Gameboard of the Gods

Gameboard of the Gods -

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I went back and forth on the rating for this book. On one hand, it’s a bit slow and the author is so anti-info dumps that I spent the first quarter confused. On the other hand, holy SHIT do I love Mae. I’m still wavering between a 3 and a 4, but I’m going to leave it at the higher rating, because while GotGisn’t the most solid book I’ve read, but it ends up being a really fun, unique fusion.

Mae Koskinen is a praetorian, and similar to the Roman bodyguards the sect derives their name from, an elite warrior/bodyguard. Unlike the ancient version, futuristic praetorians are the recipients of an implant that imbibes them with special skills. Mae’s body metabolizes chemicals at a super-human rate, allowing her enhanced reflexes and rendering her impervious to poison. Unfortunately, Mae sets a foot wrong and is demoted from guarding senators and monuments. Instead, she is assigned to guard Dr. Justin March, a brilliant but troubled servitor, (“investigator of religious groups and supernatural claims,”) who was previously exiled under rather mysterious circumstances. The government now needs Justin back to investigate a string of murders with a religious bend. 

March is drowning his sorrows, and memories of supernatural activities, in a drug and alcohol fueled haze in South America, when a case of mistaken identity results in him and Mae going home together. This sets off the real mystery of the novel, the mythologic intrigue referenced in the blurb. See,  Justin has been claimed by an unknown god, who gave him several prophecies and a pair of supernatural ravens in exchange for an apple. Mae fits one of the prophecies and only through some tricky wordplay does Justin avoid being bound to the god’s service. Their tryst sends them both down the road of discovery as Justin’s personal mystery collides with the murder investigation.

At this point, we’re at a solid four stars. I have some quibbles on world building and the way it was revealed, but it’s nothing an appendix or a map couldn’t fix. Justin’s brilliant, troubled, and not just a little sleazy scientist was an interesting character with varied motivations, aspirations, and reactions. He’s a sexy jerk who frequently gets called out on it, while being a loving brother/uncle/foster father. And Mae is fantastic. She’s a tough, determined fighter, a sexually liberated lover, a conflicted daughter. I found them both well rounded and developed. They had great interplay and palpable chemistry. 

Unfortunately, the book has three PoVs.

Tessa, a Panamanian teenager who seems to be included solely to appeal to Mead’s former YA fanbase, has none of Mae and Justin’s development. She is plucked, seemingly at random, from her household to come with Justin to RUNA. He made a promise to her father that he would bring them all with him, but immigration as it is, there can only be one. This does lead to her second purpose, to have the world building explained to her, and by proxy, the audience.

Tessa, we’re told, is a prodigy at judging people, but we rarely see it in action. She does sort of bumble her way into a big break in the mystery, but last I checked, getting kidnapped isn’t the same as being a intuitive mastermind. Other than that, she whines a lot about commercialism and patriotism. Perhaps she has a purpose that will be revealed as the series goes on, but as it stands I truly don’t care for, or about, her.

She’s not the only side character without a lot going on, either. Mae’s friends; Justin’s sister; Leo, the brilliant hacker and his vineyard-owning boyfriend, Dominic are all victims of a very driven story. They really only show up to provide a clue to a mystery and then disappear again. On one hand, I appreciate that the plot is kept moving. On the other, at least one scene, where Tessa is picked up by the only two guards in the city who like Mae, brought back to Justin’s house, and the guards then proceed to give him her life story for funsiesis so convenient

Again, I did decide to round up because the main characters are great. The mystery was engrossing and deep. No guessing the final twist 150 pages in here, folks. It’s probably more enjoyable if you’ve got a handle on Greek and Roman mythology, (you know, a bit beyond Disney’s Hercules and Clash of the Titans,) otherwise references may go over your head. In all, I’ll forgive a few slow spots and underdeveloped side characters for an intriguing new world that I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time in.