Hi, my name is Dragana, and I’m a book-o-holic. My goal in life is to read all the speculative fiction novels in the world. (or at least try) :)
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On a future dystopian version of Earth, religious sect inspector Dr. Justin March and super-soldier Mae Koskinen are trying to catch a serial killer before he strikes again. The plot of the book centers not only on the murder case but on a personal history of both characters and makes a very detailed introduction to the Age of X series.
Gameboard of the Gods is narrated by three characters.
Dr. Justin March: exiled government employ, expert on religious sects, good on reading people, drug addict and womanizer. I know I should be seduced by Justin's bad boy charm but almost-always drunk or drugged males who ogle every woman in their path are just not my thing. The only part of Justin I liked are the voices he hears: ravens Horatio and Magnus. With their sarcasm and wit, Horatio and Magnus won me over but sadly as plot becomes more complex their comments are more and more rare.
Mae Koskinen: a technologically enhanced soldier and a patrician (member of high class society). Since I am a fan of kick-ass heroines and have love for blondes that goes way back to my Barbie adoring childhood years, you would have thought I would love Mae but she and I just didn't 'click'.
Third, unexpected narrator is Tessa, Justin's prodigy whose only purpose in novel is to make you swoon how Justin has parental instincts deep down and help Vampire Academy lovers have some younger character to relate to. Although Tessa was written perfectly well and I did like her, I could not help thinking that without her Gameboard of the Gods would be 100 pages shorter and nothing would be missing. In fact, I think that book would be more intense and plot more focused.
It all starts with an insta-lust at first sight and then transforms into a forbidden love. Reason why it is forbidden is too spoilerish, so I am leaving it out. Justin and Mae try to 'cure' themselves of unwanted attraction by having sex with other people but the tension always sizzles in the background. Although I am all for romance developing slowly, it seems at time like it is going more backward than forward.
The World Building
Gameboard of the Gods is set in a future. Earth went through a Decline because of religion (among other things) and now religious organisations are strictly controlled by the state. Although government sanctioning religion can be a very interesting idea for dystopian novel, it was never explained how religion almost destroyed the world. Religious fanatics terrorist attacks? Industry fail because people went to church to pray too much? Why?!?
This is not the only hole in the plot and world building. There are many more. Like: How come future society is not more technologically advanced? Except for smart phones with voice commands, id chips and 3d projectors I have seen nothing 'new'. It's mentioned that Decline somehow caused stagnation and even degradation of technology. But I will repeat myself and say again: How?
Wait! Shouldn't There Be Mythology In This Book?
I know! There should. Well Justin and Mae are hunting down religious sects adoring Greek, Norse, Celtic and other various deities. Religion=gods=mythology. There!
What? You want more? Unless you count a couple of explanation about the origin of Gods that cults are worshiping, there is not much more. Religion is forbidden topic by the government, so all paranormal events will be ignored and no one will openly talk or mention anything mythical until the culmination of the story.
In The End...
Richelle Mead is a writer with too much experience and talent to write a total dud, but Gameboard of the Gods was just an average book for me. It had too many unexplained holes in world building to be a good dystopian and not enough mythology for my taste. The plot dragged at times and although there is no cliffhanger related to the case Justin and Mae were working on, there are many unanswered questions left.
Urban fantasy fans who like reading about hot & sexy partners working together may enjoy Gameboard of the Gods, but my advice for young adult fans, who want this book because they loved Vampire Academy series, is: read an excerpt before buying.
Disclaimer: I was given a free eBook by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.