Wild and Wicked Things
- Author: Francesca May
- Genre: Historical Fantasy, LGBTQ
- Publication Date: March 29, 2022
- Publisher: Redhook
Thank you to NetGalley and Redhook for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
CONTENT WARNING: mention of death, grief, blood, trauma, mention of suicide, anxiety, abuse, murder, self-harm, mention of rape, violence
In the aftermath of World War I, a naive woman is swept into a glittering world filled with dark magic, romance, and murder in this lush and decadent debut.
On Crow Island, people whisper, real magic lurks just below the surface.
Neither real magic nor faux magic interests Annie Mason. Not after it stole her future. She’s only on the island to settle her late father’s estate and, hopefully, reconnect with her long-absent best friend, Beatrice, who fled their dreary lives for a more glamorous one.
Yet Crow Island is brimming with temptation, and the biggest one may be her enigmatic new neighbor.
Mysterious and alluring, Emmeline Delacroix is a figure shadowed by rumors of witchcraft. And when Annie witnesses a confrontation between Bea and Emmeline at one of the island’s extravagant parties, she is drawn into a glittering, haunted world. A world where the boundaries of wickedness are tested, and the cost of illicit magic might be death.
Recently, I came across a bookstagrammer who described a book as slow/fast — a book that starts out slow and gets fast after a while. And it was the perfect way to describe this book. I was so hyped to read this, although it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.
It’s set in the 1920s, but in an alternate version, one where magic is real … and prohibited. But when Annie’s father dies, a man that she barely knew at all, and he leaves his estate to her, she heads to Crow Island. A place rooted in magic and danger, and one where her estranged best friend moved to. She came to go through her father’s house and belongings, and hopefully reunite with her friend. But of course, nothing goes as expected.
“The law was explicit: the consumption of real magic, in any form, but especially mixed with other state-altering substances, was strictly prohibited.”
Annie finds herself staying in a cottage next to an alluring house, which turns out to be home to a few witches who love to party. And the POV switches between Annie and Emmeline, one of the witches next door, along with some excerpts from a journal interspersed between sections. Emmeline is an out and proud lesbian, who dresses in men’s clothes and predictably, doesn’t care much for societal standards. But there’s darkness in her past and occurring presently, which takes a while to be revealed. Emmeline hosts wild parties and sells her magic, with caveats.
“There were only two rules: if anybody official asked, the magic wasn’t real; and if the spell didn’t work, if the unfaithful lover grew too attentive, too possessive of a client after they applied my charm, or if their newfound wealth seemed to cause them nothing but strife, they could not say I hadn’t warned them.”
The story starts out slow for the first 40%, offering a chance to get to know the characters and build some mystery around what is going on in each of their lives, both in the past and as their lives become twined together. But after that, things speed up a whole lot. And while there is a lot of action, especially in the last part of the book, there’s also a ton of character growth for Annie throughout. I loved seeing her go from being a shy, quiet, meek girl to someone who is more confident and able to speak up for herself and what she wants.
“Living with my mother, losing Sam: both had made me small-minded, turned me into a mouse, quiet and obedient and lonely and sad, when all I wanted was to be more. I wanted to be adventurous. I wanted to be bold.”
This was a great story, but there are some significant trigger warnings involved. Since much of the magic relies on blood, some of the characters self-harm in order to draw blood, even though it isn’t in There’s also significant mention of violence and abuse, and while it never felt glorified, it was tough to read about at times. However, it was still a great story that I thoroughly enjoyed. There were some plot twists, and I definitely figured out one of them in advance, but there were still some surprises even after that. And it was totally worth the wait to get to them.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 8
Categories: Book Review