Richelle Mead, the #1 New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Vampire Academy and Bloodlines YA series—whose books have sold more than one million copies in hardcover—delivers the first novel in her new series, Gameboard of the Gods.
The first installment of Richelle Mead’s Age of X series has all the elements that have made her bestselling Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series such megasuccesses: sexy, irresistible characters; romantic and mythological intrigue; and relentless action and suspense.
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.
About the Author
RICHELLE MEAD is the #1 New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Vampire Academy series and its spinoff series, Bloodlines. Originally from Michigan, Richelle now lives in Seattle, Washington.
Read an Excerpt
CHAPTER 1 She Usually Wears Black
Mae dealt out death regularly. It really wasn’t a problem.
Death was clean on the battlefield, and there was no reason to dwell on what it meant. The kills were just mission objectives, and the people weren’t really people at all. It was you or them. And when the fight was done, you could just walk away.
But today? There was no walking away. Today, she was walking toward death, and that scared the hell out of her. Not much else did these days.
With a deep breath, she leaned her cheek against the living room mirror, closing her eyes and taking comfort in the way the glass cooled her skin. She repeated the soldier’s creed over and over in her head, using the familiar words to steady herself: I am a soldier of the Republic. I do not serve my own will but that of my country. I am its tool and will gladly lay down my life to further this nation’s glory. I am a soldier of the Republic. I do not serve my own will but that of my country . . .
A knock at the door startled her out of her mantra, and she straightened up. Another deep breath calmed the shaking of her hands, and she pushed her emotions into a far compartment in her mind. Locked away, those feelings could not touch her. They were powerless, and she was free. She double checked her face in the mirror, but it gave nothing away. It was blank. Empty. In control.
Dag and Val were at the door, as she’d known they’d be. They greeted her with forced smiles that were a far cry from their usual happy-go-lucky selves. Both wore uniforms identical to hers: a mandarin-collared black jacket over black pants with black boots. Black everywhere. Even the buttons were black. The only color came from a scarlet pip on the collar, standing out like a drop of blood. To the inexperienced eye, these uniforms looked no different from the ones the praetorians usually wore into battle. To Mae, who could see and feel the dressy fabric of their formal attire, the uniform seemed flimsy and brought back her earlier fears of vulnerability. Being weaponless wasn’t helping matters.
“Here to babysit me?” she asked.
“Who said anything about babysitters?” Dag was always quick with a smile, though his eyes betrayed him that morning. “We’re just a bunch of friends going out together.”
“You make it sound like we’re going to a bar,” Mae said. She walked back to the mirror and examined the braided bun she’d so painstakingly worked on. Grimacing, she pulled out the hairpins and began unraveling it all.
Val made herself comfortable on the arm of the couch, lazy and limber as a cat, even under these circumstances. “What are you doing?”
“It’s messy,” Mae said.
“There wasn’t a hair out of place,” protested Val.
Mae didn’t answer. In the mirror, she saw her friends exchange troubled glances behind her. It’s worse than I thought, Val seemed to be saying. Dag’s expression said he was in agreement but didn’t entirely know how to handle it. Snapping a neck, lifting weights, donut eating contests. Those were in his comfort zone. Therapy? Less so.
It wasn’t part of Val’s skill set either. Neither knew quite what do with Mae, and she certainly wasn’t going to help them out—because she didn’t want them to do anything. She wanted them to treat her in their usual flippant way. And what she wanted most was for this day to be over, so that life could return to normal.
“How many times have you braided it today?” Val’s voice was uncharacteristically gentle.
“It’s not right,” Mae said, dodging the question. This was actually the eighth time she’d braided her hair. She kept pulling so tightly that her scalp had started to turn red, though the tiny metal implant in her arm dutifully dulled the pain. “You wouldn’t understand.”
Neither Val nor Dag ever had hair problems. Dag always kept his dark hair closely shaved, and Val wore hers in a pixie cut that suited her diminutive frame. I should cut mine, Mae thought. She’d considered it a hundred times but could never bring herself to do it.
“It’s okay, you know. Grief is a normal part of the, um, process.” Dag had apparently been reading self-help books before coming over. “You can even cry.”
“Why would I do that?” Mae pulled so hard on a strand of hair that she winced.
“Because that’s what people do when they lose someone they care about,” said Val. “You’re so tightly wound up that you’ll explode if you don’t relax. And do not undo that. It’s fine.”
Mae had just finished her hair again, neatly wrapping the braid into a perfect knot above the back of her neck. She really was on the verge of pulling it out again when Val grabbed her arm. “Enough, Mae. We’re going to be late.”
It was another bad sign, Val using her real name instead of her pet name, Finn. But Mae couldn’t deny her friend’s point. It was time to go. With one last glance in the mirror, she let them lead her outside to the subway entrance across the street. They took the blue line out to the base, earning a number of startled looks from other passengers. Praetorians weren’t that common outside of military and federal centers. A group of them was especially unusual. The passengers kept their distance and glanced around the train uneasily, wondering if they should expect a terrorist attack.
