Gameboard of the Gods - Richelle Mead

Ugh. I'm hesitant to rate this book at the moment. Richelle Mead is one of my all-time favourite authors. I loved her Succubus, Dark Swan, and Vampire Academy series, and I only just warmed up to Bloodlines. But, Age of X just didn't do it for me. That's not to say it wasn't bad; it just wasn't exactly what I expected, and not in a good way.

Let's start off with the characters. Mae. Where do I even start? She is a stuck-up, stone cold ice queen. I personally didn't find her likeable throughout the entire novel. Although she displayed Mead's trademark badass heroine characteristics, it was difficult to relate to her, and she didn't have the quirks that made me love Eugenie, Rose, and Georgina. In fact, she reminds me a lot of Sydney from the Bloodlines series. I couldn't bring myself to like her until the third novel in the series! My experience with Mae was the same: difficult to like and relate to. And then we have Justin. I can't help comparing to Bloodlines again. Justin is like Adrian in terms of drug use and alcohol abuse. Fine, I liked Adrian very much and actually considered him as a feasible love interest for Rose in the end of the Vampire Academy series. But the problem with Justin is that he's nowhere near as likeable as Adrian. For one, he treats women badly. Adrian had his fair share of womanizing, but Justin takes it farther, even claiming that once he's slept with someone, the fun of the chase is over for him and he doesn't desire to sleep with them again. Ugh. To make it even worse, none of the supporting characters were redeemable either. While some were interesting, like Dominic, I just couldn't muster up the energy to care about them.

I didn't find the world-building as confusing as some other readers did, mainly because I read Mead's teasers on her website beforehand. But I still found myself not understanding certain terms and getting confused about events and characters. As for the events that led up to the establishment of the RUNA, I would have liked some more background. Even after reading the teasers and the novel, I still don't feel like I completely understand how everything came to be.

The plot didn't flow as seamlessly as it does in her other novels, which made it difficult to swallow. And the idea of (view spoiler) wasn't easily understandable either. But, the mystery was still there, and I kept reading if only to find out how it would end.

And now some complaints from a political science/development student. Some of the language Mead used to describe the provinces, one of which is Panama, bothered me. It's just reinforcing the classic dichotomy between 'civilized' and 'non-civilized'. It bothers me that those living in the RUNA (former Canada and US) are considered civilized, while those living in the provinces aren't. Furthermore, the RUNA has begun annexing provinces to 'bring them into civilization'. This really bothered me, mostly because it categorizes non-whites - for the most part - as savage and uncivilized.

Despite all my rather large complaints, I still enjoyed Mead's writing, and will most likely read the second book in the series.