Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May. I love dark, witchy vibes with morally grey characters. So, this one seemed to be right up my alley. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a great fit for me. Read on below to find out why, but first, here’s a bit of info about the book.
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.
***Thank you to NetGalley and Redhook Books for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience. IT ALSO CONTAINS SOME VAGUE SPOILERS. So, read on at your own risk.***
I’m going to be upfront at the beginning of this review. I passionately dislike this book. Personally, I think there were legitimate problems with this novel, but I also have no doubt that most of my dislike likely stems from personal preferences. I’m sure there will be plenty of 5-star reviews and people who disagree with me, and that is fine. The book has good qualities, and I’ll expound on those too because I have no problem with giving credit where its due even if I dislike something overall. But damn was I angry after finishing this novel. I’m still angry a couple days later while writing this review. Maybe the author should be commended for creating a story/characters that brought out such strong emotions, but I still didn’t enjoy reading it.
When I first started the book, I loved it. I was instantly transported to Crow Island, and the author did a fantastic job bringing it to life with vividly eerie descriptions. I also loved the roaring ’20s vibes of the decadent homes and parties and the general air of mystery that surrounded the island and the characters. In general, the use of engaging imagery to explore powerful themes was very well done. These aspects were definite strengths of the book that continued throughout it as the story unfolded.
My first problem with the book was the pace. It was extremely slow at revealing anything and did so in ways that were confusing and hard to follow at times. This leads into my second problem with the book, the world-building. Put simply, it was a mess. The magic and its different types/levels, while interesting on the surface, were never really explained and seemed to be or do whatever the characters needed in the moment. The rationale for the blood debt made absolutely no sense, and the magic that resolved the main conflict flew in the face of what little rationale there was in the first place. I gave up on trying to understand it. Additionally, the politics of this world wasn’t explored nearly enough given the important role it played throughout the book. It just felt like a nebulous, undefined threat because the major players were never really clearly delineated, which was a shame because it seemed like something that would have been very interesting to explore in more depth.
This brings me to the characters. The author deserves a lot of credit for creating incredibly complex characterizations that allowed for exploration of important themes related to freedom, oppression of women by society, the impact of severe trauma on one’s psyche, the cost of power, and the healing power of connection, among others. The only problem was I didn’t care because I hated these characters. Bea was obnoxious and selfish to the point of being insufferable. Emmeline was impulsive, selfish, and desperate. Annie had some redeeming qualities, such as her love for her friends, and I enjoyed seeing her coming into her own power and shedding the insecurities she had about herself. I just wish she had avoided adopting Emmeline’s reckless, selfish behavior in the process. It was honestly weird because I usually enjoy morally grey and antihero characters, but I didn’t like these characters at all and found myself growing angrier and angrier as the book progressed. Two of the supporting characters were the stars of the book for me, Nathan and Isobel. They were a light amidst the darkness of the other characters despite their own dark past, and my mood instantly lifted anytime they were present in the story. I think a lot of my dislike of this book comes from my dislike of most of the main characters because this is a very character-driven story with little plot outside of the interpersonal drama between Bea, Emmeline, and Annie. So, if you end up not liking them, there’s not really a lot else to grab onto other than the pretty writing.
Despite my lack of love for the characters and world-building, I was prepared to give this book a pretty high rating because of its fantastic use of imagery, beautiful writing, complex characterizations, and exploration of important themes. The ending changed that. I HATED the ending of this book. I understand wanting to make a hopeful ending that highlights how one can overcome their trauma to have a happier life less controlled by the darkness. However, this particular ending undermined the notion that runs throughout the rest of the book: power comes with both a price and a responsibility to wield it carefully. The two main characters made one horrible selfish choice after another throughout this book. I would argue they didn’t really pay any price or take responsibility for their poor choices but instead got their happily ever after by destroying the lives of everyone around them. I’m also just super salty about how the book ended for Nathan. I’ll never forgive this author for it (Yes. I know I’m being dramatic, but I’m in my feelings okay. If the characters can act this way, so can I! 😉). In all seriousness, though, I probably will read something else by this author as long as it is a different sort of book because I did really like the use of imagery and writing style.
Overall, I’m not a fan of this book, but I can definitely see how someone else might be if they relate well with the characters. The prose really is exquisite at times, and the themes are timely and important. I just couldn’t get past my intense dislike of these characters and disappointment in the world-building. Therefore, it gets 3 out of 5 stars from me.