The threesome ended up reaching the base early, but plenty of other praetorians were already entering the ceremonial hall. And here, Mae faltered, stopping just outside the entrance. The spring sunshine was far too bright and cheery for a day like today. Dag touched her arm. “You okay?”
“You don’t have to go,” Val told her.
Mae shook her head and continued forward. “Everything’s fine.”
Neat rows of chairs filled the hall, which was nearly packed with praetorians. The news had come in less than a week ago, and it would have taken a fair amount of scrambling to pull so many of the guard back in from their scattered assignments. Some wouldn’t be here, of course. It was the nature of the job. But, the death of a praetorian was so monumental that their superiors would’ve certainly done whatever they could to ensure a good showing.
Although there was no official seating chart, the praetorians were gathering in cohorts. Val waved at someone across the room. The Scarlets had already taken over a middle position and were beckoning them over. Val and Dag started to head in that direction, but Mae stopped again, allowing her eyes to focus on the front of the hall.
There’d been no body to recover, but they’d still set out a casket made of a dark, gleaming wood. Praetorian black. A swathe of indigo silk covered it, with the RUNA’s flag draped over that. Piles of gardenias sat on either side, their softness contrasting with the clean lines of the casket.
Not caring if Val and Dag followed her or not, Mae turned toward the center aisle that led straight to the shrine. A bubble of emotion—sorrow and panic combined—began to rise within her, and she staunchly pushed it down. Throwing back her shoulders, holding her chin high, she began the impossibly long walk toward the front of the room. People stepped aside for her, and those who hadn’t noticed her before now stopped to stare. She ignored those looks, along with the whispers that soon followed. She kept her gaze fixed firmly ahead, silently repeating the creed: I am a soldier of the Republic. I do not serve my own will but that of my country. Those words were echoed by her mother’s, spoken so many years ago: You can ignore the rest because you’re better than them. Empty yourself of all feeling because if they can’t see it, then they can’t use it against you.
Those standing near the front also parted for her, moving away from the casket. Nearby conversation fell silent. There was a golden plate affixed to the dark wood, just under the flag. Porfirio Aldaya, Indigo Cohort. His dates of service were listed below, along with a Latin inscription that probably mentioned honor and duty. Mae ran her finger tips over his name, and suddenly the scent of the gardenias became cloying and oppressive. The world spun, and she closed her eyes.
Porfirio is dead. It didn’t seem possible that someone so full of life, someone who burned with passion and energy, could truly be gone from this world. She couldn’t bring herself to mull over what had happened to him after death. Had his consciousness truly ceased to exist? Or was he in some paradise that religious zealots preached about?
“You killed him, you know.”
Mae opened her eyes at the familiar voice and slowly turned around. Drusilla Kavi stood there, hands on her hips, her dark eyes flashing with a mix of grief and rage that mirrored Mae’s own feelings. Kavi was half a foot shorter, and Mae had no difficulty keeping her face still and flat in the face of that anger. Other praetorians standing nearby watched intently.
“You killed him,” Kavi repeated. The indigo pip on her collar was an echo of Porfirio’s. “You might as well have set the bomb yourself, you fucking castal bitch. He wouldn’t have gone if it wasn’t for you.”
Mae had been called worse and had learned to ignore that kind of thing long ago. “Porfirio made his own choices. No one could make him to do anything.” She refused to be baited and tried to step around the other woman. Be calm. Be superior. “Excuse me, I need to return to my cohort.”
“Don’t walk away from me!” yelled Kavi. Her voice rang through the hall, and anyone who hadn’t been aware of the unfolding drama now was. Kavi grabbed Mae’s arm. “Do you even feel anything? Did you even care when he died? How can you be so cold?”
Mae jerked her arm back and felt the first kindling of anger. “Don’t touch me again. And don’t insult him by making a scene.” Mae turned around and saw that Val and Dag were standing nearby, as were a number of other Scarlets. Behind Kavi, several Indigos had also gathered. Backup. All of their faces were tense and hard as they braced to defend their own. The praetorians had a remarkable history of dangerous encounters, but brawling at a funeral probably wasn’t in the books.
“Is that what happens to the men you fuck? You kill them?” Kavi caught hold of Mae again and spun her around. “I told you not to walk away from me! You killed him!”
“And I told you not to touch me.”
That was when everything snapped. Kavi hadn’t just shattered the tight reins of Mae’s discipline; she’d also opened up all those boxes that Mae had used to lock up her feelings. All the grief, all the fury, all the guilt . . . every emotion that Mae had carefully packed and filed away since she’d learned of Porfirio’s death came pouring out. The floodgates burst, and Kavi was in their path.
Praetorians were fast, their reflexes surpassing those of ordinary soldiers. It was what defined them and was what the implant enhanced. When Mae struck out and punched Kavi in the face, Kavi should have at least seen it coming. Maybe she wouldn’t have had a chance to react fully, but she should’ve had warning. It was clear from the widening of her eyes as she flew backward into a row of chairs that she’d been completely unprepared for the attack.
