WILD AND WICKED THINGS by Francesca May.
Orbit. h/b. £12.99.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
Mother warned her about visiting Crow Island, but Annie Mason booked a summer cottage, left Whitby behind and answered the invitation from her father. It was the only one he ever sent, and it came after his death. Crow Island is, of course, known for its crows, amongst other things, and Annie’s new neighbour is known for throwing lavish parties at all hours of day and night. Her father’s solicitor warns her to stay away from Cross House, but he need not worry; Annie hasn’t been invited.
After the war, magic was banned – the inevitable result of an abuse of power and the deaths of innocents. No longer can Annie enjoy the teas and herbs of her youth. She should not be exploring her new neighbourhood at night alone, but she is drawn to the music and the voices. Finally, she lays eyes on her neighbour and feels the truth of the rumours. There is magic in Cross House, and its owner is a witch.
May brings Annie’s first party to life, in all its 1920’s glory, with a beautifully narrated scene. It is rich with the iconic imagery and the wild abandonment of The Great Gatsby, which is the story Wild and Wicked Things has taken heavy influence from. Fitzgerald’s tale is re-imagined with Emmeline, the witch, taking the place of Gatsby to Annie’s Nick Carraway, and the prohibition of magic lends the illicit activities taking place at Cross House.
This is an easy read, full of genre tropes. The plot is fairly predictable, but those charming touches of Gatsby solidify the worldbuilding and enrich what is otherwise a dark tale of blood magic, power plays, love potions and abusive control over others – not entirely the romantic, gothic tale it is billed as. It is a visual feast of beautiful prose, as long as you don’t mind the blood and macabre.