The Game of Love and Death – Book Review


Title: The Game of Love and Death

Author: Martha Brockenbrough

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books

Publication date: April 28, 2015

Goodreads / Author’s website / Author’s twitter

I am a sucker for historical fiction, especially historical YA. I was immediately intrigued by the premise – a pair of lovers, chosen by Love and Death, respectively, and left to play out the game.

But before I get to far – a brief summary from the author’s website:

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.

Alright, so first of all, while the protagonists are young adults, I think that people of all ages would love this book. Adults, children, everyone in between. Everyone can find an emotional connection to these characters and this story.

This book took me places that I did not expect in the slightest. First of all, the personifications of Love and Death were some of the most intriguing characterizations I’ve ever read. I expected Love to be a woman and Death to be a man – but nope, it was the other way around. Shame on me for imposing gender roles on abstract concepts. But more than that, I was surprised that they actually played fairly vital roles in the story. They entangle themselves with Henry and Fiona’s struggle in more ways than one, keeping a close eye on their living game pieces. I loved it.

Both main characters also have significant strengths and flaws. Fiona is headstrong and determined, but too dedicated to her work and her dreams of becoming a pilot to let anyone get close to her. Henry, on the other hand, has almost no goals, and no plan – ever – but his passionate heart and genuine kindness make up for that. The one thing they share is their love of music. Together, they’re a stunning pair to watch, just because their interactions are so complex. And that’s even before you add on the issues regarding their interracial relationship during the American depression.

At the beginning of the novel, you are forced to realize that there are only two ways the game can end. This makes the reading experience painful, but the journey incredibly worthwhile in the end. I can’t say enough good things about this story. The Game of Love and Death is one that I won’t forget. If you are a human being, I recommend this book to you.

5 out of 5 stars.




This guest review was contributed by Tara Olivero. When Tara’s not teaching English classes by day, she reviews books. Her blog features a virtual bookshelf of the different novels she’s reviewed.

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