Once the action started, though, her reflexes kicked in. She jumped up with little delay, but Mae was already on her again. Kavi made a few attempts to land a hit, but Mae dodged each time. A leap to the side, as perfect as anything she’d ever done in the canne combat of her youth, gave Mae the opportunity to shove the other woman backward. Kavi hit the ground, much more ungracefully than any praetorian should have. They were usually like cats, but Kavi had trouble righting herself. Her response was still fast by other people’s standards—but was a couple seconds too long by theirs. There was no chance for her to defend herself when Mae shot forward and kicked her in the stomach. It was immediately followed by a hit to the knee. Mae heard a crack, and Kavi screamed as she fell to the ground.
Battle mode kicked in so automatically that Mae was barely aware of what she did, only that she had to keep fighting and make sure Kavi stayed down. Endorphins and neurotransmitters surged within Mae, making her stronger and faster—but there was something else enhancing them today, a strange darkness flooding her senses and urging her to destroy. It overshadowed her like a cloak, an outside power that insidiously crept its way into her, letting her revel in the joy of violence and pain. Panic briefly seized Mae as she recognized the unwelcome sensation: No, not again. But her mental protests were soon swallowed in the haze of battle.
Kavi struggled a little, vainly trying to get up, but Mae kept her foe pinned down as she punched again and again. Mae became dimly aware of blood on the other woman’s face and the sound of shouts growing louder and louder around them. And all the while, Mae just kept thinking, Porfirio is dead, Porfirio is dead . . .
She didn’t know how much time passed before strong arms pulled her up and away. Her vision was tinged with red, and adrenaline, urged on by the implant, churned furiously within her. And then slowly, agonizingly, the world came into focus again. That grief-driven rage faded, and more importantly, the dark power that had descended upon her lifted. She saw regular gray and maroon clad soldiers coming into the room, along with military police. None of them touched her, though. Two praetorians restrained her, the only ones who could hold her in full flight-or-fight mode.
“Easy, Finn. Easy.” Mae realized one of her captors was Dag. “You won. It’s over.”
That was when Mae finally dared to look down to the ground. Kavi wasn’t dead, though her breathing came raggedly, her eyes mere slits. One of her legs was bent at an unnatural angle, and blood covered her swollen face. It looked as though her nose had been broken. Mae stared in horror, unable to believe what she’d done. Praetorians fought among themselves more often than anyone liked to admit. When you had a group of people who were so physical and so chemically driven, it was hard for altercations not to break out. Usually, opponents were evenly matched. Sure, there would be a victor, but the fights were rarely all or nothing.
But this? It was nothing. Kavi was nothing. She’d never gotten in a hit. As Mae’s implant continued to wind down and metabolize the excess adrenaline, she tried to make sense of what had happened. The praetorians holding her finally deemed her calm enough to release to the MPs hovering nervously nearby. Mae offered no resistance. She allowed them to lead her out, but not before giving Kavi one last, disbelieving look.
They left Mae in a cell all day, which gave her a lot of time to analyze what had happened. There was no denying it: she’d cracked. She’d been weak and allowed her emotions to get the better of her. Even acknowledging that point to herself was humiliating. A little jabbing from Kavi, and Mae’s armor had crumbled.
But more than Kavi’s barbs had gotten through. Even now, Mae felt cold and nauseous as she remembered the dark force that had filled her as she fought, a force she was certain had nothing to do with her implant or sorrow. It keeps happening, she thought frantically. Mae’s life was focused on being the master of her body, and the idea of something else taking control shattered everything she fought for. It had to be some trick of her mind . . . because what else could it be? I should tell someone. I should see a doctor. But that thought was nearly as frightening. Praetorians who saw psychiatrists usually didn’t stay praetorians for long. No one was going to pair mental instability with a performance enhancing implant.
One other question burned in Mae’s mind as she waited out the day. Why had Kavi been so slow to react? Or had Mae just been that fast? No, the more she thought about it, the more Mae was certain there had been nothing unusual about the way she’d fought. Yes, she’d been more emotional than usual, but that shouldn’t have affected anything. Even the rush of that dark power couldn’t create that kind of disparity.
Why had Kavi been so slow?
Mae had no answer by the time the MPs came to take her away again. They escorted her to a conference room, where she found General Gan sitting at the end of a long table. He wore the regular military’s uniform now, all gray, save for the jacket’s upper half, which was maroon. It was bedecked with the medals of his rank and a black stripe on the collar that showed he’d once been a praetorian. More silver laced his dark hair than when she’d first met him years ago, but the constant intensity and purpose in his eyes never changed.
Mae’s stomach sank further. She’d hoped someone else would be there to chastise her, maybe one of his many underlings. It wasn’t his rank she feared, so much as the thought of disappointing him. He gave a small nod to the MPs, and they left, shutting the door behind them. Silence fell in the long room.
“Sit,” said Gan at last. He pointed to a chair about half way down the table. Mae obeyed.
“So. I hear there was an incident today.” Gan was a master of the understatement.
Mae stared straight ahead. She had never shirked responsibility and wasn’t about to now. “I was out of line, sir. I will gladly accept any punishment you see fit to give me.” Suspension, she thought bleakly. They’ll suspend me for sure, unless they just kick me out altogether.
