Cursed (Voodoo Nights, #1)-Lizzy Ford*
I received this ARC through a giveaway and there was no obligation to review but because I loved Cursed, I felt compelled to review
It would not be long before he learned of his role in what was to come. Soon, he’d meet her, the white zombie that plagued Marie’s dreams. A beautiful girl in her early twenties with blonde hair and light eyes. An un-dead girl whose spirit was returned to her even after her body was gone. Her siren song would draw the Red Man and doom everyone around her.
She looked up, her eyes even prettier up close than he expected. They were as flawless as the rest of her. For a moment, they were frozen in their own world.
* Cursed is available on MARCH 6 Add to Goodreads
Ever since the last season of American Horror Story: Coven, I’ve been a little absorbed with witches, but haven’t found anything quite as dark or twisted as Coven. Cursed opens with a familiar sinister feeling; filled with haunting images and shadowed cemeteries, from the first clutch of a gris gris bag to the prayers to Papa Legba, I was lost to this world. I needed to know more. For those AHS: Coven fans, there are some familiar characters referenced throughout but nowhere near how they were presented on AHS. When I learned that Papa Legba was the sacred god of a specific family, I was terrified. Papa Legba is more than a trickster, he’s a monster on AHS. This really was a more authentic look into the role of Papa Legba as a deity who is not solely devoted to evil and bartering in vicious sacrifice and curses, nor is he the seriously creepy psycho he was marketed as on AHS. That is not to say that this book is not scary, exactly the opposite. Cursed is the kind of scary that straddles a fine line between reality and nightmare and that’s what makes it so unsettling. From blood magic to zombies to serial killers, Cursed is just enough horror to keep you guessing even to the last pages.
Plot: New Orléans is notoriously known for its mischief and as a magical place shrouded in mystery and whispered superstitions, but what’s on the surface is nothing compared to what’s going on behind the scenes. Ever since Hurricane Katrina, a band of voodoo gang members patrol the streets, keeping people in line when everything threatened to fall to chaos after the natural disaster. Rene, his brother Jax and the rest of the tattooed thugs lurk in the shadows, always watching with fists at the ready and a bokor at their disposal. Black magic is a price that must sometimes be paid to protect their territory. There are three main family lines that coexist in New Orléans, all tampering in some form of voodoo and with a powerful ability to communicate with the spirits. Usually, between their insights, magic, and unity they can work together to face whatever challenges their authority but nothing can prepare them for the hellish nightmare the spirits warn of, one of an apocalyptic massacre of epic proportions that all started with a curse cast hundreds of years before. There’s a serial killer roaming the alleyways, leaving dead bodies in his wake, a red cloaked man who seems to bleed from the shadows and disappear in a flash, and a prophecy that warns of a white zombie, rotting flesh and destruction for all. Meanwhile, Jayden, descendant of one of these houses, just wants a normal life as a popular teenager but the weight of the world seems to rest on his shoulders. A star football player, Jayden comes from a family that couldn’t be more opposite. His father is what he calls a “black Steve Jobs” and his mother’s side practices voodoo as a religion that they’re more than firmly invested in, it’s their lifestyle. When Jayden meets Adrienne, it’s like his whole world comes crashing down on him. From her sultry, intoxicating voice to her fragile, bird-like appearance, Jayden experiences an attraction unlike anything he’s ever felt before. He doesn’t know who she is, he doesn’t care, all he knows is that he wants to be close to her. Adrienne has just moved in with her father in the bad ward of New Orléans. Devastated after her sister’s murder, Adrienne is on the hunt to learn anything about what happened. Working at a local psychic shop reading tarot cards and with the hopes of gaining a record deal, Adrienne is ecstatic about her new life at a rich school with amazing possibilities to advance her career. What she doesn’t count on is the social mockery at her status as a scholarship student. Already she feels like an outcast, that is, until she runs into Jayden, literally. Adrienne is floored by his charismatic, glowing smile. She wants to get to know him but is too shy to push. Luckily for her Jayden is persistent. When strange things start to happen and the voodoo community is in an uproar over a hundreds of years old prophecy that may star Jayden, Rene, Jax, and Adrienne, battle lines are drawn and it’s a race to the death to figure out how to stop an evil so strong it could destroy them all.
The Red Man is coming …
Five years after her sister disappeared, seventeen-year-old Adrienne finds the strength to return to her father’s home in New Orléans. But soon after she arrives, the mark of a curse appears on her, leaving her worried. Will she be the next victim of a four-hundred-year old family curse … the next to be claimed by a serial killer roaming the back alleys of the city?
The day before his senior year begins, Jayden is given a skeleton key passed down through his family for generations — a gruesome reminder of how his ancestors betrayed their own people and sold them into slavery. He doesn’t believe in the curse the key allegedly bears and puts it away with the intention of forgetting about its message. Until he meets Adrienne, a girl he’s compelled to for more reasons than her beauty.
