The 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.