He shrugged. “It was a rough day. It’s understandable that emotions would run high, especially in the wake of losing a friend.”
Gan knew perfectly well that Porfirio had been more than a friend, and his sympathy bothered Mae as much as Val and Dag’s. She would’ve preferred to be yelled at and told how completely disgraceful and inappropriate her actions were—because they had been. She decided to remind him of this because obviously, his fondness was clouding his judgment.
“What I did was unacceptable, sir. Unforgiveable.”
That brought a small smile to the general’s mouth, thought it didn’t soften the lines of his face. “I’ve seen worse, and half your cohort’s been in to tell me about how wronged you were. Valeria Jardin and Linus Dagsson have made particular nuisances of themselves.” Yes, they most certainly would. “That doesn’t mean we can ignore what happened, of course. The incident will be noted in your record, and you’ll be suspended from regular duty.”
Suspended from regular duty. She’d expected it, but it was still tough to swallow.
“Don’t worry. You won’t be locked away or confined to a desk.” He snorted. “I can’t imagine giving one of you a desk job. I can’t even imagine one of you sitting still for very long. Praetorians are too valuable to waste, and I have a task for you.”
“I’ll do anything you require of me, sir.”
He drummed his fingers against the table, momentarily lost in thought. “It’s a strange errand, but a necessary one—one that unexpectedly just came up and may be a good opportunity for you to . . . adjust to recent events. We wouldn’t ask it of you if it wasn’t important, of course.”
“Of course, sir.” His use of “task” and “errand” didn’t reassure her any, but Mae still hoped she might be sent to some volatile location. It’d be no more than she deserved, and maybe in glorious battle, she’d redeem herself.
“I need you to go to Panama City. Have you ever been there?”
It took Mae a few moments to answer. Panama City? There’d be no glorious battle there. The RUNA had no conflict with that region. In fact, she’d heard there were tentative trading negotiations in the works. Panama was still provincial, of course, filled with unchecked religion, a gangster-run government, and old and new aristocracies vying for power. Tame compared to other places.
“No, sir. I’ve never been there.”
“Well, you’re going there now. I’ll have the mission details sent to you, and we can meet again once you’ve read them over.”
“Of course, sir.” She hesitated over her next words. She had no business asking questions in light of what she’d done. Obedience was her only path. Yet, no matter how much she pretended otherwise around others, she knew she was one of Gan’s favorites. He’d let her ask. “Sir . . . how is Praetorian Kavi?”
“She’s fine—well, considering the circumstances, that is. She’ll be hospitalized for a while and then be off-duty as she recovers. You did a neat job of breaking her leg.”
Mae winced, and an image of Kavi’s bloody face flashed through her mind. Praetorians were difficult to hurt. And even more difficult to kill, but it happened to Porfirio. “I’m sorry, sir. I should visit her and apologize.”
Gan chuckled. “I wouldn’t recommend that. I don’t think she’ll want to see you anytime soon. I’d avoid the Indigo cohort in general, if I were you.” He studied Mae carefully, weighing her with those knowing eyes. “Go ahead. Ask your next question.”
“Sir . . .” She had to look away from that gaze. “Kavi was slow. She should’ve reacted more quickly, but she didn’t. Why? Why did she react so badly? What was wrong?”
Gan’s answer took a long time, and Mae dared a look up. “Maybe there was nothing wrong with her. Maybe you’re just that good.”
Mae knew she was good, but she was certain there was more to it than that. It nagged at her, but contradicting the general was unacceptable, so she let the matter go. He dismissed her, and as she neared the door, a final question popped into her head. “Sir, will I have my implant deactivated as part of my punishment?” It had been known to happen, and it scared her almost as much as full suspension or inactivity.
Gan actually looked surprised, which didn’t happen very often. “What? Of course not. I’d hardly send you to the provinces unprotected. And you’ll hold your rank and title too. Although . . .”
Mae froze. She didn’t know what was coming, but there was something in the tone of his voice that contradicted his casual demeanor. That, and all of this had been too easy.
“It’s a small thing. You won’t be allowed to wear a praetorian uniform until further notice. This mission won’t require a uniform at all, really, but if the situation arises for some other reason, you’ll have to wear gray.”
He was right. It was such a small, small thing, but his words hit Mae with the same force as a prison sentence would have. No black. Until that moment, she hadn’t realized how big a role the uniform played in defining who she was. The implant and the title were part of it too, but the black lent a power of its own. It separated her from others who were less worthy. She looked down at what she wore, the dress uniform she’d been so contemptuous of earlier. Now, she would give anything to keep it on. How long until I can wear black again?
Gan tilted his head and gave her a puzzled look. “I assume there’s no problem with that?”
“No, sir. Of course not.” She swallowed. No black. “I’m a soldier of the Republic.”
What People are Saying About This
Praise for Richelle Mead and her novels
"An engaging read, with an unusually tangible, believable, living story world, featuring a protagonist of unexpected depth and sympathy."
