This Wicked Game
By Michelle Zink
Published 2013 by Dial
Claire is the latest in line for the family business - and that business is voodoo. A direct descendant of legendary priestess Marie Laveau, Claire is a skeptic. But when a customer comes seeking an ingredient used only for the darkest magic, Claire uncovers a plot that shows all the first-born children of the most prominent voodoo families in grave danger.
Okay, I'll just admit it: I picked this one up because voodoo. Well, and, Michelle Zink's earlier series had caught my eye; I just hadn't gotten around to it yet. I spotted this e-galley available and downloaded, finishing the book the day it was released actually.
Here's the thing: I wanted to like this book. And a part of me did. A part of me enjoyed the sheer ridiculousness of the whole thing. I'm not proud of this part of me, but I want to be honest. But the larger part of me? That part was going "WHAAAAAA....?"
If you've followed my blog for a while, you may have seen my review of Printz winner, In Darkness (if not, just go ahead and read that review; I promise it won't take long). The part I want to revisit here is something I touched on only briefly. I pondered how much of modern-day Haiti was still enmeshed in the culture of voodoo. The same pondering could be applied to modern day New Orleans, the setting of this book. For better or worse, voodoo is probably still one of the first things people think of when they think of New Orleans. And while I wondered about the parts of Haiti's culture that Lake did not touch upon in In Darkness, I can say for certain that there are many things about New Orleans that Zink completely left out and I don't think we can ignore that.
First of all, one thing I love most about reading books set in the South is the atmosphere - I've read many books that capture it quite nicely. This is not such a book. A few mentions of the terrible heat do not an atmosphere make. A few mentions of well-known landmarks do not an atmosphere make. How hard would it be to do some research and really imbue your work with the feeling one gets when in New Orleans? But, on a scale, this is merely a disappointment.
But if you're going to set your book in modern-day New Orleans, I don't think you can do so without talking about Katrina. Yes, it was many years ago now and much of the city has recovered. But, not all the city. There are still parts that look like the hurricane struck yesterday. How is it possible that these characters would have lived through Katrina and have literally nothing to say about it?
Well, I suppose that question could be answered with this bit of information: this book is chock-full of rich white folk. AND THAT IS IT. Really? I mean, REALLY? Oh, pardon me, some of the characters are exotic-looking and Claire's father is African-American (I had to look that up and must have missed that while reading because I literally spent the whole time thinking, "how is this blonde, blue-eyed white girl the direct descendant of Marie Laveau?"). I'm sorry, but "exotic" is a lazy ass way to cop out of describing characters of color. And do you really expect me to believe that all of the most powerful members of the voodoo guild (traditionally practiced by people of color) are white or "exotic"? It just doesn't work.
And then there is the whole issue of class: like I said, these are not just white folks - they are extremely rich white folks. And the book seems to suggest that voodoo is the source of their income. COME AGAIN? These people are not running voodoo tourist shops, but legitimate (well, legitimate in the weak depiction of voodoo in this novel's world) supply shops. How's that? Once again, you expect me to believe that there are enough people legitimately practicing voodoo AS A RELIGION to fund these people's mansions and luxury cars? DID I TAKE CRAZY PILLS?
That would get me into the whole issue of voodoo as a religion, which I don't imagine is anything like what is depicted here. I haven't done my homework but I doubt it's all donning white tunics and chanting while mixing some herbs together.
This is without even mentioning the sheer stupidity of these characters, the insane selfishness of Claire, and the ridiculousness of the plot. JUST, NO.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.