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
Gameboard of the Gods is a paranormal thriller with dystopian elements, set in RUNA a future society made up of united North American countries that are religion and supernatural free. I was a little surprised by this to start and couldn't figure out why there were no hints of anything paranormal and even a fear of the supernatural in RUNA. As the story developed and Justin March was brought back to RUNA out of exile to investigate a suspicious series of murders, things started to delve more into the highly regulated religions and mythologies. There was huge friction in the story between science and religion, with RUNA citizens believing that religion was dangerous. And yet the story wasn’t unsympathetic to mysterious happenings. For one thing, the strange voices that existed in Justin's head belonged to two crows. I really liked their dialogue with Justin as they often mocked and teased him and added humour to the story.
The dystopian setting was very thoroughly planned out, so much so it took quite a while to figure out how things fitted together and what terms like praetorian and patrician meant in the context of the story. I liked the fact that all the information I might have wanted to know about the characters or how the society worked wasn't dumped into the narrative straight away. Small bits of information were fed into the story but I actually found out about a lot further into the story where it fitted naturally into the plot. I like intrigue in a story and the way Richelle Mead drip fed information helped keep my interest and curiosity piqued.
Mae Koskinen was a kickass heroine. She was a super soldier, brave and vulnerable. Richelle Mead developed a really detailed backstory for her, going right back to childhood, and this permeated the whole plot and was reflected really well in Mae's personality and emotional reactions. Dr Justin March was confident, arrogant, and cocky. And yet there was something charming and irresistible about him. Women fell at his feet. A part of me felt like I should have been slightly annoyed by the choice of lead female and male characters, both extremely good looking and irresistible to the opposite sex. But Mae was occasionally grumpy, often annoyed at Justin, and also very vulnerable, making her so much than just a pretty face, and likewise Justin also had a softer, caring side to him. This balance of personal qualities and backstory really fleshed out the characters and also added so much to the plot. But the characters can't be considered alone - it was their dynamic, love-hate relationship that made up a big, ongoing part of the plot. There was so much chemistry between them and yet there was also a lot tension between them because they had to work together and Justin tried to resist Mae. The tension sizzled on the pages and was fascinating to read.
One of the main things I loved about this book was the intrigue. I could tell that what Justin and Mae started investigating was only a small part of the bigger picture. The plot was like a puzzle that I wanted to figure out and piece together. And I guess this is why the title is 'Gameboard of the Gods' - mysterious forces were at work without the reader knowing who was behind it all or why. By the end of the story there was still much more to find out and I'm really interested to finding out how things are linked together.
As the first in the Age of X series, Gameboard of the Gods is an exciting, action packed and steamy mystery set in a future dystopian society - a series to keep your eye on!