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Gameboard of the Gods  - Richelle Mead 4 ½ stars

Originally posted at The Bookaholic Cat

Gameboard of the Gods is a book very rich in world building and character development. Mrs. Mead gives us a futuristic utopian world where biological manipulation, religion, and cultural separatism are seen as the cause from the Decline of the world.
Now with a new structure and a new government in place RUNA (Republic of the United North America) control the citizens’ lives to a tee to avoid another Decline. One of the things they control the most is religion. The government allows to a certain point the worship of fictional deities, but when the congregations become too organize or acquire to many followers they are soon shutdown by the government. One of the persons in charge of these decisions is Justin March or at least he was until he was exiled four years ago for something he did on his job.
Mae Koskinen is a Praetorian, Praetorians are the most elite guard force of RUNA; they are enhanced warriors with special abilities like extra strength, speed and accelerated healing.
After a fight with another Praetorian Mae is suspended from her job and assigned with the task of finding Justin in one of the Provinces (Panama) where he has been living since his exile and bringing him back to RUNA.
Justin has been dreaming with the day he will be allow to go back home (RUNA), and now that he is offered to solve a case involving ritualistic murders in exchange of the temporary reinstatement of his citizenship he knows he will do anything to make the offer a permanent situation.
Mae’s job didn’t end with bringing Justin back to RUNA as she was expecting; now she’s also assigned to be his bodyguard until he finishes with the investigation. A difficult assignment no only because Justin is not an easy person to be around, but also because of something that happened between them in Panama. To be able to solve this mystery they will have to leave their misgivings behind and work together if they want to come out of this alive.

There are many conflicted reviews about this book, luckily for me I’m on the “I loved this book” side. I said luckily for me because I really enjoyed this book a lot, so much that I can’t wait to read more.

I can understand why so many people didn’t like it, Gameboard of the Gods is not an easy or fast read, it’s not a book for everybody. This is a book that needs to be savor and read with complete immersion in the story to understand the complexity of the world Mrs. Mead created. Maybe a glossary would have helped to make things easier on the beginning; still it wasn’t too hard to follow or to understand the new terms and vocabulary introduced in the story, it just took a little bit more concentration than usual, especially during the first part of the book.

Gameboard of the Gods is told in third person and we get three different points of view. Mae, the warrior that even though she has travel outside of RUNA many times she doesn’t know much about how is the real life in the Provinces, all she knows is the life in RUNA, its structured society and its ideals. Justin, thanks to his circumstances in life knows about too very different lifestyles, the organized RUNA and the wild and unregulated Province life, and finally we get Tessa’s point of view. Tessa is the daughter of Justin’s friend; a smart girl from Panama that until very recently didn’t know any other life but that of the Provinces. Through her we see RUNA in a different way; we see how the advances in technology and social structure can be perceive by a stranger to this new world.

As a Servitor Justin shouldn’t believe in gods or deities or anything paranormal, but having the constantly presence of two talking ravens in his head not only question his sanity but his beliefs. That’s not the only thing Justin has to deal with, Justin’s brain works different and he’s always thinking, analyzing and studying everything he perceives. The only way he can numbs his overworking brain is with the excessive use of alcohol and drugs or in some cases in the bed of many women. Because of his actions Justin is a very difficult to like character, but the more we know him the more we understand his behavior, almost to a point where it can be justifiable.

Mae is strong on the outside and soft in the inside. Despite her elite status she hasn’t had an easy life; past experiences have made of her a woman who doesn’t trust easy. Mae has a dark side she doesn’t understand and it scares her, trying to understand it gets her closer to Justin even though that is the last thing they both want.

Tessa is an interesting character that brings to life the softer side of Justin and Mae. She’s a smart girl discovering a new world and through her eyes we discover it as well.
Tessa’s role is the story is not very well determined, but I’m sure she will have a more important part in the future books to come.

The plot is slow going but well paced, the mystery is interesting enough to keep us glued to the pages, the writing in the best Richelle Mead’s style is top-notch, and the world building is structured, innovative and unique.
Gameboard of the Gods is a fascinating read with engaging characters and an entangling futuristic story very rich in mythology and folklore.
As I said before I loved this book and I recommend you to give it a chance.
I’m looking forward to the second book in this series.