Sunday, 7 July 2013

Gameboard of the Gods

Author: Richelle Mead
Series: Book 1 of Age of X series
Genre: Dystopian
Type: Kindle e-book Advanced Reading Copy (ARC)
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Penguin Group Dutton
First Published: June 4, 2013
First Line: "Mae dealt out death regularly."

Note: My sincere thanks to Penguin Group Dutton and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book DescriptionIn 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.

My ThoughtsMs Mead has written a very large, very complicated world and story complete with an interesting and diverse cast of characters.  It's evident that she took a lot of time to research and come up with her new world but its complexities may have been a little too much to explain while also upholding an interesting storyline. 

I think that the major hurdle that I had for truly getting into this book was the sheer amount of information that was given.  The ambitious building of Mead's world took a lot of the book but unfortunately without any maps or even glossaries it was hard for me to keep track of what she was envisioning.  I realize that Ms Mead has to build her dystopian world for the reader but it came off as several information dumps which really bogged down the pace of the book.  Even after these confusing info sessions about the world, I never really felt like I had a firm grasp on the terminology, the reason behind the Decline, why religions were to blame ......  Just so much information! 

In the end this is the general info that I took away from the book: The world is being overrun with various religions so the powers that be feel the need to police these religions to separate the religions from the zealots.  There are various gods who are attempting to reintroduce themselves to the world and trying some interesting ways to vie for control of specific people in order to gain a foothold on Earth.  Overall, there are a lot of details and rather confusing bits to the storyline that really got in the way with me really enjoying this book.  I persevered but in the end I still can't say that I have a really great grasp on the details of the book.  And that bugs me.  

I don't want to seem like I disliked this book because I didn't.  I really liked and was intrigued by the premise of gods being banished years before and now trying to make their ways back into the lives of the people of Earth using very different ways.  Unfortunately I just never felt like the book dealt with this main premise enough.

The book focuses much more time and energy on explaining the world and following the main characters using three points of view -- Justin, Mae and Tessa.  Mae was a character that I was drawn to right away.  She's a strong, 'take no crap' kinda gal and I loved her from the start.  When we learn more about her background later on in the book I liked her even more.

Young, teenage Tessa was also used to tell the story.  Tessa is a young woman who is brought from the Provinces into the big, wild, modern world of RUNA.  While she was a sweet addition to the cast I wasn't really sure why she was added.  The only thing I can come up with is that this book was used as an intro to Tessa who will have a much bigger role in future books.

Then there's Justin.  Well, he leaves a lot to be desired.  I think he was supposed to come off as this cocky, rough around the edges, full of vices kind of bad boy but I just didn't like him. To me he came off as an arrogant horn dog with voices in his head.  I just didn't feel the chemistry between Mae and Justin and I think that stems from the fact that I was expected to believe that they have this deep connection with each other after a brief interaction at the beginning of the book.  It was much more of a quick romp than some kind of soul connection.  I just didn't buy it.

Another issue that I had with the book was waiting for a certain issue to be explained and clarified.  I have no problem with an author taking their time to create tension and suspense.  Love that!  But when I have to wait almost halfway through a book to learn why Justin has two voices, he refers to as Ravens, inside his head talking to him I don't get a feeling of anticipation.  I initially get confused ... and then I get frustrated.

Finally, I felt like the murder mystery that Mae and Justin were so focused on took a backseat to the drama between the main characters and the world building.  Once the mystery finally got going towards the end and the tension begins to build ... ba-bam!!  It was solved, over and done with.  Wha??  There were details given but, honestly, by that time I was kind of glad Mae and Justin finally figured it all out.

Overall, this wasn't a favourite book of mine.  It was much too long, more than a little confusing and more complicated than it needed to be.  But it did have some interesting characters and a really great premise ... if it had been scaled down a bit and explained to the reader throughout.  This is an ambitious beginning to a new series.

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

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