Jim Butcher, New York Times bestselling author of the Dresden Files, on Succubus Blues
"Writing this book tempts me to believe in angels...or deals with the devil. Succubus Blues is original, exciting, seductive stuff, filled with characters I'd sell my soul to meet."
Rachel Caine, New York Times bestselling author of the Morganville Vampires series
"The most exciting yet...Mead's storytelling improves with each installment as she keeps readers on the edge of their seats while adding a few unexpected twists."
Associated Press on Blood Promise, the fourth installment in the Vampire Academy series
"Mead's absorbing, debut YA novel...blends intricately detailed fantasy with a contemporary setting, teen-relevant issues, and a diverse...cast of supporting characters."
Booklist on Vampire Academy
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Are people forgetting that Mead has written adult novels before? She has an entire adult series that's built around a Succubus and those books are several years old. They are also excellently written and have a depth of character to them that's missing in lots of books now-a-days. So could everyone please stop calling this book her "debut" into adult novels, her debut came long ago and it was excellent.
I’ve been a loyal fan of Richelle Mead since The Vampire Academy series and this new series did not let me down. The setting for this series is in the future after religious extremists nearly wipe out all of humanity. Now all religious factions and supernatural claims are monitored and investigated by servitors. One such servitor, Justin March, is sent into exile after failing at his job. Now he is being recalled and Mae Koskinen, an enhanced soldier, is sent to bring him back to help solve a string of ritualistic murders which turns into so much more than the two may be able to handle. In typical Mead fashion we have very fleshed out characters, even the minor ones. Her characters are not perfect and in fact are extremely flawed. Justin is an alcoholic and a druggy and loves to smoke and Mae has severe control issues. The future world that Mead has created isn’t too far out of my comfort zone and I could picture what she wrote. One thing that is obvious is that these Gods need people to worship them and since they aren’t getting it they are going to act out and make sure someone notices. From page one I was absorbed into this world and I look forward to the next installment. Since The Gameboard of Gods focused more on the development of the characters I do hope the next one has more of a storyline. Well worth the read and definitely different than anything she has written before and is catered towards adults and for people with an open mind (and don’t compare this to her Vampire Academy series). (ARC was provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review)
WOW!! This book is SO GOOD. I do have to say that the first half of this book had taken the longest to read through. Just because there was a lot of back history of the characters. Which is really important for this story. Then after that I could not put this book down. I love the whole idea that Richelle Mead came up with for this book. And Richelle is such an awesome story teller and this book shows that. I love the Mythological Gods and this was so worth the wait to read. Now I just cannot wait to read book 2!! Please Richelle please hurry with book 2!! I can't wait to long for the next book. I HAVE to find out what will happen in the next story. Will Mae and Justin finally get to be with each other?? Will Mae finally know why Justin is the way he is with her??? I have to know these questions!! I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book to anyone that loves Mythology and who loves Richelle Mead's work. Thank you so much Richelle for writing such an amazing story. I totally loved it and cannot wait to read more and more of your books!!
Reminded me a bit of Gaiman's American Gods, but not quite so dark
This is truly an outstanding novel. The writing was exactly what I’ve come to expect from this author: beautifully crafted, intricately detailed and character-driven. My favorite part of the book was the world building. Rather than explain the dynamics of this post-apocalyptic world all in the first chapter like many do, Mead reveals it gradually, spread across the whole of the novel in a wonderfully organic way. I particularly liked the fact that the RUNA government isn’t necessarily an inherently evil one, as many of them are in dystopian novels. There are definitely aspects of it that are shady, but I can also see the benefits of living in such a society and why it inspires such blind nationalism in Mae and Justin. The development of the plot is also incredible. The story starts with a bang and there is no lack of heart-pounding, breathtaking action, but it is the intricate blend of mythology into this technology driven world that is truly gripping. I do have to admit that when Mead finally reveals which god is following Justin around I had to be really angry at myself because it was totally obvious in hindsight. Especially given the fact that I used to obsessively study and compare all the different pantheons of gods when I was flirting with becoming a Wicca in my early twenties. The characters? There are so many its hard to keep up sometimes. The novel is told from the viewpoint of three: Mae, Justin and Tessa, and I will focus my discussion on them, although I really loved all of the secondary characters, especially Justin’s connections in the cult sects. Seeing the story unfold from three different perspectives is not as distracting as it could have been. I didn’t love it, especially during the times when it would take a couple of pages for me to be sure who was narrating, but I didn’t hate it. I do have to admit that I don’t really understand why Tessa’s perspective was necessary, other than to perhaps give us a view of RUNA from somebody who does not see it as the greatest country in the world. Otherwise, she seems kind of pointless to me. Mae on the other hand. Oh how I love Mae. She’s so many wonderful things at once, so fierce and brilliant, fragile and strong and just the kind of woman I want to be when I grow up. Justin is the worst though. In a lot of ways he reminded me of Adrian, of Mead’s VA/Bloodlines series’, but where Adrian’s narcissistic, self-destructive personality is balanced by his charm and giant heart…Justin is just a mess. I can understand that he’s damaged and afraid but he does and says some pretty unforgivable things. I kept trying to like him but I just couldn’t do it. Hopefully he’ll redeem himself later but for now I’m just going to put him at the top of my No column. Honestly the best part of his character were the two ravens providing some very entertaining dialogue in his head. While I don’t like Justin at all, I did appreciate the development of his relationship with Mae. While they are physically intimate pretty early on, a sex scene that was very tastefully done, I can appreciate why he’s torn over his feelings for her, I just hate the way he hurts her rather than just be upfront with her, especially once she begins to accept the idea that there are supernatural godly forces at work in their universe. I’m curious to see how their relationship develops, even if I think she deserves better. What I didn’t love about the novel, other than Justin of course, was that no matter how hard I tried I could not lose myself in it. It took me days to read it, even though I started it while I was on vacation with nothing better to do with my time. My favorite thing about reading is that feeling I get when I lose myself completely into the books world. I forget that I’m reading a story and instead live it with the characters. This was not the case with Gameboard of the Gods. It just couldn’t engage all of my senses in the way I needed to make it a truly enjoyable reading experience. However the story and characters were intriguing enough to keep me going and having me truly looking forward to the next book. I also must point out that I really really loved the chapter titles. They were so much fun.
