Book Review: Richelle Mead’s Gameboard of the Gods

Posted June 3, 2013 by Kathy Davie in

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Richelle Mead’s Gameboard of the Gods

Gameboard of the Gods

on June 4, 2013 and has 448 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

First in the Age of X sci-fi/dystopian series revolving around two completely different people who don’t believe in gods.

Gameboard of the Gods was nominated in 2013 for the Goodreads Choice for Paranormal Fantasy. This was provided to me as an ARC; any quotations in this review may be changed in the final version of Gameboard of the Gods. I just couldn’t resist some of ’em!

My Take

It’s a “brand” new world that Mead has created — one that will have you checking the cover for the author’s name as it’s so different from the other stories she’s created. It’s also a confusing world. A little bit 1984, a little bit Brave New World with a dose of ancient Greece’s and Rome’s politics and myths.

There are too many names for RUNA and its inhabitants, and it’s not well explained. Part of my problem was mistaking Gemman for German, so it was a real surprise when I discovered the true location of RUNA. There appear to be two countries with any decent technology as Mead talks of the old junk that trickles down into Panama. The forced repatriation in the old days, and what it did to too many innocents. It definitely creates an intricate world of which I want to learn more.

I do like Justin’s character. No, I don’t admire all of his actions, and I think he has an incredibly narrow focus, but I do like his honesty in acknowledging why he does as he does and his integrity in standing up for what he believes. And I love his sense of honor in wanting to pay the help he received forward.

Justin is definitely a charmer…

“You don’t have to keep laying on the charm.”

“I don’t know how to stop it.”

Then again, that superiority he suddenly reverts to…I wanted to smack him. His ego (not the phone!) is so tremendous…!

It’s interesting that a country whose premise states that religion is a falsity set to delude man should find an educated man beset by Odin’s ravens and claimed by prophecy. Hmmmm…

There is so. Much. Going. On. in this story. It’s overwhelming. A totally new world with some whacked ideas, too many divisions of the world’s peoples, a lot of totalitarian enforcement, the conflicting religious themes with all that’s forbidden — and why some are tolerated, the hypocrites! — and that which is rising up to engulf the protagonists. It’s definitely a rich story — and you probably need to buy it as you’ll need to read and re-read to grasp everything.

I loved how Mead incorporated the background of this world into Justin’s investigation.

Part of me loves that fraudulent ministers are taken down, but another part of me is appalled with the government’s fear of regular people seeking to worship.

What was the deal about Ravi’s slow recovery? Mead kept going on about it, but never actually went anywhere with it?

Oh, crack me up…Tessa’s misadventure with that wall, and Dag and Val’s “help” with the aftermath…thank god that Tessa is normal…snicker…! Then there’s Justin’s observations about Tessa’s class project. Her film about Gemmans which reveals a truth they would never recognize.

Mead drove me wild with all the hints and innuendo about why Justin was banished…and it’s well worth reading to find out. The only part I hate is that I have to wait for Age of X 2!!

The Story

Finn has lost someone. Someone she loved, and her emotions are too unstable for confrontations. When one is forced on her, she snaps at what she perceives as her punishment duty — one that doesn’t allow her to wear her praetorian uniform. Babysitting duty.

Justin’s sense of honor and desire for truth has found him banished to Panama. A place where he survives by toadying up to the local powers. Lucky for him that the Panamanians see him as a curiosity. Only, one night Justin snaps, and it’s the perceived identity that brings Mae close to him.

Ahh, what it is to be in demand…and Justin takes as much advantage of it as he can to protect himself, his family, and those friends he can squeeze into the bargain.

The Characters

Mae “Finn” Koskinen is a Scarlet Praetorian of a Nordic castal background and furious with her punishment detail. Astrid Koskinen is her very controlling mother; her resentful siblings include Claudia married to Marius and Cyrus; and, we meet Niklis, her nephew. Kris Eriksson was one of Mae’s contemporaries in the territory, and he was about to “buy” her.

