I am a HUGE Richelle Mead fan and I’ve devoured all, and I do mean all, of her series (yes, her 2 adult series with Georgina and Eugenie, as well as her Vampire Academy series). All of these sadly came to an end and I’ve been eagerly awaiting her new adult series, The Age of X. Gameboard of the Gods is the first novel in this new series and holy smokes is it 180 degrees different than anything she’s written to date, but not in a bad way.
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.
Gameboard of the Gods, the first installment of Richelle Mead’s Age of X series, will have all the elements that have made her YA Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series such megasuccesses: sexy, irresistible characters; romantic and mythological intrigue; and relentless action and suspense.
I’m still in book hangover mode, so please forgive me. And by hangover, I mean in complete awe, for several reasons. Mostly good. Mead fans, I assure you that her magnetic writing style is still in place, but it’s different somehow. Gameboard of the Gods wasn’t difficult to read, but it took me over 50% longer to get through it than with any of her other novels. I don’t think Gameboard of the Gods is all that much longer than her previous adult novels (or perhaps some of the later VA novels) but there was just soooo much information and world building to get through and get done. I truly felt that even though there were several parts where the action waned, you couldn’t skip for fear you’d miss some important detail about this new world or a piece of information that is either foreshadowing for future books or a tidbit you’ll need as Gameboard of the Gods main plot progresses.
Also, do NOT, and I mean under no circumstances, expect Gameboard of the Gods to be a sexy and steamy as her Dark Swan or Succubus series. Now there is some romantic undertones and I would not be surprised if the hero/heroine end up together at the end of the series, but I would not classify Gameboard of the Gods or the series (best I can tell the rest of the Age of X series will follow the same pattern) as PNR. At best it’s UF, heavy on the “F” part–fantasy. Gameboard of the Gods is classic UF in that we should be following the same hero/heroine throughout each book, best I can tell thus far (back to that foreshadowing and some outright information given towards the end), which isn’t necessarily different from Mead’s previous adult series. We also have some supernatural/paranormal aspects, but mainly stemming from various mythologies. We have some Norse and Greek mythos thus far that appear in Gameboard of the Gods. I’m guessing before the series is complete, we’ll get more mythos introduced. I can’t say too much more on what else you’ll see or I could give away a plot point in Gameboard of the Gods. That is where we end similarities for UF. By and far I would consider Gameboard of the Gods a fantasy novel, and Age of X a fantasy series.
The setting is in a sort of post-apocalyptic era world (RUNA is compromised of the former US and parts of Canada and Mexico). So not a “new” world and to be honest, I’m not sure that what led to the creation of this “new” world would be what I would consider an apocalypse. Lots of world building put really simply and short, due to human mating/breeding practices, and religious fanatics, there were some diseases that cropped up that led to a lot of deaths (not like the black plague as far as the how, but the result somewhat similar in terms of loss of life). Mead did an excellent job with the worldbuilding and explaining all of this. It’s artfully woven in and furthers not only the main plot of Gameboard of the Gods, but the over-arching storyline for this series. It’s one of the things I love about her writing. My attempt at keeping this information brief and understandable does not do what is really going on and how Mead describes it and weaves it in any kind of justice. Accept my apologies. It’s just very hard to describe without basically regurgitating the entire book.
Now since I’ve read all of Mead’s work and been to a few of her signings, I know she has this entire series plotted out, at least as far as major events and what she wants for each book and how everything will end. We’ll get those famous twists and turns, though, I’m sure. I am once again hooked on a Richelle Mead series. I was a bit unsure what to expect with this new Age of X series, as the description I’d heard at her last signing I attended and through bits and pieces I saw on her blog and over twitter, left me wondering what to expect. I knew Gameboard of the Gods would be pretty different and I am not a person who does change well. Mead had a great thing going with her hybrid PNR/UF adult and her brilliant VA series; so why change directions and do something new? Well, because that is how you grow as a writer.
I’m glad Mead took the risk with going in a totally new direction with her writing. Gameboard of the Gods is an excellent start to what I’m sure will be another fantastic series and I think this is one risk that will pay off for her in the end. So Mead fans and fantasy fans who haven’t yet discovered her, I highly encourage you to pick up Gameboard of the Gods; it is another great showing of Mead’s talented writing.