I was surprised by the lyrical writing in The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough. It really heightened the fantasy and romance in this historical fiction novel.
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.
As I mentioned above, the best part of this book to me is the writing. Brockenbrough did a great job writing this story in a lyrical style, that I think worked so well as it was mixing the historical fiction romance with the whimsy of Death and Love being personified. There was also a lot more introspection done in this story that I wasn’t really expecting when I first picked it up. I originally pictured this as a straight romance, with a very plot-centered story. However, this is actually a character focused story, with an emphasis on the philosophical effects of the Game. I was pretty surprised by how deep this story got in places, especially during the Love/Death POV chapters.
Our first main character Flora was really interesting. I loved how her dream and passion was flying, which isn’t something you ever really come across in books. I liked how flying was her passion, but she was such an amazing performer that the two hobbies conflicted with one another. It’s so realistic to have people push things something that you just happen to be good at it, while not understanding that you love something else more. I really appreciated that perspective. Then we have sweet Henry, who is in love with music. His one true passion is playing the bass and luckily, he is one of those people whose passion is also his talent. I personally enjoyed Henry’s character more than Flora’s, as he was more open and I liked that he was the one willing to fight for their love. There was no going back and forth on his feelings, he knew what he wanted right from the start. Love and Death were also really interesting characters. They seemed so believable in that their immortal lives actually weighed upon them. You could readily believe that they had lived and seen far too much.
I think my biggest issue with the book was the lack of overall conflict. I’ll admit that the setting and synopsis had me imagining a lot more issues arising from the racial and economic issues of the Great Depression Era, and while these were touched on in certain places, it didn’t seem to have as big of an effect as I thought it would. And between this and the lyrical/introspective writing style, the pacing of the story was rather slow. I struggled with making myself actually take the time to sit down and read it, which is my biggest issue when it comes to books.
I really wanted to enjoy this book more but I need faster pacing or more engrossing storylines to keep me invested. Everything else was really well done, I just had a hard time connecting to the book. I liked the characters and thought there was some really interesting quotes sprinkled throughout, but there was just something missing in the plot. However, I do think that this could be a favorite for a lot of readers, it just missed the mark for me personally.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Have you read The Game of Love and Death? If so, what did you think about it? Do you struggle with character-focused novels?