating POV style was done absolutely flawlessly, it seemed to switch at the perfect moment every time, only overlapping when both perspectives were integral to the plot - which is exceedingly rare in my experience.

Looking at the book as a whole, Gameboard of the Gods is one I'm glad I've read.  It mostly only fizzled for me by the end because of two reasons: 1- for such a BIG book, the ending hardly offered any resolution.  And 2- I just wanted more explanations on this world, on what made it the way it is and on the GODS!  At 450 pages and an open ending, I would have liked more concrete answers along the way.  I'll be reading the sequel but as an introduction to a series, book 1 should have offered more groundwork so the series could take of from there.  Hopefully, book 2 will have more actual gods too!

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

22 comments:

  1. After seeing other mixed reviews of this, particularly regarding the world-building, I'm just going to borrow it from the library instead of buying it. It really bugs me when the title and the blurb give you certain expectations, and then those expectations aren't met. And with dystopian novels, I lose my patience rather quickly if the world isn't explained adequately. Great review, Micheline! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a good call Lee, then if you end up liking it more than I did you can always buy it in paperback or something :) It was still compelling enough to keep me reading and interested but when the ending fizzled, I was both curious about the next book but also let down. One word: conflicted. hehe

      Delete
  2. The action sounds good, but the lack of world building is a common complaint I've heard

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It seems like it Brandi, especially with fans of her earlier series! I though I might avoid that, since it was my first Richelle Mead book...but I guess I was wrong :(

      Delete
  3. I personally really disliked this book.. the characters were so unlikable and I felt the plot was confusing and some parts weren't explained well. Also, the pace of it was horrible.. at least you had a few positive things to say about it, I didn't even enjoy the action scenes towards the end because I just wanted it to be OVER.

    great review,
    - Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry that this one was so frustrating for you but I can definitely see it being the case...I know that you definitely aren't the only one from the reviews I read. I'll admit that for me it was able to keep my interest for the most part - I agree the pacing was far from perfect but still. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it. Thanks for stopping by Juhina :)

      Delete
  4. Micheline, I agree - I expected a lot more from one of my favorite authors, but I was disappointed as well. And I didn't like Mia or Justin at all... They also felt a lot younger than they were supposed to be.

    Oh well. You wrote an excellent review!

    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really sucks when you're familiar with the author and know what their capable of, only to be let down like that! Mae & Justin are definitely NOT easily likeable but I still wanted to figure them out I guess?! LOL Thanks Lexxie :)

      Delete
    2. I want to figure them out as well, Micheline! So I will definitely pick up the 2nd book when it comes out. I think one of the things I've always loved in RMs books is that the characters seem so real. And that there is at least one or two characters I feel like I can relate to.

      Maybe she'll totally blow my socks off next time, though, because my expectations will certainly be a little lower ;)

      Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Boookviews

      Delete
  5. I love Richelle Mead (I've read 15 of her books) but I've heard a lot of similar comments about the worldbuilding in this one and that makes me sad :( As a person who is also into good worldbuilding, I get why this disappointed you! I'm glad the double-POV works well though.
    I think I'll still give this a try but I'm not in a total hurry anymore. Maybe I'll get the chance to borrow it from someone.
    I hope you're not giving up on Richelle Mead in general because she's a great author! Hopefully you'd enjoy one of her other series more :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I most definitely have not given up on Richelle Mead! I own two of her VA books so I'm hoping to get into that series as soon as I can. I think I have book 1 in all her other series on my TBR shelf as well. I still think this one was worth the read, but I was expecting tighter world-building. And more actual Gods hehe. I hope you'll have a bit more luck with it than I did though :)

      Delete
  6. This sounds interesting, but the lack of world building would put me off. I also get annoyed with over use of the same words to describe things. Grimace is s a weird word too lol!! I'm glad that you still liked the book, but it's too bad it wasn't quite what you were hoping for. Fabulous review babe!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. bahahaha grimace IS a weird word!! It kept coming up every page or two and every time it threw me off >.< Yeah it was definitely like and not love for this one! Thanks for stopping by doll ♥

      Delete
  7. I haven't read this yet, Micheline. But the reviews I've seen so far coincide with yours. I know I'll end up reading this because I love Richelle Mead. But I'm not in a hurry. I'm glad you're not upset for having read it even if it had lots of negatives. I'd agree with you that at 450 pages, ALL the initial worldbuilding should have been done to create the foundation for the subsequent books. It really doesn't sound like Ms. Mead accomplished that. Thanks so much for sharing your honest review! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the sweet comment Brandee! I definitely don't regret reading it and I'll be checking out the next installment for sure BUT I'll reserve judgement on Richelle Mead for when I finally get into her VA series and all her other series on my TBR shelf - there's a lot to look forward to :D

      Delete
  8. Thank you so much for this review. I totally agree that this review is totally making me agree with some of the other bloggers of just borrowing. I know I have to read this eventually but...maybe just barrow from the library or something. Thank you as always for your excellent reviews and great insight I really appreciate it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Umm, that plot and concept sounds complicated and way too hard to follow, especially with so limited explanations and set-up. Boo! That is absolutely critical for me and the introduction of a new series. You really need that good groundwork to build from, like you say.

    Also, I am often bothered by overused words and phrases in books! It might be unfair because surely the author was unaware of its overuse, but it still has the capacity to irk you!

    Anyways, I'm going to skip this one now. And I will make Vampire Academy my first Richelle Mead book (it won overwhelmingly in my poll) so I hope it's good and it leaves me with a good impression! Thanks for letting me know what to think of this one, even if it wasn't great. Really informative and helpful review!

    ReplyDelete
  10. When I first was approved for this book back in Spring I was curious, but after reading the blurb, I was kind of let down, and actually passed on it. I'm kind of glad I did, especially after reading your thoughts. I think t's kind of what you said as far as watching it on the big screen, I think it would fare much better in that venue.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I started this one before BEA and then after I got home I never finished it haha. Oops! I did like it though I got about half way. I actually found the world building kind of epic and so detailed but she does concentrate on the now and building what we see in our minds instead of telling us how it got that way. I also was kind of fascinated by the gods that were talking to him in his mind. I was definitely like WTF at first - I thought he had multiple personalities haha. Or connected to other people like werewolves where they can talk to each other in their minds. I'm not sure if I would have caught on that it was actual gods without the title but I would have assumed it was some type of mythological figure. Maybe I'll finish it one day lol

    ReplyDelete
  12. Awesome review! I totally agree with you: not enough info. About anything. I felt so lost for sooooo long! There could be more explanation and some scenes could do without - what's Tessa's role here? I had no idea.
    As for Gods - I think it's them claiming the humans and they use them to fulfill their wishes. Although they were barely defined and Mae's god came into play at the very end.
    I liked the mystery, the actions scenes were totally amazing, as you said, and the POVs awesome. Mead is a master writter, but still, this book was a let-down. After devouring VA and Bloodlines, I expected SO MUCH. Maybe too much.
    I look forward to second book because the ending intrigued me very much. But it took too long to get there and that's something that irritated me terribly!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Oh I can't wait for this, I have it and I'm going to read it!! I hope I like it though ... but your review isn't filling me with too much hope ...

    <3
    Shaheen @ Speculating on SpecFic.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I usually prefer when they explain or expand on the world, but maybe in the next installment they will? That usually bugs me, but I still want to read this at some point because it sounds cool, and the action and well done POV make me want to give it a try. Thanks for reviewing!

    ReplyDelete

I LOVE comments & do my best to return every one a.s.a.p. ♥
This blog is an award-free zone. I appreciate the thought but I can't invest the time needed.