Compulsion by Martina Boone
Series: The Heirs of Watson Island #1
Published by Simon Pulse
Published on: October 28 2014
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
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Three plantations. Two wishes. One ancient curse.
All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lives with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead--a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.
Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who knows what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family's twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.
Twisted = Pirates (or privateers, whatever). FYI.
Oh, lordy . . .
So y’all know I’m from the South, right? I’ve lived in North Carolina or Tennessee my whole life, and with the exception of one uncle who relocated to California, all of my family lives in those two states or in Georgia or Alabama.
So when I hear about a book that is supposedly S-O-U-T-H-E-R-N, I get all excited, and I have to read it. Sometimes that works out for me . . .
And sometimes it doesn’t.
I want to say up front, once again, the reasons I wasn’t crazy about this book are personal preference issues, so unless we share the same quirks—a love of all things Fae and/or Native American and are S-O-U-T-H-E-R-N—you’ll probably like it a lot more than I did, b/c the premise was actually really cool.
Three second sons (Watson, Beaufort, and Colesworth) became privateers to make their fortunes, and having made said fortune, go to South Carolina, seeking permission to settle. They receive it, but the land granted to Watson is haunted, so the three men stir up some swampy voodoo, the end result being Watson (and descendants) having the ability to find lost things, Beaufort (and descendants) having the ability to know what people want, and Colesworth (and descendants) being CURSED with . . . being less successful than the other two . . . ?
Whatever the curse is, the Colesworths are very, very bitter.
Fast forward to the present and things get complicated. (HA!)
Lula Watson, our heroine’s mother, has just died, revealing to Barrie (heroine), who has lived in California her whole life, with no knowledge of any relatives, that she does indeed have family, and her aunt (her mother’s TWIN sister) is now her guardian. Her aunt who also had no knowledge of Barrie’s existence, b/c Lula was believed to have been killed in a fire 18 years ago.
Kind of convoluted, but it’s YA, so it can get away with it.
What it couldn’t get away with (for me) can be split into two parts:
Poor representation of Southern-isms.
- FACT: every other person you meet in the South is NOT named Billy Joe or Beth Ann.
- Southern women CAN have entire conversations without calling someone “sugar.”
- The truth is just the truth. It’s not the “gospel” truth. Unless it’s a Disney song . . .
- “Higher than a treed raccoon.” RACCOONS LIVE IN TREES.
And those are just representative of the kinds of things found on nearly every page. Yes, people from the South say strange things, but they MAKE SENSE, and are rarely just for embellishment. We talk s – l – o – w. If we added as many nonessential adjectives, metaphors, and similes as are implicated here, we’d never have time to do anything else. You aren’t “stubborn as a cross-eyed mule,” you’re stubborn as a mule. The end. GAH.
Weird mashup of belief systems/folklore.
As is common with anything set in the colonies, a slave is the gateway to all things witchy. But . . . the spirit the slave helps the men trap is the bizarre amalgamation of voodoo and Native American folklore.
It came across as some kind of medicine man, but here’s the thing . . . Native American gods aren’t very flashy. In all the stories I’ve heard (and admittedly, it’s a hobby—I’m not an expert), they’re either in animal form, or they look just like any other person, but discerning people can tell there’s something different about them.
They don’t wear big, black feathered cloaks and set rivers on fire.
But that’s exactly what the Fire Carrier does. And he’s also the guardian of yunwi, which simultaneously sounds remarkably similar to the loa in voodoo and pissed-off brownies. Brownies as in the type of Fae that perform household tasks in exchange for . . . it varies, but the point is, if they don’t feel appreciated, they start causing trouble.
I don’t have a problem with mixing parts of various folklore traditions to create a new, unified whole. I’ve seen it done, and done well. Maybe I had such an issue with it this time b/c of the three mythologies, two are my favorite, and one is my most detested. I don’t know. Regardless, it felt . . . lazy. There were parts, but no unified whole. It was just this kind of . . . hodgepodge.
BUT. Like I said, really cool premise, so seriously, if an exaggerated representation of Southern culture and/or combining elements of pre-existing and separate mythologies aren’t a problem for you, give it a shot. I wouldn’t recommend it for those of you who are already on the fence about YA, b/c this book is distinctly YA.