Gameboard of the Gods – by Richelle Mead
As you may already know, I’ve been a Richelle Mead fan since the first time I picked up Vampire Academy. What you mightn’t know is that I’ve tried and failed to read her previous adult paranormal fiction. The succubus series really never grabbed me, which was disappointing given how good Vampire Academy is.
I went in to reading Gameboard of the Gods, Mead’s newest novel, a dystopian/sci-fi adult novel that’s the first in her new “Age of X” series, with some trepidation. Ha! Completely unfounded. Gameboard of the Gods is fantastic. Here’s why:
Meet Mae Koskinen. She’s not just any law enforcement officer. Mae is a Praetorian. These elite, enhanced warriors are the pinnacle of the Runa’s armed forces – as terrifying as they are effective.
As a Government investigator of bogus religious groups, Justin Marsh has never had too much to do with the Praetorians. Except for the time they escorted him politely outside the Runa, never to return. You see, religious extremists nearly destroyed the world not too long ago, and the Runa will do anything to stop that happening again. But Justin’s seen too much. He knows there are forces at work that the Runa won’t acknowledge. And he fears that these forces aren’t going to remain in hiding much longer: whether the powers that be are ready to face up to them or not. When Justin refuses to cover up the paranormal truth behind one of his investigations, he’s fired and exiled.
After five years living in the uncivilised world outside the Runa, Justin is offered a chance he never expected – a chance to go back. If he can solve a set of murders that have stumped everyone else, the government will waive his banishment. With Mae as his
babysitter bodyguard, Justin has only a few weeks to get to the truth – no matter how strange.
My main concern with any novel is how well I connect with the characters – and Mead’s characters are fantastic. Mae is AWESOME. She’s completely kick-ass, funny, smart and really not willing to put up with Justin’s crap. For his part, Justin is damaged by years of bitter regret and alcohol, but still smarter than everyone else around him. And for all his faults, he is determined to find and face the truth. They’re an unlikely duo – of course – but an excellent pairing, with shades of pairings like Richard Castle and Kate Beckett.
The writing is up to Mead’s usual standard, which is excellent. And her world is fascinating. Mead does something I really enjoy, which is to not overly flesh out the setting – instead giving us a picture from the protagonist’s points of view, and allowing details to emerge naturally from there. This means you don’t get a particularly clear take on the world, but it’s a wonderfully organic way to experience a new culture. Much like when you travel overseas, you piece together the picture over time. This is one of my favourite world building techniques. It’s something Garth Nix also does beautifully.
But the main reason I am way too excited about Gameboard of the Gods is because it is so darn clever. The back story of the Runa is complex, the reactionary new government realistic, and the mysterious powers lurking in the shadows absolutely enthralling. Mead feeds her story through a drip, letting only tiny reveals filter through over time: it’s both maddening and exhilarating, dragging you along for the ride. I am fascinated by this world, and I want to know more. Thank goodness there’s going to be a sequel!
If you’re a Richelle Mead fan, you’ll love this book.
If you’re into powerful characters and a mystery you won’t be able to parse (until Mead lets you), this book is for you.
If you like intelligent and compelling dystopia, Gameboard of the Gods is a story you do not want to miss.
Have you read any Richelle Mead? Does her latest sound appealing?