The Game of Love and Death

The Game of Love and Death

Title: The Game of Love and Death

Author: Martha Brockenbrough

Series: N/A

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books

Release Date: April 28th 2015


Five Stars

Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now…Henry and Flora.

For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.

Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?

Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured—a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.

The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, The Game of Love and Death is a love story you will never forget.

– Blurb courtesy of

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“She whispered this into the baby’s ear: Someday, everyone you love will die. Everything you love will crumble to ruin. This is the price of life. This is the price of love. It is the only ending for every true story.”

For centuries Love and Death have been playing game, taking two people and letting their fate run its course until they either choose each other, or walk away. Every time before Death has won, and taken the life of her player as her reward, but now there is a new game afoot and Love is determined to win this one.

Henry lives a life of privilege; he is white, wealthy, and intelligent, and the world seems to be his for the taking. In comparison Flora has nothing; she is black, orphaned, and poor but when these two finally come face to face their differences no longer matter. The first time Henry sees Flora he is struck, and later when he hears her sing he only becomes more enchanted with her. In turn there is something about Henry that draws Flora but she is all too aware of the differences between them to give into love.

“But what were odds? The odds against any one human being born were tremendous. The chain of moments that led to it was long, a chain made of infinite human choices that each had to occur in sequence to lead to a particular birth. The odds of either Flora or Henry being here at all were one in four hundred trillion, give or take.”

Against all odds Flora and Henry start to fall in love, and Love and Death start putting the pieces of their game into play. It isn’t just Henry and Flora whose lives depend on the outcome of this game, and game they have no knowledge their playing. While neither Love nor Death can manipulate their players there is nothing in the rules about manipulating the people or places outside of Henry and Flora. While Henry struggles to convince Flora the two of them can make what they have work and Flora struggles to scrimp and save up enough money to afford her own plane Love and Death start pushing their way into Henry and Flora’s lives, wrecking havoc and doing anything they can to win.

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I picked this book up. The Game of Love and Death is a very unique book but there are similarities between it and other favourites of mine. The game between Henry and Flora, Love and Death reminded me of the game in The Night Circus, something that exists in the peripheral vision of the characters but which could have dire consequences once the outcome is decided. The setting and the personification of both Love and Death reminded me of The Book Thief. This is a book which packs a punch, there were so many important themes discussed which makes this an important story.

…The Characters

“He was forever looking at them, forever looking for the one who’d make him feel as if he’d met his other half.”

Henry is a very idealistic character. He had a hard childhood, losing his mother, sister and father at a very young age, but he hasn’t let it sour his outlook on life. He truly believes that with Flora at his side the two of them can achieve anything, and that the difference in their status and the colour of their skin won’t matter in the long run. Henry is Love’s player and as such he is full of love, a kind and soulful boy whose only goal is to find his other half, the person he can truly be happy with.

“If God didn’t want me to fly, why on earth would God have made me want to fly so much?”

Flora as Death’s player has had her life shaped by death. She fears a mysterious ‘someday’, the day everything good naturally comes to an end. Flora has a dream to travel around the world, flying like Amelia Earhart. She’s talented, determined, and knows her worth as a pilot but because of the colour of her skin she’s been forced to accept less than her worth from the world. Still she hopes and saves every penny she has for that one day, far off goal.

The relationship between Flora and Henry was one that developed fast. With the game in progress they were drawn to one another without quite knowing why, but there wasn’t an insta-love feel to their connection. Henry works hard to fit into Flora’s world, showing her that they can be together, but Flora is all too aware of everything keeping them apart, and all too aware of her dream which she is determined to fulfil. Still she can’t deny what’s growing between them every time they meet.

“If life didn’t end,” he said, “there would be no need for me. To choose love in the face of death is the ultimate act of courage. I am the joy, but you are the meaning. Together, we make humanity more than it otherwise might have been.”

Love and Death are major characters in this story and in Flora and Henry’s lives. They take different forms and manipulate the events to their advantage. When you first meet both characters it’s easy to see Death as the villain, simply because of the nature of her character and the prize she claims at the end of each game, but there is more to both characters than meets the eye. Death is not wholly the villain, the same as Love is not wholly the hero of the game. They’re both morally ambiguous characters but I loved reading the story from their perspectives.

The secondary characters were all really well developed and written, but the one who stood out the most for me was Ethan, Henry’s pseudo brother. Ethan struggled a lot with who he is, and his story was heartbreaking to read at times simply because of what he went through and what he thought about himself. His development and journey didn’t take anything away from Flora’s and Henry’s romance or from the story, but instead added another side to Ethan and Henry’s relationship, and to Love himself.

