Tomoe Hotaru's Reviews > Gameboard of the Gods

Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead
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it was ok
bookshelves: adult, romance, mythology, not-my-cuppa-tea, science-fiction

16 Jun '13
Please be warned that this review contains spoilers and language some people may find distasteful.


When I heard this would be an adult novel, I was expecting something that read more maturely. Sex scenes and drug use does not an adult novel make. In fact, controversial themes does not an adult novel make.
While I was looking forward to something deep -- a decidedly more mature tone in narrative, and a plot that does not reek so much of post-pubescent sexual drama -- what I received instead was just another strung up excuse to merge the rapidly overused tropes of forbidden love, handsome men and beautiful women, and alluringly assholeish love interests, under the pretense of a futuristic murder-mystery amidst a divine war.

That's right. Gameboard of the Gods would just be another one of your average YA Paranormal Romance series, weren't it for our main characters' older age-range and some sex scenes and drug abuse thrown in there.

For a start, all that talk about "working together to solve a string of ritualistic murders" the blurb so cunningly deceived me into looking forward to, did not actually make an active appearance in this novel until well past the 50% mark. And trust me when I say this was one long book, making the first half an extended experience of pure boredom.
Of course, if you enjoy reading about sexual tension and attempts of character build-up for over 200 pages, you may have a better experience than I did.
Now, I am usually a patient reader; I strive for character drama, I love vividly drawn and fleshed out personalities -- but only if it is done well. Gameboard of the Gods indeed attempted to do all that. Unfortunately, what was meant to be flashbacks and recounts for the purpose of justifying our main characters' current personalities, instead became thinly veiled disguises to further demonstrate their sexual prowess and lovelife.

I didn't care about how Mae and Porfirio (view spoiler) met for the first time, or how they fucked for the first time. But I had to read about it twice in two separate chapters. It did not progress the story in any way, nor did it provide any believable insight into Mae's character. So the girl likes to fuck, and is good at it. I could already tell by the way Justin kept going on and on about seeing that infamous "crown of stars and flowers" on her orgasm-face. I certainly did not need to read about Porfirio and Mae.
Her relationship with her family was perhaps more interesting in terms of drama. It gave more understanding to the way Mae was raised and how it shaped her as a character. However these subsidiary characters were flat, unidimensional, and just plain laughable.
This half-effort can be forgiven though, seeing as this is the first in a series, and the book was already far too long for my liking without throwing in fully-fleshed background characters.

Moving on from Mae, let us take a look at Justin. Our flirtatious, bastardly good-looking hero. Aside from being an obvious male-love-interest stereotype, there was one other thing I just couldn't help notice.

Justin March is gay.

And I do not mean that as an insult or belittlement in any way. It is simply an observation.

How else do you explain a man who knows way too much about clothes? Down to the fact of the year it came out??
Oh, there was a half-arsed attempt to explain his expertise in ladies' fashion:
The woman's dress was a deep plum crepe de chine, with no sleeves and a high neckline.

Who in the world knows what crepe de chine is? asked Horatio.

I had to learn that stuff a long time ago, Justin said.

Well I laugh at your poor attempt to explain away something completely irrelevant to the plot. Come on, Mead. Your readers are not stupid. Everyone knows you just want a way of describing what Mae is wearing. Having it done by the guy who obviously wants her in his bed would be a bonus, right?

Not convinced?

He always took inventory of her clothes, and she was casual today in a damask patterned blouse and jeans that did incredible things for her legs.

Mae was at the height of style, as always, even when casual. Her mother's dress was from last year. A small detail, but notable among castals.

No straight man cares that much about clothing. In the words of an ex boyfriend: "Who cares what you wear? I'm imagining you without it, anyway."

But enough speculation on character sexual-orientation.

Another problem I had with Gameboard was how needlessly long it was. Most of the scenes and even characters were completely useless, weren't it for their future roles in (I suspect) the sequels.
Tessa was completely useless. I certainly did not need to go into her highschool life. I was under the impression, after all, that I was reading an adult novel. However, it seems Mead simply cannot help herself, and a novel is incomplete without petty highschool scenes.
Her role in "solving the mystery" is also a complete boner-killer. How the plot panned out was a complete let-down. After all that build-up, after all that talk about how intelligent and observant and yaddah-yaddah-yaddah Justin was, we had everything solved by some random boy approaching Tessa and virtually handing out the answers to her??? I call bullshit and sheer laziness.

