Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies's Reviews > Gameboard of the Gods

Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead
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I have a great deal of respect for an author who chooses to go outside of his or her comfort zone, particularly when the tried and true formula has been so ridiculously successful in the past. Richelle Mead's previous winners (and there have been many) have all featured strong, confident heroines who sardonic and sarcastic at times, but vulnerable and---the key word here--eminently likeable. The supporting casts tend to be no less memorable bunch, and the world building is clear and well-explained, in the case that the book is set in a paranormal or alternate universe. Sadly, none of the above was true with this book.

I have to give credit where it's due; I have tremendous respect for Richelle Mead for trying something new. In this case, it did not work for me.

There is nothing wrong with the quality of the writing, one could say there was nothing technically wrong with the book, my problems with the book goes beyond the technicalities. Actually, technical is the word I would use to describe what I read of Gameboard of the Gods. The world, the characters, the plot. Technical, sterile, cold, completely lacking in vivacity. Unlike Georgina, unlike Rose, unlike Seth, Dmitri, Adrian, I didn't feel a damn thing for any of the characters in the book beyond that of disinterest and mild disapproval. I can even say that I do not hate any of the characters; hate is a strong word, hate implies a strong provocation of emotion, and these characters lack the complexity and any sort of personality trait required to evoke any strong sense of sentiment in me, for better or worse.

The book's narration is third person, robotic, unemotional, and unengrossing. I hate to keep making comparisons with Richelle Mead's other books, but it can't be helped. I laughed, I blushed, I cried along with the characters in her other books. I rejoiced along with them, I worried for them...I felt absolutely nothing for the characters in this book, and I just can't adequately imagine the world in which they live.

Confusing world building: Unlike her previous books, this one is set in the future, in a new, likely dystopian universe. There is no slow building up of the world. We are plopped right into it, new vocabulary, new concepts, new world-building is thrown at us immediately with little explanation. Praetorians, RUNA, EA, castal, ravens, Gemmans, servitors? What the hell? And the explanations? Very few, very brief, very confusing, completely nonsensical at times, like the concept of genomic purity numbering was for me. I still don't know if a high number is considered good or bad; some of the explanations in this book were just downright confusing and contradictory.

I am fine with a gradual immersion into a dystopian world or a new concept of world building. I like developing my own theories and then have it be proven correct or false as more information is revealed throughout the book. Here is the problem. The information is never CLEARLY or TIMELY given out. Halfway through the book, I was mostly as confused as I started, and considerably more impatient. Not only were information dished out by the dropful, the book had gotten nowhere by midpoint and my interest has been considerably dwindling since the beginning. A good book keeps its reader riveted; this book does not hit the mark.

So many things do not make sense in this book, from the concept of racial purity to the explanation of the current world in which the book is set. Mae's racial purity and her prized bloodline, described almost Aryan-nation style; she is described as a "castal princess" so often. Castes, or rather, racial purity is so prized throughout the book and yet the Gemman nation is dedicated to stamping out inequality: "The RUNA held three things responsible for the Decline: biological manipulation, religion, and cultural separatism. All of the early genetic mixing had gone a long way toward stamping out group solidarity, and the loose Greco-Roman models the country had adopted had provided a new, all-encompassing culture that everyone could be a part of."

Maybe things are explained more clearly through the latter half of the book, but for me, I've reached my breaking point and I'm not sticking around long enough to find out more about a world in which our altogether unenthralling characters inhabit.

Mae: the perfect praetorian princess, she is almost Mary-Sue like in her icy princess perfection. I had a little horrified moment in the beginning of the book when I realized what I was getting myself into when Mae was described as being so beautiful she could command an entire room, and having hair "like winter sunlight." To top it off, she is a praetorian, artificially enhanced to have superhuman strength (and can eat whatever she wants because of her ridiculously elevated metabolism!), and prized for the untainted Nordic racial heritage. I'm a little baffled at this racial thing, to be honest. Richelle Mead never makes it so that racial purity is a major issue in society, but yet she emphasizes it so much within this book that I don't quite understand the point she's trying to make. Mae's perfectionism extends to her personality, she is so utterly without complexity and character, and I couldn't find myself caring about her or what happens to her. She's just a bodyguard, and in action, that's all she is; she's supposed to be one of the main characters, yet we see little of her that makes any sort of impression.

Sidenote: am I the only one who laughed at the name Porfirio Aldaya? In the beginning when Mae was mourning his death, I just wanted to stand up and yell "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!"

Justin: another brilliant rake, dissolute, deprived. Mae's insta-lust (cue rolling eyes here). Supposedly grieving and reeling from the death of her love, Mae sees Justin across a room and feels "a sudden and unexpected physical attraction. Every man she’d met today paled beside this one." Ugh. Justin is supposed to be a genius, brilliant. Again and again, he allegedly possesses such intelligence and perspicacity that RUNA wants him back from exile. There's honestly no evidence of it. His examples of brilliance are hearsay, and described as such in the book repeatedly, but there is no evidence of it in his actions. "Justin latched on to small details, able to make astonishing deductions she never could’ve fathomed. His dedication to their case was fierce, and when he spoke of it and explained the psychology of religious groups to her, she couldn’t help but be fascinated." They're just that. Descriptions of his supposedly smarts, nowhere we see him demonstrate that intelligence. Justin interviews some people, and then takes a lot of drugs, then seduces some women and pisses off Mae. I don't mean he's passive. Passivity is not a bad quality, a quiet, unassuming hero (SETH!) I can bear and come to love. Justin is just not demonstrative in any quality, good or bad.