…The Setting

“You can go where you want. Do what you want. Eat where you want. The world belongs to you and yours. My kind, we’re here to be your mules. Your world rests on our backs. We even have to pay you off for the privilege of entertaining you. And then you arrest us anyway.”

The Game of Love and Death is set in the 1930’s. A time when everyone still felt the scars of the Great War but a time when the threat of the Second World War is fast approaching, a time when black and white people were kept separate and a time where the Great Depression is in full swing, with Hooverville packed full of the down on their luck. It is not a happy time but any means, but at the same time there is still hope. I thought Martha Brockenbrough wrote all the details from that time period really well. Flora’s voice as a black girl living through the racial segregation of the thirties really shone through, as did Death’s when she witnessed some of the terrible things happening around the world.

Normally I’d say The Game of Love and Death isn’t the kind of book that interests me, but there was something about it that just caught my attention and wouldn’t let go. The story was reminiscent of two of my all-time favourite books, the characters and the situations they faced were heartbreakingly well written, and I was instantly hooked on the concept of Love and Death as people, locked into a centuries long game.

What did you think of The Game of Love and Death? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

34 thoughts on “The Game of Love and Death

  1. The whole idea behind this book seems really interesting! I haven’t actually heard anything about it, before reading your review. (Or if I did, I forgot all about it.) I definitely need to check it out, after seeing how much you enjoyed it! 😀 Great review Beth!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is a unique concept, and a brilliant book as well. See that’s kind of a shame because I feel like this book should be more well know, then again I didn’t get around to this one for ages because I kept forgetting it was on my to-read list as well. :/
      It’s amazing, so I hope you enjoy it as well Anna, and thanks! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The idea behind this whole Love and Death is really fascinating! 😮 I never heard about this book but it does sound like it was really-well written and delivered everything without being too cliché or too stereotypical. Excellent review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This sounds so interesting! I hadn’t heard of this book before reading your review but now that I have it’s going on my TBR. Especially as you said it reminded you, in a way, of The Night Circus and The Book Theif. Both of which I haven’t read yet but that’s high praise since I know you like both of them a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where love and death were personified. I always love it when an author takes something that is more of an ambiguous concept and turns it into a character. Kind of like what V.E. Schwab did with magic in her SOM books, I love how she gave magic a voice. Though these seem to have more individuality than Osaron did for sure as his drive was to take everything over using magic and not much else lol. And I love how it’s set in the 1930’s! The Great Depression was always one of my favorite time periods to study in school just because so much went on in society aside from just the stock market crashing and prohibition. Anyway! Great review as always, Beth!! 😁♥

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a really interesting book. It’s been on a back burner on my TBR list for years now but I finally saw it again on Amazon and was determined to get around to it once and for all. I really hope you enjoy this one Melissa and yeah I wouldn’t say the story is the same as The Night Circus or The Book Thief, they’re all very different and unique books, but there was just something about the story I connected with those two books. Either way yes it’s very high praise from me because both of those are favourite books.
      Neither had I, and that’s what drew me to this book in the first place. Even more so that Death was the female and Love the male. Kind of a twist on what I expected.
      Yes I loved that aspect of V.E. Schwab’s series, just because it adds a new side to a villain that makes them harder to understand because they’re not human and we can’t really understand their motivation as much. Love and Death in this book were more individual characters than Osaron was though yes 🙂
      Oh if you loved the 1930s this is definitely a book I’d recommend, everything about the setting was incredibly written and incredibly well researched.
      Thanks so much Melissa! 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have so many books like that! That was how it was for me and Simon vs recently. It’s been on my TBR for way too long and I kept coming across it on Amazon so I broke down and binge read it in hours. Which I loved it so much! But I hope I end up enjoying this one too whenever I get the chance to read it. And I get what you mean. Kind of like the feel of the books was the same or the feeling you got while reading this book was similar to when you read The Night Circus and The Book Theif? 😊
        I love the fact that Death is the female and Love is the male. That’s an interesting twist because you would expect it to be the other way around. It’s neat that it was reversed.
        Same! That was probably one of my top favorite aspects of SOM because it added that new side to the villain and made it less human. I need more villains like that because I feel we don’t see them too often. Though I love morally gray villains and ones with human motivations it’s neat having one that isn’t. But that’s what I figured about Love and Death in this, more individual.
        You’re welcome, Beth!! 😁♥

