Review: Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead

Rating: 5 stars
Pub Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Genre: adult, paranormal, scifi
Format/Source: DRC from Netgalley
Status: book 1 of the Age of X series

Disclaimer 1: This digital review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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.

I want everyone to take a good look at the publisher and genre information above. It says adult. A-D-U-L-T. This is important for two reasons: 1. I got very frustrated reading reviews about Gameboard that talk about how disappointed readers were that it wasn't anything like Vampire Academy and 2. MHALBB is a young adult blog, but here I am reviewing an adult book so what gives? Well, Dutton very graciously granted me access to the DRC despite my preference for young adult so I figured I should do the Right Thing and review the book to complete the social contract and also, there's actually a really nice secondary story arc in Gameboard featuring a teenage girl. #WINNING

Gameboard is unlike anything I've read in recent memory. It's adult, for one, which is a genre that I occasionally jump into, but usually only if I am a fan of the author, which is clearly the case here. Also, it's futuristic but NOT dystopian. SHOCKER! Also, Gameboard mixes its futuristic elements with a weighty militaristic presence, religious fanaticism, and archaic mythology. You'd really think that these things wouldn't and couldn't mesh well, but they really do. The feel of the book reflects the melding of beliefs and cultures of the world Richelle has created.

Speaking of the world, I will admit that the setup is a little hard to get a handle on. There are new world powers pieced together from current countries, similar to the worlds presented in the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer or Legend series by Marie Lu, and there are all sorts of new technologies, etc, to get used to. I read a review complaining that it took until page 70-something for acronym RUNA to be explained. Well, to that I say that 1. the name is explained in full in the description, 2. Richelle provided several resources for background information, which you can find here, and finally, 3. even if you didn't read the description or background info in advance, I think Richelle does a good job of pacing the information throughout the story, interweaving it into the plot as the information applies. Seriously, guys, if she just laid it all out like a history lesson during the beginning, we'd be complaining about info dump. We can't have it both ways, and I think this is extremely preferable.

As far as the characters go, I really liked them. Justin is a charming scoundrel with with two inner voices who frequently talk to him. Horatio and Magnus, his "ravens", are one of the more confusing aspects of the book, but trust me, all will be explained in time. I kind of liked the way they harped on him. Justin is a superior man in all ways: he's good-looking and crazy intelligent/observant like the guys from The Mentalist and Castle combined, and he knows it. It was awesome seeing Magnus and Horatio not put up with his crap. Mae is a badass super-warrior chic who doesn't take crap from anybody, but she lets it burrow inside, making her considerably emotionally vulnerable, although she has crazy strong walls that she puts up so no one will notice. And no one does--except Justin. 

Tessa rounds out our main characters. She's Justin's sixteen year old ward from Panama, a less-refined country according to RUNA citizens. When Justin makes a deal to end his exile from RUNA, he manages to bring Tessa along as a favor to her father, which gives her the opportunity for a better education and life. Tessa is smart and sure of herself until she is presented with teenage life in a culture vastly different from the life she had known before. In Panama, Tessa was part of the highest social circle, which meant she was hidden away from the public until the time when she would be presented for marriage. Now, she has to learn how to deal with Mean Girls, school, and peer pressure. She handles herself as well as can be expected. I really love her scenes as she navigates this new social world full of technology. The scene where she meets up with Mae's best friends Val and Dag is hands-down my favorite of the whole book. I thought I was going to die laughing while reading it. Although this is an adult novel due to sexual content, language, and just adult life, any teen who reads should feel connected to Tessa and understand her frustrations and excitement at exploring a new world.

The actual investigation that Justin and Mae are involved with is not the most interesting part of the book, even though it provides the catalyst for the plot. I was not entirely interested or invested in it until it became obvious that the investigation is intrinsically tied to Mae's past and future. Then the pace really picked up and came to an exhilarating climax. Absolutely brilliant. Richelle never skimps on the excitement, and Gameboard is no exception. She even managed to surprise me with a detail I overlooked and pieces of a puzzle I never thought to put together. Well played, Richelle Mead. You got me!

Richelle's adult books can be rather hit or miss as I mostly liked the books of the Dark Swan but consider much of the Georgina Kincaid series to be somewhat meh. I definitely think that Gameboard is on the better end of the scale. Iam certainly eagerly awaiting book two of the Age of X series with much anticipation.

Recommended for: Adults or older teenagers. Anyone looking for a futuristic-but-not-dystopian story. Anyone interested in religion or mythology.
Not recommended for: People who are only interested because they think this is the second coming of Vampire Academy. Totally different story and genre, people. VA 2.0 is Bloodlines.

Book Links:

About the Author:
Scorpio Richelle Mead is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy books for both adults and teens. Originally from Michigan, Richelle now lives in Seattle, Washington where she works on her three series full-time: Georgina Kincaid, Dark Swan, and Vampire Academy.

A life-long reader, Richelle has always loved mythology and folklore. When she can actually tear herself away from books (either reading or writing them), she enjoys bad reality TV, traveling, trying interesting cocktails, and shopping for dresses. She's a self-professed coffee addict and has a passion for all things wacky and humorous.
Author Links:


  1. This sounds like it has a lot of complex elements involved: military, religion, mythology. I'm intrigued!

    1. I know people sometimes think interesting is an insult. Like, you can't think of something else to say so you say it's interesting. No, in this case, interesting means interesting. It's fascinating and it makes you think. Very creative, very unique.

  2. Wow, I really need to read this book! I read Bloodlines and Vampire Academy series and LOVED it!

  3. MARY!!!!!! I actually stopped readi reviews for this book bc of all the issues you mentioned!!! It grated my nerves & took every ounce not to comment. Some people really only know Richelle for VA & don't realize that she actually has written mainly adult. I personally love all of her series. She is my all time fave writer. This book was phenomenal in my opinion & your review makes me want to re-read NOW!