Tessa: is there a point to Tessa? Is there a reason for throwing a 16-year old "intelligent" provincial girl into the mix when she so far plays no role whatsoever in the plot besides as a further attempt to humanize Justin and give him a paternal quality aside from his drug-addicted, womanizing nincompoopery?

I'm done with this book for now...I might return to it at a later date but so far, there's little inclination.
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Reading Progress

May 5, 2013 – Shelved
May 5, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
June 10, 2013 – Started Reading
June 10, 2013 –
page 67
14.96% "The narrative, MC, and possible love interest are leaving me absolutely cold. Not a good start.\n \n The writing is fine, the MC is a little too perfect for my the color of "winter sunlight." The world building is confusing, but I'm just beginning the book, hopefully it'll improve, but it hasn't captured me at all. Georgina, Rose, and Sydney all had a spark that Mae is lacking."
June 11, 2013 –
page 125
27.9% "There's a lot of race/genomic purity/Aryan nation shit in here. It's weird. World building is really vague and confusing. Still not liking any of the main characters. For being the supposed main character here, Mae has very little narrative time."
June 11, 2013 –
page 134
29.91% "Tessa's dad is a moron. I know he wants her to have a better life, but to send her off with someone he barely knows from reputation just like that? Hello? Do child predators not exist in the future or something?"
June 12, 2013 –
page 167
37.28% "So far, it feels like two separate stories, Justin and Mae's. Justin's supposed to be brilliant, and that's why they want him back, but so far I'm seeing no evidence of his genius besides hearsay. He hasn't done anything to show it."
June 16, 2013 –
page 178
39.73% "A few painful pages at a time...ugh. It just drags on and on and on."
June 17, 2013 –
page 185
41.29% "I don't think I can do this anymore..."
June 17, 2013 –
page 245
June 17, 2013 – Finished Reading
June 18, 2013 – Shelved as: adult
June 18, 2013 – Shelved as: did-not-finish
June 18, 2013 – Shelved as: high-school
June 18, 2013 – Shelved as: on-hold
June 18, 2013 – Shelved as: alternate-universe
June 18, 2013 – Shelved as: jericho-fucking-barrons
June 18, 2013 – Shelved as: boring-main-character
June 18, 2013 – Shelved as: dystopian
June 18, 2013 – Shelved as: mystery
June 18, 2013 – Shelved as: sci-fi

Comments Showing 1-33 of 33 (33 new)

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message 1: by Butterfly (new)

Butterfly that's because he trusted justin. You know that justin had promised them a better life. He owned a debt and her father knew he would pay the debt back in some way

Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies I know he took Justin in when he was newly arrived in Panama but he doesn't know anything of Justin besides what he claims to be.

message 3: by Butterfly (new)

Butterfly Yeah, but still. If you knew that you could get maybe not you but someone in your family out of the horrible country they lived in then of cource he would. Maybe Justin proved himself to be trust worthy in his eyes.

Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies That's true. Panama isn't exactly Afghanistan but I guess with all his dreams of the Gemman cities, he wanted his daughter to have a better life even knowing the risk.

message 5: by Butterfly (new)

Butterfly See?? People will do the most crazy things to save/protect their family.

Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies Depends on the family member. At one point I'd have left my baby sister to the wolves ;)

message 7: by Butterfly (new)

Butterfly LOL, yeah that's right. Same here, I have 6 younger siblings so I wanted to leave them all to the wolves.

Shannon A dnf? Really? I'm actually enjoying it though I'll admit it's moving at a very languid pace. Do you ever come back to dnfs?

Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies Yes, I do, mostly YAs that do not require too much of a time investment. Usually if I DNF something it happens within 50 pages, and this one is such a big time investment for absolutely nothing so far. Do you like Mae? She hasn't grown on me at all.

Shannon I do like Mae. This actually hasn't felt like a big time investment for me though, her writing is like YA no matter what she writes (which is good for me because it's what my brain can handle.) The parts with Tessa are great too.

I saw on one of your statuses a friend of yours gave this 1 star ... But I checked and she hated the first Georgina. I think it's safe to say that if you don't like one of her adult series you probably won't like any of her others.

I'm near the end and the pieces are all starting to fit together, which is my favorite part of her books. Yes, there's a lot of what might seem like filler and not a whole lot of action but when there is, it's pretty intense. This is the first book and its setting things up.

I'm not going to finish this tonight but I don't think it's going to end horribly. There might be a cliffhanger in sight, but I don't mind those as long as the largest parts of the book get wrapped up.

