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The Game of Shanti loves this and Death

Alyssa and Cait are wild about The Game of Love and Death. I bought it and read it and now I can see why. It is SO SO GOOD. I want to make everyone read it, and hopefully this post will convince you.

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Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now . . . Henry and Flora.

For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.

Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?

Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured — a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.

The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Dear Game of Love and Death
How do I love you? Let me count the ways.
1) I paid attention to…
a. You blend historical fiction and fantasy perfectly
b. Your characters feel real, not overdone
c. Your setting is perfect
2) I smiled while reading you.
3) I wanted to underline your every second sentence.
4) When I finished reading you, I collapsed on the floor and cried.
I loved this book SO SO much. It’s what? My third five star of the year? And it is totally worth reading.
I loved the concept and execution of The Game of Love and Death. It doesn’t really fit into a genre, but it was so perfect. I guess if I had to categorise it, I would say that it’s a blend between historical fiction, urban fantasy and magical realism. But it is all and none of those things and once, yet it works perfectly. The idea is that Love and Death are ancient powerful beings, in many ways opposites, in many ways exactly alike. They play a game where they pick people and if the people fall in love, then they win, and if they don’t fall in love/kiss/give up everything for each other, then Death wins, and she can kill her player. This iteration of the Game is in 1930’s Seattle. The players are Flora, a African-American jazz club singer who longs to be an aviatrix, and Henry, an orphan who was adopted by his fathers best friend and loves to play baseball and double bass. The blend of magicalism (ancient powerful beings who can alter the fabric of reality), historical fiction ( 1930’s Seattle, post Depression, a time of great segregation yet also cultural and technological awakening) and urban fantasy (a city for the characters to run around in having adventures late at night) worked perfectly for me.
The characters are one of the (many, many) best parts of The Game of Love and Death. I adored Henry, who is a sweet cinnamon bun boy who is passionate about the things and people he loves. I loved how that passion developed as he fell in love with Flora, but he didn’t forget bass playing or Ethan or whatever (though his studies *may* have fallen on the wayside). His development was exceptional; he evolved from a boy who knew what he should want to someone who knew what he did want and was willing to sacrifice for it. I especially loved how him and Flora made friends. He was slightly naïve, especially about the race factor of his relationship, but that just added to his charm. Flora was also so appealing. She’s strong, she doesn’t want to need anyone (but she does), she’s also an orphan, she’s kind, she loves the freedom of flight and is willing to work hard. I really liked her as a character and also her development right up to the EARTH SHATTERING ending. I do wish that she’d flown a bit more though (there IS a plane on the cover). The supporting characters, particularly Ethan, but also Annabel and Flora’s band, were awesome as well. And then there’s Love and Death. They’re both jaded, particularly Death. They both can’t control humans. They both want to feel love. Death was particularly amazing—Brockenbrough uses third person point of view to show how she’s feeling really, really well. Her development was totally gradual, but utterly perfect as she realised how much she wanted to be loved. I also liked that even when she was taking lives, she was gentle with them. (also her in the last scene. I was sobbing internally, and then externally actually)
The setting felt so real. I’ve never been to Seattle, but Brockenbrough is a sensual writer, and she used sights and sounds and smells and even dialogue to really bring it to life. The historical element was also really well researched (I mean, as far as I can tell).
The writing in the Game of Love and Death is really really good. (also a large part of why it broke me)

“The night air was like a splash of cool water”
“An unholy crimson flower bloomed through the paper and ink”
“Henry realised he would let Flora break his heart a million times, if he could look at her face every day”
“Fascination how such a small, pointed object could bind together so much. She [Death] inhaled, feeling comforted by a variety of scents: cotton, baby powder, beeswax”
“She[Death] never had a moment to forget who she was. Never a moment to pretend she was anything but a scourge.”
“Something happens to us when we grow up. Misfortune tramples us. We forget how it feels to simply love without throwing the whole mess of life into the stew. We trade love for fear. I’m not willing to do that anymore”

Seeeeeeee? Isn’t is beautiful? Ugh reading this made me happy. (but also sad. Because it ended.)
I highly recommend The Game of Love and Death to anyone who loves glorious writing, exciting, conceptual, storytelling, and amazing characters.

So have you read this? Are you going to? Tell me about a book you’ve read where a concept like Love or Death manifests physically

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12 thoughts on “The Game of Shanti loves this and Death

  1. Fantastic post! I had a read a poor review of this book on goodreads and was kind of on the fence about reading it, but your review makes me want to grab the first copy I see and devour it in one sitting! It sounds so gorgeous ❤

    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbositybookreviews.wordpress.com

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    1. Flora was a busy woman. Yeah, the writing was so perfect! And I liked the moral shades of grey, for Love, too, did terrible things, and Death had a soul filled with angry compassion.

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  2. Okay I’ve had this book on my TBR for a while now (thanks to Cait and Alyssa too) so I REALLY have to read it soon. Because OMG IT SOUNDS SO MARVELOUS! I loved the personification of Death in The Book Thief, and always like unique perspectives like that, so I’m sure that I will like A Game of Love and Death. Super lovely review!

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    1. yeah, you should totally read it. I’m glad I helped to convince you. Personifications of death are so interesting– it’s also in another of my favourite books, Sabriel, where Death is a river. (You’re new here *hi* but I should warn you that you’ll be hearing a lot about Sabriel) thank you!

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  3. Ok I will definitely read this sometime! I’ve heard nothing but praise for this book, so I’m convinced. 🙂 Plus I LURVE historical fiction (especially during this time period) and I like the whole “Love vs Death” thing going on. Also, dat cover. 😍

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  4. Oh, my. what an amazing review. I am definitely adding this to my TBR, it sounds so good, and I’m curious about this mix of genres it is. I love magical realism and want to read more of it. I’m not that much into historical fiction, but I’m curious. too curious to let that stop me. THOSE QUOTES. I fell in love with the last one. Thank you ❤

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    1. Thank you so much, Marie! The mix of genres was done really well in my opinion. Magical realism is such an interesting genre– I really want to read more adult magical realism books like Isabel Allende. The historical part is more a setting, I guess– it’s not heavy on the actual historical evens. Just think of 1930’s Seattle as a fantasy land :). I KNOW the writing was so good. My favourite quote is the last one as well.

      Liked by 1 person

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