He’s not the only one who notices her. A man in a skeleton mask and a voodoo gang member are also drawn to Adrienne. One is determined to protect her. The other intends to mislead her. Haunted by the mythical Red Man, all are connected to the ancient curse.
Can they overcome their misgivings about one another and prevent the dark prophecy looming over them? Or will they be lured away from each other by evil’s siren song?
- The cover is beautiful. At first glance, the splash of crimson on her lips, the stark contrast of the black and white lettering, the pale skin, and the hair that almost fades out into nothingness suggests a ghostly wickedness that is only accentuated by the vise-like grip of the snake. The girl at once seems in bondage but the soft way her hands caress her face makes the snake more of a cherished pet. The flowered necklace adds an innocence that directly contradicts the pop of cleavage and the red lips. There’s an amazing duality, one that carries both darkness and light and really presents an internal battle projected onto the outer image.
- The prejudice and racism in the south over two people of different colored skin dating is discussed. This is the first time I’ve read a YA book where race relationships in this context have been addressed and it’s a subject that I think should be further explored. While this is not the main theme of the book, as an underlying sort of thematic antagonist, it creates the feeling of a forbidden relationship while rocking the foundation of these prejudices by how strongly the protagonists fight for their relationship yet walk a fine line because they don’t want to anger their families. It’s a direct conflict that both characters war with even though they think such racial signifiers are a thing of the past.
- The love stories rival Romeo and Juliet. They’re complete and utter travesties of epic proportions. They escape time and space and leave their mark on generations. The consequences are so much worse and a burden that each family must carry.
- Adrienne is an angel. While she gets angry at the life she’s destined for, about the cruel way people treat her as a scholarship student at her fancy school, and the disastrous travesty of her sister’s murder, she is like a tiny, fierce and fluffy kitten. She fights, she’s not afraid to speak up, and she has an innocent faith in people that is remarkable given her past. She has an adorable accent, an endearing way about her, and is so stubborn and confused that it’s easy to imagine her stomping her feet in frustration. One thing Adrienne is not is patient. She’s rash, she’ll walk into pitch black alleyways, and verbally fight like a banshee. The girl is a trooper.
- Jayden. He’s kind, funny, and just a tad sexual. His attraction to Adrienne is enough to make him crazy and risk everything he believes in. Jayden had to grow up way too fast and has taken care of his family for as long as he can remember, he has to succeed, he can’t take a break, everyone is counting on him and he’s flailing. Jayden puts up with a lot and yet, he maintains his composure even though his spirit is slowly suffocating. Adrienne lifts his heart and allows him peace. Their interactions are fluid, fueled by sensual tension.
- Rene. Mmm, mmm, mmm. Rene. From the way her carries himself, like a warrior of solid muscle and cat-like reflexes, who prowls but has a compassionate, protective side. Rene is sexy, in that smooth, rough, and raspy way. He doesn’t know where he belongs, his place in the voodoo gang is questionable, at least to him, and he’s torn between who he wants to be and what’s expected of him. These dueling personalities are present throughout the book as Rene fights himself. Sometimes he’s rough around the edges, pushy, and a bit of a jerk but he exudes that bad boy vibe that is just so tempting.
- Chemistry. It’s everywhere. It’s in smoldering glances, warm touches, and heated embraces. There’s a flirtatious, suggestive banter between the couples that will keep you toasty and hunkering for more interaction.
- The climax is so unexpected. There are several surprises that are impossible to guess and so shocking that you may have to pause and reevaluate your feelings towards specific characters.
- The story is sick, sinister, and in many ways a very creepy love story. The grotesque imagery, the slimy looks, the way characters are one with the shadows, the violence, the gore, and the rampant, psychotic serial killings make this a chilling, gripping read. If you like horror films, ghost stories, disturbing images, and elaborate plots, this is for you.
- LIzzy Ford obviously did a lot of research while writing this book. From the rituals, to the specific herbs in tea, to the set up of alters, and even to communing with the spirits, everything was meticulously detailed.
- These families take dysfunctional to a whole new level. It’s a train wreck that is both amusing and sad.
- This actually, in a way, read like a retelling of Pride and Prejudice but with voodoo and serial killings.
- The story is a little slow to start. You will be confused. You will feel frustrated by all the seemingly random tidbits and clues but all questions will be answered. The beginning of the book is somewhat convoluted. So much happens in so few pages that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with information that won’t make sense until you’re well into the book. This is one of those stories where even the smallest details count. Pay attention, it all becomes clear.
- Towards the end of the book Adrienne gets a teensy bit whiny and while it’s understandable, she quickly gets irritating.
- There’s a scene that completely blew my mind. There’s a scene where one of the secondary characters gets surrounded and attacked in an alleyway. From the way it’s described, at first it sounds like it was a really bad beating yet, a couple pages later it’s no big deal and there’s little talk of it. Frankly, I feel like this scene should have been discussed more and not taken so lightly. Also, the ear hacking scene.
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