Also, you know how Mead is. She loves to keep things from her characters which results in angst. That's just a given.

Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies I'll DNF it for now and give it a shot after you finish if you end up liking it. And speaking of Dark Swan, I'm reading a book with an awesome kitsune. I'm laughing my ass off at her antics.

message 12: by Navessa (last edited Jun 18, 2013 04:25AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Navessa I'm guessing she meant me as I too DNF'd this and pretty much hated SB. And though I liked VA I think The Holy Terror is right in that if you don't like one Mead adult novel, you probably won't like the rest. For me, this is because themes that I can tolerate in YA I can't in more mature novels. I guess I just expect adults to act...more like adults. These characters felt exceedingly immature to me and like you Khanh, I couldn't connect with them, which is sad because I thought the plot was good.

Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies They didn't feel immature to me, but the plot was too much telling and not enough characterization. And it was sloooow too. Justin does absolutely nothing for being such an important man. He feels more like an auditor than a servitor.

am I the only one who laughed at the name Porfirio Aldaya?

I started reading out of curiosity last week, and when I was reading this part I was torn between thinking Porfirio is Italian or Filipino. *shrug*

is there a point to Tessa?

Token Minority character? :) I haven't met Tessa yet, but when Justin first mentioned her, I immediately thought, "Sequel MC!" Also, the portrayal of the Panamanians in the book so far (I'm at 15%) isn't positive in any way that I can see. So, my guess is she's gonna be one of the very few nicely-portrayed Panamanians in the book.

Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies Yeah, lol. Her experience at school turned out to be so Mean Girls...

Angélica Khanh wrote: "Yeah, lol. Her experience at school turned out to be so Mean Girls..."

Ugh. That is so overused already. Mean Girls is fun because it made something different out of the cliché. But

Oh, about the YA tone, when I started reading it, I actually thought it was YA, even with the mentions of sexual relationships because, hey, future setting, right? Then came Justin's POV. So far, I haven't the faintest notion of what their ages are. Or maybe it's already been mentioned and I wasn't paying attention.

Tomoe Hotaru excellent review, captured every problem I had with the book (and you didn't even finish it, if I'm not wrong?)
For me personally, the ending didn't make up for the first 80% of the book, although it did pick up speed, so you're not missing out on much.

Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies I might go back later and skim it...I probably wouldn't miss much if I do, the book's pacing is so slow :P

Stacia (the 2010 club) I agree with most of your review. It was cold and there wasn't much to draw you into liking the characters, although I think I did like the kid.

I'm a little sadface over Litchick not liking Georgina though.

Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies I'm aghast at the fact that anyone can dislike Charley (Darynda Jones) or Georgina, but I get that snark isn't for everyone.

Stacia (the 2010 club) I was only so-so on Charley book 1, but it's a series I'd like to get back to. I keep hearing that it gets better.

Snark is awesome when done right. Some authors try too hard and it looks forced.

Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies I do have my bias. I tolerate and love particular types of snark in some characters and series, and end up hating and interpreting as bitchiness in others. It's a fine line and I'm not sure where mine is drawn sometimes.

Angélica I agree with you on snark. It's just like humor, you got to make it just right so it's not trying hard nor unfunny.

Navessa It wasn't Georgina's snark that caused my dislike. More her can't-make-up-my-mind syndrome paired w the telling-not-showing style of character development.

❅ (Titania) (hiatus) Awesome review, as always. Always great to hear the dish on books instead of "THE BEST THING ON EARTH, IM FANIGIRLING ALL THE TIME" --.--

message 26: by TL (new) - rated it 2 stars

TL you hit the nail on the head herr, I was thinking the same things... loved the idea but I just couldn't get through the book

message 28: by Ioana (new) - added it

Ioana You are so right about this book. Finished reading it not too long ago and it left me feeling nothing, absolutely nothing. I don't feel bad admitting that I think Mead is not a fantastic writer, but she's alright when she sticks to her guns. Gameboard of the Gods though..ugh.
I was so confused at first, going by the GR tags, because I thought it was an YA novel. Then I read Mae is 28 (?), but she keeps acting like she's 15 and in highschool. Frustrated me to no ends.
Unlikeable characters, story pretty much bored me to tears. Not to mention, having read her Georgina Kincaid series, and taking into consideration the way the book ended, I know exactly how the tortured romance will pan out.

message 29: by Ioana (new) - added it

Ioana Oh, oh, oh! Don't even get me started on Justin. He's supposed to be this genius, their own version of a mentalist or whatnot, but all he proves is that at some point in his life, he's read a book or two about religion..maybe? Bah!

Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies (view spoiler)

message 31: by Ioana (new) - added it

Ioana Oh, haha, not really, although with Mead you never know. I was thinking more along the lines of four more sequels with forbidden, painful, hair pulling romance because they just (view spoiler)

Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies Ah, gotcha. But I have to care about the character to enjoy the wangst :P

message 33: by Ioana (new) - added it

Ioana Exactly :P Worked with Georgina, to a point. Won't work here, not for me.

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