Title: The Game of Love and Death
Author: Martha Brockenbrough
Publisher/Date Published: Scholastic, 2015
How I Got This Book: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Rating: 5 out of 5
The Game of Love and Death is a supremely crafted standalone offering from Martha Brockenbrough that lures the reader back to the heart of 1920’s Seattle. Pages sing with all the rich tones of the jazz-era, the promise and potential of flight – of change. The premise is as old as stories themselves, and yet engagingly unique – Love and Death are personified and it’s time to play a game. They choose their mortal chess pieces, Flora and Henry, and the wager is made – will the players fall in love in time, or will Death win again? After all, she has an unbroken record.
I really did love this book, for its premise initially but as I read through I grew to appreciate more the time-setting and historical context. I had worried that the star-crossed lover premise, a wealthy white boy, a poor black girl and a love that can never be, could quickly descend into melodrama, or cliché. Instead, I admired Flora’s stubborn self-reliance and her passion for aviation, an element I had not expected. Henry’s naïve worldview for the most part was charming, rather than irritating, and the pair was embodiments of Love and Death challenge expectations further – the rage and fickle nature of Death turns into a beautiful, terrifying hurricane of a woman, a shape-shifter wreaking destruction across the centuries. Love, so easy to assume a feminine trait, becomes the gentleman, the source of class, good taste supported by a cast of interesting characters, with their own intriguing subplots.
The book could have been undone by the inevitability of its conclusion, a reader’s investment quashed at the book’s final pages. Yet the book soared to a cinematically dramatic end, and kept me genuinely questioning how the tale would end. I would recommend this book whole-heartedly, it defies categorisation as a Young Adult title. One of my favourite reads of 2015 so far.