Dr. Justin March has been banished from the Republic, along with the raven figments of his imagination — Horatio and Magnus. His skill, his power you might say, is reading people, an ability he used to suss out religious frauds. It’s a power he tries to drown in his addictions to excess. Cynthia is the furious sister abandoned when Justin was forced out. Quentin is her son. Their mother is a drug addicted nightmare.

Leo Chan is one of the best biotech engineers Justin has ever known, and he’s gotten married to Dominic, who cossets his own vineyards. Lucian Darling, Justin’s former college roommate, is running for consul on a platform of the Decline being over and a New Age beginning.

Linus “Dag” Dasson and Valeria “Val” Jardin are Mae’s Praetorian friends; Giles Whitetree turns into a friend with benefits. All three are part of her Scarlet Cohort. Porfirio Aldaya was in the Indigo Cohort. Drusilla Kavi was in the Porfirio’s cohort and is more than furious with Mae. General Gan is the Praetorian commander.Praetorians are an elite military unit of the Republic, divided into different cohorts: Scarlets, Indigos, Azures, Violets, and Silvers. So elite, so different from the average Gemman that they were feared by all. They certainly do keep things lively in their parties and sex lives!

Claude Diaz is the priest of Our Lady, the Goddess of Nine Faces. Rafferty, a.k.a., the Golden Arrow, runs the Church of Apollo and Artemis. It’s his partner in crime, Callista, whom Justin is seeking; Persia is her daughter. Nadia Mehari is the Arianrhod priestess. Geraki is a cult leader who knows all about Justin’s ravens and passes on tips.

“Knowledge is not the same as wisdom.”

Sergio Cruz is one of Justin’s extremely conservative Panamanian friends; Marta is his wife. One he has promised to help. Teresa Cruz, a.k.a., Tessa, is his sixteen-year-old prodigy of a daughter. Her siblings include Laurentia who is engaged and Regina who took a year before she became engaged. Ms. Carmichael is Tessa’s snobby Gemman school principal who assigns her to a fellow student, Melissa, who is even snobbier, to show her around to even more condescending teachers and fellow students. I did enjoy Tessa’s retort to Melissa about understanding…! Poppy is the class rebel. Dennis takes Tessa to a religious service — horrors, alone with a boy!

Cornelia Kimora is the most incredibly snotty supervisor in Sect and Cult Investigation (SCI) in Internal Security (IS) — and Justin’s old boss; Francis Kyle has the sunnier personality and is her superior in IS. For all their “superior” airs, they’re terrified of anything outside their norm.

Detective Dahlia Johansson is with the Nordic police and antsy about having unsolved cases. The Brödern are Swedish mafia. Emil Fitzpatrick wants to extort aid from Mae in return for information she’s been seeking for years. Katrin is the hot little assassin. Darius Sandberg has information about his older brother Ilias.

Cristobal Martinez bankrolls Justin’s lifestyle in Panama, all so he can have a curiosity at his parties. Huan Korokov is part of the EA embassy in Panama.

Castals are patricians who have their own territory within the RUNA, due to having had the money to help the fledgling Republic and buy their way out of being forced to mix their bloodlines. They’re very inclusive and visiting within their territories is extremely restricted. I think Nordic nines are a high classification of bloodline, beauty, and intelligence. I think.

Canne is a type of martial art that resembles fencing.

An ego is not what you think! I do wish Mead had come up with a better term as this one is sooo confusing. Think of it as a smartphone on steroids.

The Eastern Alliance (EA) and RUNA are two of the strongest countries in this world. RUNA is Justin and Mae’s homeland, and its citizens are called Gemmans. They believe all religion is dangerous. Arcadia, a religiously driven country, is next door to RUNA.

The Cover and Title

The cover is blue, white and gray and very spare and airy, which IMO, does not reflect this rich, detailed, and involved story.

It’s the meeting with Callista that explains the title, a new era for this world when it becomes the Gameboard of the Gods.