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Sometimes those are the best books though aren’t they? You put them on your to-read because they sound amazing, forget about them, pick them up on a whim and end up being amazed by them. I hope you end up enjoying this one as well Melissa, you’ll have to let me know when you’re able to start it as well. It was more like the feel of the books was similar. Like I said they weren’t similar in terms of the stories but there was something about this story that brought back The Night Circus and The Book Thief.
        I certainly expected it to be the other way around, and yeah it made for an interesting twist. I find villains like Osaron, who aren’t human, more interesting sometimes because it’s almost like the evilness is their only motivation, and it can make it harder to reason/defeat them. Yeah I agree with you on morally grey villains. I just love well-written villains! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Definitely! And then when you finally get to those books and are amazed by them you question what took you so long. Who knows how many books like that are floating around my TBR? lol
        I’ll definitely let you know! 😁
        That’s what I figured, that it had a similar feel.
        Same! It’s almost like with villains like Osaron we get an actual villain, completely driven by evil, rather than a villain like Holland who might not be as evil as we thought or who have sides of them that aren’t completely evil like the Darkling (if I remember correctly because it’s been 3+ years since I read the Grisha trilogy). It takes out that whole human aspect which makes for a very scary villain but interesting nonetheless. Same! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I was certainly questioning why I took so long to get around to this book. Yeah I probably have more than a few on my TBR list as well, hopefully I’ll get around to them one day.
        It does make them interesting but at the same time I love any villains as long as they’re written well. Osaron was a great villain don’t get me wrong but I also loved Holland and the Darkling too. For me it’s all about how they’re written rather than what type they are you know? 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Such a lovely review, Beth! I have heard about this book from another blogger a little while ago and had added it to my TBR, intrigued by the synopsis and story overall. I’m so glad to hear you’ve read and loved it! definitely need to move it up my TBR now 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Marie, and yeah I actually saw you’d marked this one as to-read on Goodreads when I updated my profile. 🙂
      It’s a really good story in my opinion, and hopefully one you’ll enjoy as well. It’s a really unique concept and honestly there’s not much else like it currently on the shelves.
      Oh that’s great, I hope you manage to get around to it soon in that case! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I may have to pick this up for my Mum! She loved The Book Thief and Night Circus (which I need to pick up soon!). Sounds like something she would enjoy. I love the idea of the 1830s setting. I think I might pick this one up when I see it on shelves. Great review, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ooh, this book is on my TBR! I was going to read it last year, but ended up not doing that because I wanted to read a different book and had to return it to the library. 😂 But the premise sounds amazing, and I’ve heard good things about it, so I’m definitely going to read it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do you plan to read this one at some point this year then? And yeah when I got books from the library there were always one or two that needed to be returned unread. Just the way it was. 🙂
      But this is an amazing book Mikaela, so hopefully if you do manage to get around to it sometime soon you’ll really enjoy it! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know! I’ve been doing terrible at reading so far, so I have no idea. Like, I don’t think I’ve read one of my most anticipated releases of this year. So, there’s that. 😂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. This sounds like a really interesting read! I love how Death and Love are concepts personified and I also like how Death is a woman and Love is a man. The roles are usually reversed. I’m really interested in the diverse nature of their relationship and I also like how the story takes place in the 1930’s. I have a fascination with the WWI and WWII eras, so this really catches my fancy! Thanks for mentioning this one and great review as always, Beth! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was that for sure, and yeah pretty much everything you mentioned is something I loved as well. I was actually really surprised when it was revealed Love was a man and Death a women just because it is usually the other way around. The setting for this book was beyond amazing, the era and the discrimination were really well written and added another side to the game.
      That’s all right, I hope you end up enjoying this one as much as I did, and thanks so much Azia! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh that’s good to know that the author did well in portraying that era and its issues really well! Makes me even more eager to read it! 😀 Thank you! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah world building is always important to me in books like this, (books with a fantasy element) I wouldn’t have rated this one so highly if that aspect hadn’t been well written. That’s great to hear, and that’s all right! 😀 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh it’s an amazing book. I was pretty much the same with this one; I saw it floating around every now and again, was really intrigued by the title and the blurb, but never actually picked it up. Until now.
      I hope you enjoy this book if you get around to it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I got this from ALA a couple of years ago and really haven’t seen it featured in the blogosphere much for some reason. I remember liking the story, though it also fell a bit flat for me. I’m kind of on the fence about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No I haven’t seen it around the blogosphere much either. I think I first discovered it from the ‘Recommended For You’ feature on Amazon a few years ago and since then haven’t seen it at all on WordPress!
      Oh that’s a shame parts of it fell flat, but I guess at least you enjoyed the story so that’s something. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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