The world has nearly been destroyed by the religious zealots. The RUNA is now the super power of the world, rejecting all forms of religious beliefs. Dr. Justin March was a servitor, a judge on all religious practices for the RUNA, until he made a tragic mistake and was sent into exile. Mae Koskinen is beautiful, Nordic and a praetorian, super human military warrior. After an incident involving a fight with her co-worker, Mae is sent to retrieve and exiled doctor in Panama as her “punishment”. Justin jumps at the chance to return to civilization bringing a provincial 16 year old, Tessa, with him. Assigned to Justin as his body guard, Mae and Justin traverse a web of lies to slowly uncover the truth behind the heinous killings of superbly bread aristocrats in the caste. Dead ends and unusual twists plague their pursuit. If they fail another caste will die at the full moon. If they fail Justin, Tessa and even his sister and son Quetin’s future are all at a risk. I have to admit I spent a large portion of this book confused. I was trying to work out the story and back reading, seeing if I missed something. The truth was, I didn’t miss anything. Lots of things are talked about but never explained till much later. The complete explanation of what’s happening is actually explained in the last 10% of the story. Don’t get me wrong, I was riveted to the pages, all the while searching for something to give me a clue so that it would all click...and when it did it was mind blowing. Richelle Mead masterfully creates a totally original dystopian world for us to explore. Although I had some problems with the plot building, the continuation of Age of X series exhibits enormous POTENTIAL. I will definitely be following this series to see where it leads. This is a world where the myths of gods and goddesses collide with futuristic technology and belief systems that destroy worship. Knowledge is key but wisdom will win the battle. I enjoyed Gameboard of the Gods and can’t wait to see where Richelle Mead takes us next. There is a lot of action, some romance but lots of romantic tension, and a wonderful mystery to explore. Gameboard of the Gods will have you coming back for more. I give this story 3 1/2 stars. This ARC copy of Gameboard of the Gods was given to me by Penguin Group USA - Dutton Adultin exchange for a honest review. Publication Date June 4, 2013.
I really enjoyed this book. I wouldn't consider it 'light' reading, as you really had to pay attention to what was going on and understand the jargon. This is also not a YA novel. Just because you are a fan of Vampire Academy and Bloodlines does not mean you are going to enjoy this book. I think Mead did an excellent job creating a futuristic world that didn't feel overly sci-fi and it was completely believable. Since this was the first book in the series, she had quite a bit of setting up to do to introduce us to this world and its characters. The book is told from multiple POV's and while that can be irritating to some, it didn't bother me. Granted, I enjoyed reading about the main characters, Mae and Justin, more than Tessa, a side character. At the start of the novel we are introduced to Mae Koskinen, who is a deadly, fierce, praetorian (military enforcer, if you will). My first thoughts were that she has been trained not to surrender to her emotions and that her duty is first and foremost to her country. She had a very cool exterior, but as we saw in the first chapter, if provoked and prodded hard enough, that cool exterior will crumble and take care of business. Justin March, on the other hand, has been exiled to Panama when he meets Mae for the first time. He immediately takes notice of how beautiful she is, and after meeting, the two see a sadness and vulnerability in the other that connects them. Justin, however, has a reputation as a bit of a playboy, and indulges in vices like drinking and drugs. However, Justin is a bit more complicated than that. He is at war with himself and unseen forces that are ultimately trying to manipulate him. Therefore, he is forced to expel whatever feelings he may have for Mae. While I understand his reasonings why, he absolutely infuriated me to no end. Upon returning to the RUNA to start their investigation, we see the cool exterior Mae carries turn into an icy, standoffish one. I loved the development of Mae throughout the novel. The novel later reveals why she is so obsessed with control and how difficult it is for her to show vulnerability. People have said they felt Justin and Mae's relationship feels fake, but I disagree. Mae is a control freak and she is afraid of losing control, which is why in the later half of the book she really struggles with some of Justin's thoughts and beliefs. There is definitely an instant attraction between these two, but there is no insta-love, that's for sure. Despite everything, the two respect each other and learn to trust one another with their lives. When I first saw that she was coming out with this novel and it was about the gods, I was so excited. This book however, very subtly introduces the gods into the storyline and it really becomes a subplot to the mystery and investigation taking place. However, she weaves them in just enough to intrigue us and then slams us with the whopper at the end. (Which I loved!) Throughout the course of the book, questions are raised, revelations are revealed, and Mead definitely leaves you wanting so much more. *Thank you to Dutton for providing me with an advanced copy of this book for review in return for a fair and honest review.*
I just love Richelle Mead's writing. I love the VA series and the Bloodline series. I am hoping I get hooked into this one too. Can't wait for the next book to see where she goes with it.
