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Khanh the Killjoy

The Great White Hope

This Wicked Game - Michelle Zink

Voodoo? More like fucking doo-doo.

My reviews usually follow a pattern: introduction, summary, analysis of characters/settings/plot. Fuck that shit. I am so incandescent with anger that I can hardly think straight right now, much less formulate a fully analytical review. You want a summary? Look at the fucking summary on the book's page. I'm not gonna fucking bother because the problem with this book goes beyond that.

But in brief: the characters are nothing offensive, nothing special, lacking in personality, development, complexity; in essence, they lack essence.

The plot is dull, full of fucking holes, because at the very end I still can't figure the fuck out why the hell the special-snowflake that is our main character is so bloody special in the first place and why the hell her powers came out of freaking nowhere when throughout the book she's been all "Nooooo, nooooooooo, I don't want anything to do with voodoo, despite my heritage as the great-great granddaughter of Zee Great Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau." Despite having such a grand fucking heritage, she's still completely moronic and Too Stupid To Live, wanting to rush off to visit a woman who wants to buy some freaking Panther Plasma (you heard me right, Panther Plasma) to create some kind of Avada-Kedavra-related spell. Ok, so the woman wants to use this plasma whose only purpose is to be used to KILL SOMEONE, let's just go running off to fucking visit her before consulting the adults.



But the stupid characters and the hole-ridden plot are the least of my complaints about this book. Here we go:

Let's start off with two definitions:

Misappropriate: /transitive verb/
1. to put to a wrong use.
2. to apply wrongfully or dishonestly (dictionary.com)

Example: This book misappropriates the traditional folk religion of Voodoo by twisting it into a form that is fucked up beyond recognition in order to make the religion fit into the plot.

Whitewashing: (slang) the entertainment industry's attempt at making ethnic characters more appealing to the white, money-spending masses by making exotic characters less ethnic and more "white." (urbandictionary.com)

Example: This book whitewashes the entire traditionally Haitian/African-based Voodoo religion by making every single practitioner white, or if not white, so mixed as to appear merely "exotic-looking."

I am absolutely aghast at the rampant amount of cultural and religious inaccuracies and inconsistencies within this book.



New Orleans? What New Orleans: This book takes place in New Orleans. You might have heard of it. It's a city in Louisiana, valued because of its cultural heritage, its mishmash of culture. It was also absolutely devastated, ravaged, destroyed, gutted to the ground thanks to a little event known as Hurricane Katrina some 10 years ago. The city is still recovering. It is still a mess. Not that you'd know from reading this book.

I read books based on the South for the atmosphere. There is no atmosphere in this book. Besides some name-dropping of places, besides the mention of the heat, besides for like...2 paragraphs of some broken-down places in New Orleans, this place might have taken place in Wichita, Kansas, for all I know. But wait! It still could be Wichita, Kansas. They've got hot summers and poor areas, too! There is absolutely nothing in this book that makes the city of New Orleans into a real place for me. As for the poor? What poor? The people in this book are the rich few, the privileged few of New Orleans. They're voodoo guild leaders. They just happen to be millionaires, driving Range Rovers and Lexus and Mercedes and blue SUVs living in their plush, posh mansions on First Street and taking their yoga classes.

New Orleans is an extremely diverse city: you wouldn't fucking know it from reading this book. Let me refer you to this page on New Orleans' cultural diversity (boy, I'm just a fountain of fucking education tonight, aren't I?). To sum it up: White: 22%, black: 60%.

And then let's see how diverse this book is: OH, WAIT, IT'S NOT. From what you can tell about this book, the characters are like....99.754% white, and the rest are a mix of "exotic" golden, caramel skin, chocolate-colored eyes. Not a single fucking black person to be found anywhere within 500 miles of this book. Everyone is blonde, red haired, chestnut-haired, copper-haired.

“Just about,” Claire said. A strand of her long blond hair fell forward. She tucked it behind one ear and continued transcribing the woman’s list.

Well, that is such an important sentence. I would never know what happens with the plot if Claire's blonde hair didn't fall over her shoulders. Claire is just so, so pretty!

OH WAIT, ONE CHARACTER HAS BLONDE DREADLOCKS. THAT MAKES IT ALL OK BECAUSE BLACK PEOPLE WEAR DREADLOCKS. Just kidding. Fuck you, book. Everyone is "pale skinned," "porcelain skinned." Anyone not completely white, anyone who is mixed-race is "exotic." Any accent that is anything but American is "exotic." Fuck the word exotic. It is paternalistic, it is patronizing, it reeks of cultural insensitivity when you lump everyone whose coloring is different than you into one fucking word because you can't be fucked to distinguish them otherwise.

And blue eyes. So. Many. Blue. Eyes.

Voodoo is the religion of white people: You heard me. I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry throughout this book. Back to our theme of the day: edumacating. Voodoo is a West-Indies/African-based folk religion. Its practitioners are mostly black. "Fuck that," says this book. "Let's make all the LEADERS of the Voodoo religion into white people or else barely mixed people. Let's completely whitewash Voodoo uses to making "doll babies" (voodoo dolls) and some mild chanting and summoning." Let's also conveniently ignore the fact that so few people actually practice Voodoo as to make it barely register in the country's statistical demographics, yet these leaders are as rich as fucking TV evangelists with their millions of weekly worshippers. SCREW THE DETAILS.

Voodoo is not a pretty religion. There are many types of it, let's keep it simple and stick to traditional Haitian Voodoo. It uses music, chanting, dance, spirit possession, animal sacrifice. Yeah, animal sacrifice. Speaking in tongues? Ever watch a documentary? It's bloody, it's not clean, it's scary, and it's not something you fuck around with lightly, as this book does. This book completely whitewashes the elements of traditional Voodoo. It limits the extent of it to pretty much loas, houngans, some herbs and spells, and voodoo dolls. And a little bit of blood, thrown in for good measure.

The books? OH, THERE ARE VOODOO MANUALS. Seriously, there's African Potions and Recipes for Love and Authentic Haitian Voodoo for Health and Wellness.
The chanting? It's more like something a bunch of Wiccan priestesses would chant under a full moon:

Ancient Priestesses of the light,
Bestow knowledge clear, true, and bright
Grant me power and second sight
As I move through darkness of night.

FUCKING SERIOUSLY? IT RHYMES?

The quasi-Voodoo people in this book are the leaders of the Guild, a bunch of largely white families in charge of the Voodoo religion. They have members in Europe, Asia, all over the world.

Once a secret, old-school voodoo society, the Guild of High Priests and Priestesses had become too large for them to know each and every member.

No, Voodoo isn't a religion restricted to portions of the West Indies, the South, and some regions of Africa at all. *rolls eyes* The Guild are wealthy, they hold an annual Priestess' Ball where all the people get dressed up and all the women put on fancy headdresses. A large portion of the beginning of the book is devoted to the clothes shopping and planning for the annual Priestess' Ball instead of the actual fucking plot.

Fuck the whitewashing, fuck the cultural misappropriation, fuck the lack of diversity, fuck everything about this book. Way to take over a culture for your own use, Tom-Cruise-and-the-Last-Samurai style.