Review: Compulsion by Martina Boone

Posted November 2, 2014 by Jessica in Jessica, Reviews, Young Adult / 25 Comments

Review: Compulsion by Martina Boone
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
Pages: 448
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
One StarOne Star
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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.

I’m S-O-U-T-H-E-R-N.

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.

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Jessica Signature

One StarOne Star

My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.


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25 responses to “Review: Compulsion by Martina Boone

  1. Ah yes it must be difficult when you know things and finally see that things are different in books and finally quite cliché. But it’s a little sad too, I was really curious about this one because I heard great things about this one but now I’m anxious. I’m sorry you were disappointed with this one.

  2. Well, for one: no one ever mentioned why this southern gothic worked for them, other than it fully represented everything they love about gothic. You are the first one to defunct why this one sounds like a fraud. I guess it helps you’re a southerner. And second: out of all the reviews I’ve read for this book, yours is the only one who’d succinctly defined why YA fiction, though mostly forgivable for its entertainment value, can be utterly preposterous at times.

    It’s an eye-opener for those who’d have, at one point, decided they wanted to give this book a chance (i.e. ME).

    Very intelligent observations indeed, Ms. Jessica!
    Joy (Joyousreads) recently posted…Hoarders, Books Edition: Episode 126

  3. I had a feeling you wouldn’t like this one. I remember Khanh reviewing this not too long ago and listed all the things that were wrong with it, but it’s nice to see your angle from this one. I understand how annoying it can be if a book is supposedly from a certain region/country/place, but portrays it in the most stereotypical way possible. I’d be pissed too if that happened with a book that took place in the Philippines… haha.

    And the mythology sounds pretty complicated for me with all the modifications, and the premise sounds all over the place because of it, too :/ I won’t be reading this one fer sure!

    Faye at The Social Potato
    Faye M. recently posted…ARC Review: Stray by Elissa Sussman

  4. Eesh, must be hard to read something supposedly Southern, while your own experiences with it are so different! It wouldn’t bother me probably, since I never even set foot on USA soil, and I wouldn’t know how someone talks over there. The myth mash-up thing sounds very interesting. Too bad this wasn’t for you!
    Celine recently posted…October in Review

  5. I had originally actually heard quite a few good things about this one Jessica but now i’m reconsidering if it’s a right fit for me. I’m really picky with my southern reads because I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set in the South that didn’t seem like a stereotypical mess. I understand your frustration when reading a book that is supposed to take place in the but fails to really represent the culture and lifestyle in the place. It’s a shame and annoying. Hopefully your next read is much more enjoyable Jessica.
    Lily recently posted…Thrive (Addicted #2.5):Review

  6. I’ve been curious about this book, since I’ve been seeing it everywhere. I like the sounds of the three families each having a ‘curse’. lol at the failed south. My sister moved to South Carolina four years ago so even I know most of these are wrong. It could/should have been a good opportunity to accentuate the cool culture of the south, but instead it sounds like everything in this book was just over the top.
    Molly Mortensen recently posted…The Griever’s Mark by Katherine Hurley

  7. LOL I feel ya! When I read extras bastardizing my Filipino heritage I get mad too so I can appreciate your rant here.

    I live in TN as you know and I have yet to meet people who talks like the characters here. I’ve met a lot with strong Southern accents but they don’t talk funny like how you described it here.

    I’m curious to read this novel, I think I’ll enjoy it more than you did just because I can’t identify authentic from non-authentic Southern ways, I’ll go reading it blind if you know what I mean. Sorry this was a disappointment for you, I hope what you’re currently reading is better than this.
    Braine TalTpe recently posted…Steampunk Sundays: The Time Roads by Beth Bernobich

  8. Those are exact issues we have when non-European authors write about Europe. Especially cities like Paris or Rome or Barcelona or Prague. They tend to almost make everything seem like a caricature. Funniest part is all talk about food. Suddenly, something simple like cookie becomes exotic treat because author used different word for it.

    Great review, Jessica!
    Glass recently posted…Release Day Lunch – Nocte by Courtney Cole

  9. On the bright side, you wrote an awesome review! I can imagine how frustrating it would be to have your culture/background misrepresented. This one sounds like a bust, I’m gonna give it a miss.
    Manda recently posted…The Fire Seer

  10. Eh, it is a cool premise, Jessica, but I think I can pass. I’m from Texas and I *really* don’t like it when Texans or Southerners are misrepresented. You’re right about the mythologies too – if they’d been unified, it could’ve been awesome. But… Yeah, I think I’ll skip this one. I’m just sorry you spent time on it.
    Bookworm Brandee recently posted…**Blog Tour Early Review & Giveaway ~ Eight Days a Week ~ Amber L. Johnson**

  11. Jessica, if you don’t ever call me ‘sugar’ when we meet in May next year, I’m going to be extremely disappointed! 😛
    This story doesn’t really sound like it’s for me – the curse thing just doesn’t make a lot of sense, and if all three guys made the weird voodoo curse, they should all be cursed or blessed – not two blessed and one cursed.
    And I’m not sure I’d enjoy the MC feeling like she’s in prison after she finally was able to leave her own house.
    Thanks for the great review Jessica. I hope your next read made you much happier.
    Lexxie recently posted…Review: Lord Wastrel – Donna Cummings

  12. I don’t live in the south and the furthest south I’ve been is North Carolina. So I’m not very particular about accuracy on that area. Though I understand your rant. It can be annoying when things are inaccurate about an area you live in. I really quite enjoyed this one but at the same time there were things I thought I should be annoyed about and I wasn’t. Sorry you didn’t like it more though!
    Candace recently posted…Book Review: Another One Bites the Dust by Chris Marie Green

  13. Zoe

    It’s always difficult when you know a lot about a topic presented in a book, and the author portrays it inaccurately, you know? 😐 Even though I’m not from the South, I can definitely relate to having your culture stereotyped and misrepresented. Nonetheless, since I’m not from the South, I have a feeling I won’t have the same problems with this as you did, so I’m still going to give it a try. 🙂 Fantastic review Jessica! 😀
    Zoe recently posted…Margot

  14. Berls from Fantasy is More  

    Even though I don’t feel I can claim southern as well as you can (I was born in NY), I love Texas and like to think of myself as a Texan. I can laugh at a bit of exaggerated southerness, but after a bit it rubs me wrong. And, like you, I’m all about Fae and Native American mythology, so this book would probably not be for me. The premise did have potential though. Oh well, you win some you lose some.
    Berls recently posted…Losing Logan by Sherry D. Ficklin | Short Audio Review

  15. With so many glowing reviews of this it’s nice to read something a little different especially coming from a person who has experience with the south. I would prob just find it creative writing since I don’t live in the south and don’t know how people actually act I would just assume it’s mostly for the show anyway and not an accurate representation of the people.
    Lily B recently posted…Blog Tour: Stolen Moon (Light Chronicles #2) by Kimber Leigh Wheaton

  16. This book was so much promoted and it was all over YA book site that you can’t help but have high expectations. sorry it didn’t work for you, Jessica 🙁 I’m still not sure if I’m ever going to read this. Usually, books that are about Southerns intrigues me because, Idk, there’s something about south :p But I’ve seen not so good reviews of this one (including yours) that makes me want to stay away.

    Great review, Jessica!! <3
    Paula M. recently posted…REVIEW: Embers (The Wings of War #1) by Karen Ann Hopkins + Giveaway!!