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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Review: This Wicked Game by Michelle Zink

Publisher: Dial
Published: November 14, 2013
Pages: 368
Source: For Review from Penguin Canada
Rating: 2 Stars

Claire Kincaid’s family has been in business for over fifty years.
The voodoo business.
Part of the International Guild of High Priests and Priestesses, a secret society that have practiced voodoo for generations, the Kincaid’s run an underground supply house for authentic voodoo supplies. Claire plays along, filling orders for powders, oils and other bizarre ingredients in the family store, but she has a secret.
She doesn’t believe.
Struggling to reconcile her modern sensibilities with a completely unscientific craft based on suspicion, Claire can’t wait to escape New Orleans – and voodoo – when she goes to college, a desire that creates almost constant conflict in her secret affair with Xander Toussaint, son of the Guild’s powerful founding family.
But when a mysterious customer places an order for a deadly ingredient, Claire begins to realize that there’s more to voodoo – and the families that make up the Guild – than meets the eye.
Including her own.
As she bands together with the other firstborns of the Guild, she comes face to face with a deadly enemy – and the disbelief that may very well kill her.

In short: This Wicked Game by Michelle Zink had the potential to be original and special, but instead was an insipid, whitewashed version of what it could have been.
One mention of voodoo was all it took to have me chomping at the bit for This Wicked Game. The history and culture of voodoo is SO intriguing to me and I was curious to read a YA story revolving around it. To say I was disappointed with This Wicked Game is a bit of an understatement. As far as I can tell, the subject of voodoo is wide open in YA and thus so much can be done with it to create an original and provocative story. This potential was squandered in This Wicked Game.

The protagonist, Claire, somehow managed to be both a Mary Sue and TSTL. She decides to play teen detective without approaching her parents or any of the other higher-ups in the Guild and miraculously and inexplicably makes it through dangerous circumstances she never thinks through. The other characters are similarly two-dimensional and bland. There is nothing in This Wicked Game for romance-lovers either: Claire's relationship with Xander develops before the start of the story and is completely lacking in tension or passion.

But even the flat characters and romance were not as hard to take as the lifeless plot and setting. I was excited to read a book set in New Orleans, but very little effort was put into bringing such a unique and rich cultural centre to life. It could have been any other city. And I'm frankly at a loss as to how the traditional African voodoo culture could have possibly been translated to rich, white families in control of the "voodoo business." Way to take away all the culture and essence out of voodoo! I wanted to see traditional raw and gritty voodoo, not this whitewashed, insipid counterpart.

Though I found fault with much of This Wicked Game, it is to Michelle Zink's credit that she at least wrote a fast-paced plot with easy language that made the reading experience fly by. Without that, the dull story surely would have bored me to tears long before the ending. But even then the plot was far beyond saving. By far the biggest issue I have with This Wicked Game was that it had the potential to be fresh and special, but instead was a dummed-down, whitewashed version of what it could have been. Very disappointed.

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  1. "There is nothing in This Wicked Game for romance-lovers either: Claire's relationship with Xander develops before the start of the story and is completely lacking in tension or passion."

    *starts sobbing* That pretty much seals the deal for me on this one Aylee! I can sometimes, sometimes being a key word, deal with a TSTL heroine if there are a myriad of other aspects of the book to recommend it, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. A frustrating heroine plus a lackluster romance means I'll be taking a pass. I hope whatever you pick up next is AWESOME!

  2. I would probably expect a strong cultural aspect to something like voodoo too. It's a shame that we're never really given that here. And a romance that is lacking in emotion? I can't see this book working for me at all. The premise drew me in when I first came across this title, but I think I'll probably take it off the list now. Thanks for saving me from having to read it. ;) I hope your next book is more to your liking!

  3. It sounds like this one could have been really interesting! I'm sorry there were so many aspects of the novel that didn't work. Sometimes one or two things would be okay, but I definitely don't think I would enjoy this one.

  4. Well, then. I guess I shouldn't waste my time. Everything that bothered you - the TSTL Mary Sue protagonist, her reckless decisions, the passionless romance, the fact that she was able to get away with making those choices and pull through those terrible situations despite not involving anyone important - all of it would surely bother me too.
    So I'll just save my time for something worth reading.
    Great review, Aylee.

  5. I'm sorry, it does sound like it was a pretty bad waste of time:(
    I always thought a voodoo book would at least bee fascinating or something but it sounds like this was just flat all around :(

  6. Aww. This does sound an interesting concept but too bad the author didn't seem to make use of it very well. The mere mention of insta-attraction is enough for me to recoil and it's unfortunate that Claire is a Mary Sue. Thanks for the review, Aylee!

  7. This review made me chuckle a little. I could feel your frustration and annoyance at all that was lacking in this novel. I have tried to read a couple of Michelle Zink's books before without much success. I think this is an author I will probably skip from now on.

    Thanks for the review!

  8. Sorry you didn't appreciate this one. It doesn't sound very engaging from your review. I think I'm going to pass on this one. The last book I read about pseudo-voodoo was a big bust for me too!

  9. Haha, oh dear. I've never heard the acronym TSTL before so I had to look that one up and it is unfortunately true of many a YA protagonist. I also had high hopes reading the description that this would be something fresh but all the reviews I've read sound like it was a bit of a let down.

  10. Wow this is a letdown :( If I remember correctly, you were the one who brought this one to my attention! Like you, I'd been captivated by the mention of voodoo and the New Orleans setting since both are fairly fresh meat in the YA genre, as you mentioned. I'll be skipping this one for sure now because from your review it's sounding nothing like a story I could get into. I'm sorry you had to suffer through it but thanks for warning us off! Your review was brilliant in any case and made me smile quite a bit :)

  11. Wow, this sounds so disappointing! I hate it when things are dumbed-down, whitewashed, or just otherwise have the elements that make them unique utterly destroyed. I wasn't too intrigued by this book to begin with, and I'm certainly not going to bother now. Thanks for the honest review, Aylee!

  12. I don't know how you can write a voodoo book without addressing the culture associating with it. I mean why bother writing about voodoo after all? You mentioned some of the issues I had with the second Prophecy of Sisters book- another series that had SO much potential but it then crashed and burned. Thanks for your honest review, Alyee, I will take a pass at this one.

    p.s. Thanks for following. I'm following you back.

  13. Oh no, I'm so disappointed! Voodoo sounds so cool, and I'd hoped this would be an interesting and thrilling read. But the lackluster romance and characters plus the whitewashing of voodoo culture pretty much ensure I'll never read this one. Thanks for your honest review!