Book Review: Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May

Today’s review is about WILD AND WICKED THINGS by Francesca May. It’s a novel about confronting who you are yet continuing down a self-destructive path. It’s also a retelling of sorts of THE GREAT GATSBY, but with magic.

Author: Francesca May
Series: None
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Redhook
Publish Date: March 29, 2022
Print Length: 432

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Official Synopsis

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.

My Review

I received a free, digital, advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. My review is my own and reflects my honest opinion about this book.

WILD AND WICKED THINGS is about self discovery, confronting buried hurts, and making bad decisions. Annie, the main character, leaves home for the very first time to settle her father’s estate. This gives her the opportunity to explore beyond her comfort zone. She reflects on her childhood relationships and how those shaped who she is currently, who she no longer wants to be, and who she is deep down inside. Despite warnings to avoid her Crow Island neighbor, Emmeline, Annie strikes up a friendship of sorts with her. She feels an inexplicable, exhilarating draw towards Emmeline, which blurs the line between free will and witchcraft.

This story is also told from Emmeline’s point of view. We see how traumatic past events shaped Emmeline into a headstrong and protective, yet distant, character. Though resolute in wanting to avoid the same mistake as her benefactress, empathy and love drive her to do just that. And thus WILD AND WICKED THINGS follows our two flawed main characters as they dig themselves into deeper holes with each decision they make. Annie, eager to show that she’s not spineless, makes uninformed and spontaneous decisions which, questionably, hurt or help the situation. Emmeline, weary of letting her loved ones solve her debt, pushes everyone away, resulting in a cascade of unfortunate events.

And this is my biggest dislike about WILD AND WICKED THINGS: all of the events are due to the characters’ mistakes. And they’re big mistakes. One act of secrecy begets more secrecy which results in bad decisions. What I found infuriating is that none of the events in the book had to happen if one particular character had either fulfilled the debt or hadn’t made the debt at all. But ok, this character made a bad decision and none of them seemed to learn from one bad decision after another. Each solution was more extreme than the last. This book made me realize that I don’t like books where the characters don’t/won’t help themselves. I didn’t like WUTHERING HEIGHTS, THE GOLDFINCH, or NORMAL PEOPLE, and unfortunately this book might join this list. I may understand what drove these characters to make their decisions, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Overall, I think the author characterizes Annie, Emmeline, and the secondary characters well. I found two of the secondary characters, Isobel and Nate, more lovable, but generally I didn’t really connect with any of them. I think part of this is because of the pacing of the story. While I enjoyed the writing style, the first half of the book was slow and a little confusing in terms of setting. I wasn’t quite sure at first where in time the story takes place. But several clues about dress style and allusions to THE GREAT GATSBY lifestyle point to the 1920s. The plot picks up at about the half way point after which there are spurts of action. But the time devoted to flashbacks to develop the characters’ pasts take time away from the present. I think learning about past details through flashbacks, rather than present-day dialogue (because why be vulnerable?), contributed to the disconnect I felt. It was a lost opportunity for vulnerable dialogue between characters.

Chris at Biblio Nerd Reflections also mentioned in his review that the magic system is confusing and underdeveloped. Unfortunately, I agree with this assessment. Though magic is central to the plot, when not reading about pivotal moments it’s just there with not much page time devoted to explaining more about it. WILD AND WICKED THINGS is also advertised as sapphic. And it is…but the connection, for me, fell a little flat and I was totally uninvested in it. The romance aspect is very nearly a background element. The ending was unexpected, but I surprisingly had very little reaction to it, which swings back around to the general disconnect I felt about the characters.

Ultimately, this book was not for me. I think the writing and overall tone is well-done. And I acknowledge the complexity of emotions these characters experience. But I couldn’t get past their inability to get out of their own way. If you gravitate towards plots driven by character flaws, however, then you’ll probably enjoy WILD AND WICKED THINGS.

Rating: 3.25/5
Content warnings:
Reading format: Kindle e-book

For additional thoughts about WILD AND WICKED THINGS, check out reviews by Leah’s Books; Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub; Becky’s Book Blog; and FanFiAddict.

9 thoughts on “Book Review: Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May

  1. I’ve had my eye on this book since I heard about it so it’s great to hear your thoughts!!!! Amazing Review! ❤️✨
    It’s usually important to me that the characters are well created so, I totally understand your point and will keep that in mind in case I decide to read it ☺️

  2. Great review and I am sorry this book wasn’t for you. Books centering on mistakes can be hit or miss for me because as an adult I tend to see things in the way that infuriated me as a teenager. It’s useful to know this now for when I go in so I can adjust my expectations accordingly as I am still super excited to read this book!

    1. Thanks! I was excited to read this book because honestly it’s so hard (it seems) these days to find a standalone adult fantasy novel. But the pacing of this was just a little too slow for me and I guess I just don’t like books that focus on the MCs making mistake after mistake. All that said, when you get to read it I hope you like it more than I did!

  3. Great review. I’m sorry this book wasn’t for you, and I do agree about everything being sorted if that one character had just done what she agreed too. Thanks so much for linking to my post 😀

    1. No worries! This book just helped reinforce that I don’t generally enjoy reading about these types of characters, haha. And you’re welcome! 🙂

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