This book has love, mystery, and intrigue. The first book in the series has a lot of explanations which makes it a longer read but since it is based in a futuristic society it is needed. Richelle hit a home run with this one. This is an adult book and while some teenagers may be ready to read another book by Mrs. Mead. the reading level for this book is much higher than Vampire Academy.
I've read all the Rachel Morgan (Kim Harrison) and Harry Dresden (Jim Butcher) novels. This was a better debut novel. The plot was innovative (futuristic with much of our present day technology). Justin and Mae's character development was perfectly suited to a, hopefully, long series. Lastly, the topics explored were relevant and well developed (government, religion, genetics and societal classes). Richelle Mead tells a very good story. Highly recommend.
This is a fabulous book for people that love myths, scifi and mystery... Some people posted reviews claiming that the world was confusing but it all gets cleared up by the end. Some of the characters are jerks who think they are smarter than everyone else... then again, i know plenty of people in real life who are jerks that think they are smarter than everyone else! A great story about myth, gods and the difference between being smart and being wise. Reminded me of a scfi version of Gainan's American Gods... Can't wait to read the next one!
I honestly loved vampire academy and this was not like it The third person narration is annoying - i wish the characters would have more voice. Tooooo many details.over and over again.
~Reviewed by FRANCESCA & posted at Under the Covers Book Blog “Well Richelle Mead has done it again! … The world is complex, the characters full of depth and the trademark action and mystery packed storyline that Mead always delivers is what has me looking forward to where this series can go from here.” ~Under the Covers What can you expect from GAMEBOARD OF THE GODS? Well Richelle Mead has done it again! She has an amazing ability for creating beautifully complex worlds, usually full of supernatural creatures. GAMEBOARD OF THE GODS is so different! A sort of post-apocalyptic world with a touch of supernatural elements. A game of Gods, religion and politics. All wrapped up in such well crafted writing! In this world, churches are not allowed to exist unless they are approved by the state. Churches who pray to “Gods” are to be immediately shut down and the priests put in jail. And that may be because sometimes Gods can be tricky. People have been ravaged by a virus and some are genetically altered. They are all ranked by their ability to reproduce. Mae Koskinen is a Praetorian, an elite soldier. She’s tough, she has super speed and strength. She’s also shut down her emotions, her way of battling her inner demons. She is sent to bring out of exile one Justin March. Justin used to be a religious investigator for the state in RUNA but he was getting a bit too close to the truth of the Gods and was quickly sent away. Justin has his own inner demons, which he prefers drowning in alcohol. Now, with Justin back in RUNA and working with Mae, they discover deeper and darker things about their world, the Gods and themselves. While coming back to RUNA, Justin negotiates to bring back the daughter of his friend from exile, Tessa. Tessa has never been to RUNA and now has to discover how to adapt in search of a better life. This brings me to the different POVs. You get to read this book from Justin, Mae and Tessa’s POV. I think this was very clever in Mead’s part because Tessa’s perspective is the perfect complement to learn more about the world they are entering. I can’t wait to read more about her! Mae and Justin do have good chemistry although I don’t think they are anywhere close to being able to be together. They do grow a lot individually throughout this book. Even though at times I wanted things to work out differently so they could be together, I also understand the point of having them wait and deal with their own issues. They are both damaged characters and they need to heal some of those wounds or they could do more harm than good to each other. Ms. Mead gives us a fresh and unique twist to adult urban fantasy focusing on mythology, set in a dystopian-style world and throwing in some genetic manipulation. The world is complex, the characters full of depth and the trademark action and mystery packed storyline that Mead always delivers is what has me looking forward to where this series can go from here. What could’ve been better? The pacing of the story. I have to admit that parts of this book read very slow and drag, but after the humps they pick right back up. This is not a simple world and the good thing is there is no info dump, however readers can get a bit lost at times trying to keep up with some of the information. By the end of the story, though, you should be up to speed and hopefully well prepared for the next book! *ARC provided by publisher
Richelle Mead is one of my favorite authors and this new series didn't disappoint me at all. I greatly enjoyed everything about it, but perhaps I'm just not as picky as other readers after reading some of the reviews others have left. I would definitely give this series a shot and if you don't like it try any of her other series cause I think they are all amazing.
