My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Long review ahoy!
There are some things you need to savor. Slowly. Lemon tarts, Jonah Griggs and
Gameboard of the Gods isn’t one of them. It’s a one-swallow book, IMO.
Everybody’s already said it so I’m gonna join the parade-
Richelle Mead is aiming for the stars. This world of hers is truly ambitious.
Now I’m gonna rain on the parade-
It has baseless foundation.
I do know how that sounds.
Here’s the thing- I’m not a reader who goes into the background much. I accept weird things that have no back-story. But that’s the only thing I accept.
Give me a weird story and try to stuff it in superficial boundaries of ‘realism’, which it will inevitably break out of, and not back it up with established reasons and I get frustrated. Me, a girl who follows the extremely simple logic of it fits or it doesn’t.
This is what Mead has done here.
She has built and built and built this huge coliseum of her futuristic, non-democratic world and in the process many of her ground-level arches have crumbled, inevitably falling upon the story taking place in the arena.
The country of RUNA, apparently, is the last bastion of order and peace in a perishing world of Post-Decline. The Decline was an outbreak of a Mephistopheles virus, causing infertility, asthma and damaged skin and hair.
That is all.
But they say: The RUNA held three things responsible for the Decline: biological manipulation, religion, and cultural separatism.
*How does religion come into play?*
So they ban religion. For no fucking reason. Banning of religion is an interesting theme but unlike Unholy Ghosts, the introduction of this aspect of the RUNA was just there for convenience.
*They blame cultural separatism.*
The social structure of the RUNA is heavily based on ancient on Roman civilization. Obviously, there is separatism. However, this one is based on genetic purity/isolation and castes. there are patricians, or castals and there are Plebians.
During the Decline, the RUNA found the solution to eradicating Mephistopheles: genetic mix-up. So the RUNA and its sister nation, EA exchanged people and forced them to procreate. But there were some high-classes people, the ones backing up RUNA and providing patronage, who didn’t want this. They wanted their genes to remain pure. They formed their castes. Nordic, Irish, Finnish, Swede etc.(and let’s even assume for a moment that they aren’t races, but castes. give the author some liberty.)
Other than the blatant defiance of the RUNA’s founding logic(which, very clearly, would lead to the immediate downfall of the government), this is also severely stupid and illogical.
In today’s world, interracial and international marriages are extensive, not to mention the abductions from third-world countries and the red light districts that flaunt these abducts. There is still racial purity but, I believe, only in third-world countries and developing countries.
I could always be wrong but even so, supposing that the story is set ion future, even its past is set in our future, I would suppose that by the time we reach that point, ours will be a world of Nepalese in Guatemala and Serbians in Mexico.
I don’t believe there will be any nativity in our genes for racial superiority.
Even if I let it be, I wish the castes had been expounded on more. Rather than on their supposed superiority and disdain, Mead should have concentrated on clearing the different caste divides. All castes are treated the same and the only difference is in their names and appearances, which is mentioned only once. Once, for fuck’s sake!
There is also the resuscitation of sexism in the castes.
Why the hell? No clue.
Castal girls are taught to be hostesses and to follow what they are told. Sports and independence and studies, beyond etiquette and music, is not for them. Well they could if they wanted to but their peeps don’t allow it.
I guess, all these centuries and revolutions are allowed to bow down before an epidemic. I mean, secularism and equality do pale in comparison to money.
Beware the future: there’ll be devolution.
Beyond the RUNA, it’s gutter-time. Well, at least in Panama, where sexism is in the very air. Upper class girls, from good family, much like the patricians in the RUNA, are forbidden from so many things. It’s even worse the castals’, actually. It’s Victorian-era separatism of boys and girls. There need to be fucking chaperones if a boy and a girl are left alone(?) or to take a fucking walk.
How in the name of all that is sacred to Lumatere women and Quintana does this happen? How do societal groups, albeit secluded ones, become so patriarchal? Where is the spirit of feminism? Even a half-assed excuse, like in so many dystopian novels, would have sufficed.
Also, the technological disparity between the RUNA and Panama is unreal.
Seriously, all there is to this world is all kinds of bad -ism’s.
There are three main characters in the book: Mae, Justin and Tessa. They are plausible characters but sometimes, Mae and Justin come across as too similar. They both have addictions and a certain way of thinking. Both reach conclusions too late and get affronted too easily and then feel sorry too much. Tessa, I felt, was a useless character and the story didn’t really require anything from her POV. I suppose chapters from her POV were introduced so we could get a better feel of the world, but they were just annoying and distracting from the original plot. The book could have done without her, IMO.
The writing has definitely matured from the VA series and flows easily. It’s serviceable enough but sometimes(very few) it seemed that the author was trying too hard.
There are many lines of plots going on, one on top of the other, that all go on parallel for some time. Towards the end they all converge except one. That one is left hanging. I have no clue why? I mean, it’s something you should provide closure for,even if you don’t solve it, precisely because it doesn’t form a major part of the storyline. There is not even a mention of that in the last few chapters, as though everyone just forgot about it.
The plot is fast-paced and though the mystery is easy enough to solve, it’s extremely addictive. Richelle Mead does have a way of hooking you in, if nothing else.
There is also gods-y, delectable stuff and yummy, yummy potpourri of myths, old and newly-created, which gives Gameboard of the Gods another cookie point.
In light of my review, a three-star rating seems high but what the heck?! It was cool, and managed to distract me from my Chemistry assignment. I still prefer the first three VA books, though, and their kick-ass characters.
My copy was an ARC provided to me by a friend.