The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
Love is more than a game.
Love and Death choose their players in an eternal game. Death has never lost and Love will do anything to win.
Henry and Flora find each other, not knowing they are the players. Can their love be enough to keep them both alive?
This book is so beautifully written.
Seriously, I think I am in love with it? It’s so flowy and eloquent and the LOVE is beautiful and the DEATH is horrible and seriously Martha Brockenbrough knows her stuff – I’d like more books please. The characters are all REALLY well done. I thought Death was the most sabotaging, frustrating soul, but all characters are well written. Her word choice was gorgeous and I wanted to swoon because even if you don’t like fantasy or love stories you have to read this book just for THE WORDS. It’s so lovely, really, I’m entirely grateful to have read it.
Brockenbrough has a way of eliciting really raw emotions that will tug your heartstrings or ENRAGE YOU TO THE CORE. The story, set in the 1930s, tells the tale of a white boy and a black girl. They’re both hard workers. Henry is driven by his emotions. Flora is driven by rationality. One has been backed by Love, the other by Death. It’s a game to them (thus the title) like Romeo and Juliet or Helen and Paris. Death always wins. The conflict here is not a battle of families or of grecian warships – it’s to choose courage when all the world is against them.
And all the world is against them. Because the 30s were a time of racial turbulence, there’s about 5 people in their entire city that can accept their relationship. Most the city can’t even accept the fact they play music together. While the reactions and the HORRIBLE racism present in this book is likely accurate for the era, IT MADE ME SO MAD.
Please don’t misunderstand. This book is not written in a racist way. It’s written – I thought – with incredible sensitivity. But there are characters who behave deplorably.
And if that wasn’t enough, Death just keeps making a mess of things for each of them.
I was hooked from the moment I read the first page.
I really, really, really liked Henry and Flora. Ethan was wonderful as well, and his subplot of accepting his homosexuality. A lot of it was subtly written – just seeing the characters for who they are rather than shining a spotlight on their sexuality. It was beautifully done.
You really can’t help but root for Henry. He’s so sweet and sacrificing, but in a pure way? Not too sugary, not selfish at all. He has always had the courage to know who he is and what he likes, but he does it in a soft, likable way.
One thing: I hated the title?
It’s difficult to explain, but I’m going to try. The Game of Love and Death? The title feels really impersonal. Since the book felt incredibly intimate, the title feels awkward on top of that. While the underlying story was about Love and Death and who is stronger and more enduring, I really think that Henry and Flora stole the show. I don’t have a better title suggestion, but “The Game of Love and Death” sort of makes me twitch a little.
“The figure in the fine gray suit materialized in the nursery and stood over the sleeping infant, inhaling the sweet, milky night air.”
I don’t know about you, but this opening sentence gave me serious The Graveyard Book vibes. The similarity ends there, but the dark nursery and somebody there who shouldn’t be? Definitely reminded me of poor Bod’s beginning.
Books I’d Recommend
At the heart of The Game of Love and Death is the love story. If you’re looking for another BEAUTIFULLY written love story, then you MUST read The Night Circus. And for as much as I didn’t love Caraval, Henry reminded me of Julian a bit (without the twist at the end, obviously). Okay, he was softer than Julian, but he reminded me a bit of him nonetheless.