After reading Vampire Academy at 14 and Bloodlines just recently, I craved more of Richelle Mead's amazing and refreshing storytelling. Most teen fiction is a dissapointment as you get older, but I've never been let down by books from Richelle Mead. With a story that keeps you on edge, a dynamic romance, and unforgettable characters I would recomend this book (and many of her other books) to anybody!
I truly enjoyed this! I was worried because i thought it might be a YA book, but it was not. What a great premiss, very original. I liked the characters, even, or maybe, because of their flaws.....It kept my interest to the very end...can't wait for the next one,
Started a little slow, but as i got into the book it became a page turner.
This was a long book with many confusing twists and turns but i absolutely loved it.
I honestly picked up Richelle Mead's Gameboard of the Gods blind. But, after meeting her and listening to the Q&A discussion on June 6, 2013, I was intrigued. I have not read any of her adult or YA books, so I had no reference to go by regarding her writings. I am actually glad that I haven't read any of her books yet, so I could read her new adult novel with fresh eyes. After reading this, Richelle Mead has amazed me with the story of a very vivid futuristic world and the layered details of her characters. It was definitely an ambitious novel intertwining sci-fi, theology, supernatural elements and a mystery all together. I loved it!!! Richelle Mead did an amazing job in world-building and character-building. With every turn of the page, I was pulled in to their world as if I was also following them on their investigation. The relationship between Justin and Mae is often strained, but yet, funny, as they walk the thin line between desire and denial.
This book was hard to get into at first but i kept reading bc i love richelle mead! Once i got a few chapters in i was hooked. I love Mae! She's strong and beautiful, smart and loyal. Most reviews ihave read are hard on Justi but I canthelp but fsll in live w him too. Yes he is an addict , a womanizer, and a manipulator, but i also think hes brilliant. I love the new world storyline but i admit it was very confusing at times and i had to go back and reread. I think a lead-in prologue wld help clarify the new terminolgy and themes. I look forward to the second book!
My Thoughts: This was a hard book to read and I found it was even harder to review. Now, please throw your torches away; I didn't say it was bad. I just said it was a hard book to follow. It felt all over the place, even though you do get some world building in it, the story kinda tells it as you go and personally, I felt lost a little bit. I found myself going back, checking on what certain terms meant, and so on. You know how some fantasy books have terms and definitions in the beginning so you have a little heads up. I think this book should definitely invest in one of those nifty little things. So for the world building it was a love hate relationship for me. I would have liked more world building but what we did get was descriptive and definitely painted a strange new alternate world. The character development made up for the lack of world building for me though. I fell in love with Mae. She is a complex woman that doesn't follow any set rules for how she needs to be. I love that she is a fighter. I really have this amazing respect for strong women who can defend their own and just about everyone else too. Mae is that woman! For me, it seemed like I really was drawn to Mae, while the rest of the world feared her. Maybe that is what did it for me too; the vulnerability that she keeps deep inside. Justin March, on the other hand, was such a douche. Yes, he has this bad boy attitude, yes he is very smart, yes he has other promising qualities but......I just could not like him. He had his moments, though, that I did say "maybe" for him but in the end I wasn't really impressed with him as the main male lead. But I think that wasn't because he was badly written; he was actually written really well to incite such intense distaste that I had for him. This is of course a romance story and it is front and center. There is also a murder mystery but it doesn't really seem to be the full focus of the novel. It seems like they glaze over it and then boom they solve it. There are details but I really felt lost in it all. I did like the interesting concept of a rule over religions. That definitely captured my attention and was original. Overall, Gameboard of the Gods has a Greek feel to it with terms like plebians, patricians, and the strictness of it all. But that isn't the only gods that are possible in this book. That is what saved it for me for this book. The mythology and power of the different gods. Also the beliefs of the Runa that they could control and destroy these entities makes for a great read. I love mythology and this was an interesting take on it for an adult read. I give it 3 out of 5 hearts!
Cool new look on religion & mythology
*Book source ~ NetGalley What happens when, in a dystopian world where religion is strictly regulated, the old gods begin to return? I had a hard time with some of the terminology and plot in this story. That’s not to say it isn’t interesting because it is. Religious extremists brought about The Decline, a dark time in the world’s history, so now all religion is strictly regulated by servitors. If they show any sign of gaining ground then the servitors find a way to revoke their license and shut them down. There is also policy in place to make people as genetically diverse as possible since having ethnic groups banding together against other ethnic groups also contributed to The Decline. The people are truly a melting pot. Except for the rich who were exempt from the mandates. Of course. Typical. The story revolves around Mae Koskinen, a praetorian (elite military force), and Dr. Justin March, a servitor of some renown, who was exiled for mentioning the supernatural in one of his reports. But they want him back to solve a series of ritualistic murders and it’s during this investigation that things of a supernatural nature are brought to light, something the New World Order doesn’t want to believe. But the old gods don’t care what the government believes. They’re coming back and they’re pissed about being banished. An enjoyable and interesting read, but I’m not chomping at the bit to continue the series. If that makes sense at all.
Very interesting and well- written. Looking forward to more!