Admittedly, the world-building must have required a lot of thought and planning. Mead did a sufficient job of fleshing out her world, coming up with a relatively fresh take on a futuristic society. The downside is that I just couldn't give a single care about any of it.
I couldn't sympathize with the .... Provincials? (view spoiler) despite how unevenly handed their lives were. The blatant classism was there, and I knew it was supposed to be strong in this world Mead created, but it simply fell flat and "whatever" to me.
That's what happens when you try to disguise a YA novel as an adult book, but still have all the childish and trivial tropes make a blatantly strong appearance. I just can't take anything seriously.

And when I say "childish and trivial", I am mostly talking about our characters. As much as Mead tried to provide a deep background for them, there are still a few things that comes to the foreground, to which I just can't help associate to her previous series, Vampire Academy:

-Forbidden Love.

-Perfectly perfect characters: gorgeous heroine who is Da Bomb, who EVERYONE wants. Gorgeous hero who wants her but can't have her.

-Sexually aware and open heroine.

-Sexual tension I could not find remotely panty-wetting.

And of course:
-A "body-guard" heroine, who has to use her awesome strength and awesome perfectness to protect someone she's been assigned to.

Maybe Mead has some kind of fetish to this trope, since it seems she can't stop writing about it? Or can she simply not think of anything better?

The reason this frustrates me so much is because I hated Vampire Academy, and I was absolutely completely and utterly looking forward to something completely different in this "Adult" novel of hers.
Well, the plot may be different. The world may be different. But underneath all that, the blueprint is still the same.

you can also find my reviews at my blog


9 Jan '12
Richelle Mead and I didn't hit it off too well with Vampire Academy ; but I was turned off by the actual story rather than Mead's writing style, so I'm very much willing to give her another chance.

Not to mention this has nothing to do with Vampire Academy; fingers crossed for something different and refreshing!
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Reading Progress

January 8, 2013 – Shelved
June 6, 2013 – Started Reading
June 6, 2013 –
0.0% "So we start with a cold-blooded fight at the funeral of our heroine's lover, where our heroine was goaded into a fight by (what my guess is) probably a jealous ex-lover of the deceased.\n \n I see we're gonna have one of those types of perfect, "kick-ass" heroines.\n \n Hope this gets better."
June 10, 2013 –
17.0% "(...) Candace came scurrying back with a glass. "Thank you," Justin told her. It was only two words, but the way he smiled completely bedazzled Candace. She tripped as she returned to her seat.\n Mae shot Candace a look of contempt and turned back to Tessa with concern (...)\n \n Oh great, I can already foresee animosity towards fellow females who demonstrate the slightest sexual interest to our hero."
June 10, 2013 –
24.0% "More and more mysterious drama-slash-intrigue are being introduced to our plotline, and yet ..... I'm still waiting for the murder investigations or any actual piece of action to get happening."
June 11, 2013 –
27.0% "And yet, despite his bad habits, he'd occasionally show those flashes of brilliance (...)\n Justin latched on to small details, able to make astonishing deductions she never could've fathomed. His dedication to their case was fierce (...)\n \n Yawn. You tell me all this, but I haven't read a single thing about them actually working on the case."
June 11, 2013 –
48.0% "Omg now we're taken to a pointless flashback of how Mae met Porfirio, or her dead lover. Why do we care???? Holy shit this is boring."
June 14, 2013 –
62.0% "Oh great, now we're hearing about the whole Mae-meeting-Porfirio-for-the-first-time again; but this time, instead of a flashback, it's being recounted by a friend of Mae's.\n \n get to the fucking point of the book already!!!!!"
June 14, 2013 –
65.0% "Ah, now I know who the murderer is. And there hasn't even been much "investigation" on our MCs' parts. Please just end now, book."
June 15, 2013 –
68.0% "So far, Tessa's presence in this entire novel is SO unimportant, it feels as if the only reason the author spends so much time on her is to prepare her for a spin-off."
June 15, 2013 –
100.0% "Oh praise the Lord I'm finally done."
June 15, 2013 – Shelved as: adult
June 15, 2013 – Shelved as: romance
June 15, 2013 – Shelved as: mythology
June 15, 2013 – Shelved as: not-my-cuppa-tea
June 15, 2013 – Shelved as: science-fiction
June 15, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

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Navessa I had the same thoughts about Justin. What straight dude knows or cares if a dress is last year??? And reading about how the plot was solved makes me soooooo happy I DNF'd this. Fantastic review, Amanda!

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