Series: Age of X #1
Published by Penguin Australia on June 4, 2013
Source: Netgalley, Publisher
Genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy
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The truth is, when you banish the gods from the world, they eventually come back - with a vengeance.
In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists, Justin March is a former investigator of religious groups who was sent into exile after a failed job, a fate that has left the brilliant servitor bitter and free to indulge his addictive personality. Suddenly, Justin is sent home to the Republic of United North America (RUNA) with a peculiar assignment - to solve a string of ritualistic murders steeped in seemingly unexplainable phenomena.
Justin's unexpected return comes with an even bigger shock: his new partner and bodyguard, Mae, is a praetorian, one of the elite and deadly supersoldiers of the RUNA. Her inexplicably perfect beauty and aristocratic upbringing pique Justin's avid curiosity - and his desire - though her true nature holds more danger than anyone realizes.
As their investigation unfolds, Justin and Mae find themselves in the path of terrible danger. Mysterious enemies and powers greater than they can imagine have begun to assemble in the shadows, preparing to reclaim a world where humans are merely gamepieces on their board.
Gameboard of the Gods, the first novel of Richelle Mead's Age of X series, delivers all the elements that have made her bestselling Vampire Academy series a breakout success: sexy, irresistible characters; romantic and mythological intrigue; and breathless action and suspense.
For a futuristic society, Gameboard of the Gods is definitely not progressive.
In a world of religious extremists, RUNA (Republic of United North America) have established themselves as the superior state where their attitude, technology and lifestyle is clearly ‘better’ than others. Here, you’d encounter extreme castal segregation between the plebians (residents of RUNA) and patricians who are blonde hair and blue eyed and clearly different. All plebians look the same and have been conceived in a petrie dish whereas patricians are more superior because they’ve clung onto their cultural heritage. The plebians despise the patricians who live on old money and the patricians look down at disdain at the plebians who are the ‘lowly’ class. And then there are genmans who live in the rural areas, who are looked down upon by the plebians. It’s just a book full of cultural and race segregation and snobbery.
If you haven’t noticed already, there’s a lot of confusing, brand new concepts introduced here. This is only a small sample of what’s to come. Gameboard of the Gods is not an easy book to digest and read, and if you’re a fan of Richelle Mead’s previous paranormal books, this is on a league of its own in complex world building and new concepts.
If I didn’t read the blurb and hadn’t known the society was meant to be set in the future, I would have forgiven a lot of things. Despite the advanced technology, these people live like they’re back in Ancient Rome with the segregation and the punishing people for the worship of the Gods and slight hint of magic existing.
Mae and Justin are our protagonists who inevitably have an attraction with each other. Mae is a patrician and a praetorian who is one of RUNA’s super soldiers. She’s gifted with a microchip that gives her supreme reflexes and abilities to last in combat and major stamina. Justin is an investigator who is sent to work with Mae on some religious cults who are dealing with the supernatural. Unfortunately, he’s also an extreme womaniser, indulges in alcohol and drugs and a complete douche. This guy is attractive and he knows it and flaunts it. Everyone thinks he’s awesome for his ability to ‘investigate’ but yet he can’t hold on his own two feet in a fight.
Together, the pair develop a complex relationship rift with drama and uncertainty. Justin talks to two crows in his head who want him to serve a God, and Mae is apparently being followed by a God. You wouldn’t know the Gods were going to make an appearance until midway through the book; there’s been so much crammed in beforehand that it takes a while to get to.
I would have forgiven the extremely slow world building, if it wasn’t confusing, difficult to read, and filled with unlikable characters and slow character development. It’s fair enough that you introduce new concepts, which I applaud for the ambition and the creativity, but combined with weak explanations to particular plot points (such as why Justin is selected by a God) was just brain burning and difficult to get my head around.
I’m not sure why Richelle Mead chose to go down the JK Rowling path and try and seek out a new market with her first third person perspective, male protagonist, break into sci-fi fiction, but it seems like she needs a bit more practice in these areas instead of sticking to what she’s good at – enticing characters, smouldering romance and smart witty dialogue.
I received this book from Netgalley and Penguin Group Dutton in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much for this opportunity.
Rating: 2 out of 5