Book Review: Wild And Wicked Things, by Francesca May

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

3.75 Stars

Synopsis: Annie heads to Crow Island to sort through her late father’s belongings. But Crow Island is full of magic and temptation, and the prohibition has not been kind to magic. Then Annie meets Emmeline, and is drawn into the dangers and temptations of the Island.

CW/TW: Murder/Death/Blood/Self-Harm for magic/Domestic violence/Abuse/Child Abuse/Implied, alluded rape.

Wild And Wicked Things, by Francesca May is Gothic, Gatsby-inspired story of witches and wanting.

Wild And Wicked Things, by Francesca May is an intensely gothic story with prominent Gatsby influences. May’s writing is beautiful, the detail and settings are intensely rich and the prose is vivid and engaging. Overall, the book is slow paced and character driven, reminiscent of The Great Gatsby, relying on clever motifs, imagery and dynamic, complex characters. The narrative and pace is balanced by the multiple POV and dual timelines; our main characters, Annie and Emmeline, are the two main POV’s but we also get short chapters that give us more insight into the story and builds tension and mystery.

The actual plot is centred around the characters. Annie is visiting Crow Island to sort out the home and belonging’s of her late father. She moves into a cottage close to Cross House but the island is far from home. After the war the prohibition meant a strict lockdown on magic, and severe punishments for witches, but Crow Island seems to live and breathe magic and every bone in Annie’s body screams danger. But, when Annie notices her neighbour, Cross House resident, Emmeline she feels unnaturally drawn to her and the dangers around her. I really enjoyed Annie’s story, as she unravels the mystery behind her father and the magic on Crow Island. Annie’s story is a personal one of facing fears and embracing wanting but it is also deeply tied with Emmeline’s story and the dangers of magic and wanting too much.

Emmeline’s story is also very personal but tied to magic. Emmeline is keeping a lot of secrets, her story is imbued with mystery and tension, and all of her secrets slowly unravel over time. I really enjoyed Emmeline’s part of the story, her arc and her connections with the two other Cross House residents. Her story gives us the most insight into magic, and when she meets Annie this leads to even more development and insight into magic, witches and the characters dynamics.

I really enjoyed both characters plots that intersect and engage in interesting, angsty and tension filled ways. May explores themes of power, wanting, freedom, identity, love and failure through the characters and their arcs/plots. Much like Gatsby, this book utilises beautiful imagery, powerful symbols and motifs to foreshadow events and represent themes.

A lot happens in this book and so it is easy to spoil, so I’m going to keep this review shorter than usual but I really appreciated the Gatsby-esque story style and use of figurative language skills that beautifully and cleverly add depth and meaning to the story.

From extravagant parties to blood fuelled magic – this book is a brilliant mix of glamour and darkness – with money buying desires, and deadly debts being made, the magic in this book really stands out. While I wish we had been given a bit more in terms of the magic system (e.g the council and differing types) we do get a lot about the different types of magic and the deadly nature of it. The duality of the good and bad magic can do was interesting with the book leaning into the dark and deadly aspect of magic. From blood magic and incantations to divination and elemental proficiency, the magic is very diverse and multifaceted and I enjoyed seeing how the different witches used their magic and the way it’s represented. Another interesting element was the ‘tether’ – this was an intriguing component in the story that I liked watching get explored.

The characters in this book were all very complex and well written, messy and flawed. The rep includes: lesbian mc’s, and a bisexual side character. Our first mc, Annie is initially a meek woman, not bold nor a risk taker – she is reserved and avoids danger. But as the story unfolds, she develops well showing a fire and confidence that slowly becomes emboldened. Annie is not perfect, she is messy and morally grey but she does deeply care for those she loves. Emmeline seems like Annie’s opposite, she takes risks, is powerful and knows it and has a confidence in herself. But, Emmeline is dangerous and more vulnerable than she reveals, she too feels deeply about those she loves but takes a harsher stance to protect them. The two mc’s have a great dynamic and their complex personalities develop well over the course of the story. Three other characters are prominent; Bea, a selfish and clever women who has drive but isn’t afraid to follow it at the expense of others – she is an old friend of Annie’s. Isobel and Nathan are Cross House residents, Emmeline’s friends and both also have strong personalities. I really loved Isobel and Nathan’s characters – and I liked how we learnt more about them as the book progressed. There are so many morally grey characters in this book that it is so fascinating to watch them tackle the challenges presented to them.

There are also other characters that appear a lot, Arthur and Mr Anderson being two of them. All of the characters are well developed and work well as the driving force of the book. The messy and flawed characters keep you intrigued and their dynamic relationships work well to create tension, angst and other emotional moments.

Overall, Wild And Wicked Things, by Francesca May is intensely dark and imaginative. It has strong Gatsby elements but maintains a unique and magical story with a sharp edge. The complex and dynamic characters drive the slow paced story and keep you invested.

*I received an eARC via #Netgalley from Orbitbooks in exchange for an honest review – thank you!*

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