Justin March is a former employee of the government that controls what is left of North America, though he’s been exiled and is currently living in Panama. Mae Koskinen is a Praetorian, a perfect soldier, who’s sent after Justin as part of her punishment after she attacks a fellow soldier. There have been unexplainable religious attacks recently, unsolved murders, and as one of the foremost experts on religious sects, both legal and illegal, Justin is called home to help solve the murders and understand what is happening within society.
Gameboard of the Gods is set in a distant dystopian future, with a stark line between the haves and have nots. The Gemmans, or residents of the former North America, are blessed to live in “civilizaton” while the rest of Central and South America are considered “primitives,” outside the law of the land. Years ago, genetic manipulation brought about a terrible plague, and as such the world has taken harsh measures to protect itself. As such, most religions are outlawed, and those that remain must be strictly monitored and licensed. That’s where Justin comes in; as a servitor, he monitors religious organizations and ensures they don’t become a threat to the government or its people.
Mead builds quite the mythology in Gameboard of the Gods. The reader is plunged into the story, unaware of what is truly happening beneath the surface. Information comes in small spurts, rather than in an overview. While this often can be frustrating in novels, Mead does a great job balancing the story with the backdrop; readers are intrigued, rather than irritated, as the details slowly emerge. It’s fascinating to discover what is truly going on within this world, and what those implications are for the characters.
Both Mae and Justin are interesting main characters in Gameboard of the Gods. Justin can be a bit of a cliche at times, but readers will enjoy getting to know him, especially as they understand his insecurities. Mae, though, is the one who will really capture the reader’s attention. She’s an enigma, cold yet passionate, and there is so much mystery to her when the story begins. As she’s peeled back layer by layer, readers will come to understand what she’s been through, as well as what the future may hold for her. Mae is by far one of the best aspects of this novel.
If you’re looking for a unique novel with a rich mythology, Gameboard of the Gods is a great choice. Those who are focused on action might find it overly long, but if you appreciate contemplative reads that take necessary time to build character and plot, as well as a rich and cultured backstory, then you should definitely check out this intriguing read.