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Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May – ARC Review!

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 neighbour. 

Mysterious and alluring, Emmeline Delacroix is a figure shadowed by rumours 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.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review & can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Crow Island is home to Witches. Or at least, that’s what the stories say. Annie Mason just knows it as the place her father abandoned her for, a place she has never wanted to visit, but her father has died and his last request was that Annie come to the Island and sort out his belongings. Hoping that she can also re-connect with her long lost friend, Bea, Annie travels to Crow Island but isn’t prepared for how freeing it will feel being there, or how tempting it will be to visit her new neighbour, Emmeline who throws daring and slightly illegal parties. But the longer Annie stays on the Island the more she learns, about her father, Emmeline and herself. Things she could never imagine, things that somehow just feel natural and things that could potentially get her killed.

Wild and Wicked Things is a dark and enticing book filled with magic, temptation, romance and some brilliantly written morally grey characters. Annie is incredibly naive and innocent when she first visits Crow Island. Forever told by her mother to stay away from magic, she is initially wary of drawing the attention of her intriguing new neighbour, but she feels a pull to Emmeline she can’t understand. Her character growth in this book is incredible, she goes from being shy as a mouse to incredibly forthright and gains an inner strength she never knew she had. Emmeline is one of those characters that just effortlessly draws you in. Her life hasn’t always been filled with glamour and parties, and she would rather it wasn’t now, but she has to pay the bills and keep the elite of Crow Island happy. She is feisty & puts up a hard front, but inside she is still a lost little girl longing for somewhere to truly belong.

As as well as Annie and Emmeline we have a fabulous cast of side characters from Isobel and Nathan, Emmeline’s house mates and the closest thing she has to a family. Each have their own unique magic, as well as their own tragic backstories, which ensured I was an absolute goner for them both. Bea, however, was the one character I just really struggled to bond with in any way. She came across as entitled, always wanting something more from life, and always blaming somebody else when it didn’t work out the way she wanted.

Fans of The Great Gatsby will see nods to the original story. but May puts a sapphic, feminist and magical twist on the story that makes it solely her own. With magic being forbidden after events in the war and a, seemingly, all male council in place to pass judgement, sometimes even death sentences on the magical community, Emmeline’s position is a tenuous one at best. She tries to stay out of the councils way, but the more the story progresses, the more we realise how hard that will be. As well as the Great Gatsby, I was incredibly happy to see references to practical magic, one of my all time favourite films. There are a few scenes that fans of the film will appreciate, but she also brings to it the strength of sisterhood, even if in this book they aren’t related by blood. In fact the focus on relationships was one of my favourite parts of the book. There is a main romance threaded through, as well as illusions to past romances, but May really shows the strength in family, and not necessarily the one we have by blood. The characters in this book are willing to risk their lives for each other, and this is another reason why I bonded with the characters so easily.

The story does start off incredibly slow, May takes her time introducing all of her players, as well as getting us accustomed to Crow Island and it’s own unique set of rules. She also uses this to build a kind of mystery behind all of the characters, how exactly they’re linked, what drew them to Crow Island in the first place, how did they end up together. Through diary entries, as well as throwback chapters we get a really deep insight into how magic is used on the Island, who we can trust, and who we can’t. Though it’s only towards the end of the book that all the pieces truly fall into place. The story and writing lend themselves to a darker tale and May certainly delivers on this part, there is strong use of blood magic, physical and mental abuse, off page rape as well as child abuse, so readers definitely be warned. It’s not overly glorified, and does completely fit with the tone of the story, but some parts are incredibly traumatic to read, so be sure to check the authors trigger warnings before reading.

If you enjoy sapphic retellings, dark magic and even darker stories, morally grey characters and atmospheric settings, then look no further. Wild and Wicked things is all of this and more and I can’t wait to see what May has in store for us next.

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