Friday, July 10, 2015

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough (review by Andrew R. '17)

The Game of Love and DeathThe Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In The Game of Love and Death, the deities Love and Death come together to play a high-stakes cosmic game of strategy. The board: Jazz-Age Seattle, still deeply rooted in racial prejudice. The pawns: Henry, an affluent white high-school student, and Flora, a black jazz singer (and, improbably, airplane pilot). The objective: for Love to manipulate Henry into winning Flora’s heart, and for Death to twist Flora into rejecting his advances. The stakes: the pawns’ lives. It’s the perfect premise for a historical-fiction-romance-supernatural genre mashup, but from the first chapter it’s clear that Brockenbrough can’t quite pull off the ingenious plot she’s cooked up. The characters are sadly underdeveloped: Henry’s sole obsession is Flora, Flora’s sole obsession is flight, Love is maddeningly altruistic, Death is irrationally destructive. Worse, we’re granted near-omniscience when it comes to the plot, making the entire novel read like a tiresome textbook example of dramatic irony. (Case in point: Henry is convinced that his infatuation is true love, whereas we know from page one that it’s a ridiculous idea planted in his head by a manipulative deity.) Thanks to the wild originality of this novel’s premise, the jacket blurb makes excellent reading; the book itself, though, is a disappointment.

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