The Game of Love and Death
Rating: 5/5 stars
In The Game of Love and Death, humans are pawns in a centuries long competition to prove who has more power. In this novel, Love and Death are mystical figures who repeatedly choose human players to manipulate in order to try and achieve their desired outcome. Past players have included the likes of Cleopatra and Marc Anthony, and Helen of Troy and Paris. For the latest round, it is the early 20th century and Love, despite never having won a round of the game, has chosen a young man named Henry and Death has picked a young musician named Flora. By marking them at their birth these players are connected for the rest of their lives. Death and Love are allowed to change their surroundings, by having Flora and Henry’s loved ones pass away, for example, but neither can directly interfere with the players’ personal safety.
In 1937, Love and Death find that Flora and Henry have both matured and that their game can now commence. The stakes: In order for Love to win, the two players must have the courage to continually choose each other despite all the odds. If they do not, Death wins the right to take the life of her player. There are several barriers that make a relationship between Henry and Flora difficult and unlikely during this time in history. The largest obstacle being the fact that Flora is black and Henry is white. Death uses this and several other factors to constantly try to push doubt and hesitation to the front of Flora’s mind. Love on the other hand uses the other strong relationships in Henry’s life to encourage him to have the hope, courage, and patience, to try to convince Flora to take the risk on their love.
Review: I really enjoyed the concept of this story and Brockenbrough does a great job of giving both Love and Death very human characteristics. Throughout this competition it is very clear that while this game is meant to be a diversion from their eternal duties, both Love and Death, are not happy with their current situations. Despite being immortal, they each have their moments when they ache for the lives and relationships the players around them possess.
Being pawns of such opposing ideas, it was interesting reading about the opposite reactions that Henry and Flora had to tragedy. While the death of Henry’s parents, seemed to make him ache for a relationship where he could once again feel that close of a connection with someone, Flora turned into herself and tried to form bonds with as few people as possible. One of these tactics serves to protect the soul from further damage, but only one could lead to the opportunity for renewed happiness. Although a secondary character, one of my favorite parts of this novel, was getting to know Henry’s cousin Ethan, and his own struggles that he was trying to work through.
The Game of Love and Death is beautifully written, and tells a heart warming story that is really original and creative.