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Khanh the Killjoy

Gameboard of the Gods

Gameboard of the Gods - 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.