Cover Image: The Wicked and the Willing

The Wicked and the Willing

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I jumped at the chance to read this based on the unique possibility of two endings. The content warnings are extensive and I loved the dedication the author had to assure that the reader is informed.
Was this review helpful?
Source of book: NetGalley (thank you)
Relevant disclaimers: none
Please note: This review may not be reproduced or quoted, in whole or in part, without explicit consent from the author.

Some mild spoilers.

Firstly this book is dark as fuck. There are extensive, and I do mean extensive, content warnings on the author’s website: like some of the best content warnings I have seen outside of Ao3. And, what’s more, when I requested this book somewhat whimsically from NG (“sapphic gothic set in 1920s Singapore, yes please”) the actual “your NG request has been approved” email ALSO came with content warnings. I’ve literally never seen that before but it is standing out in stark relief against, say, a major publisher who recently tried to position a book that kicks off with a very graphic queer rape scene as a heart-warming story. And, don’t me wrong, I’m not saying you can’t get to a heart-warming story from graphic rape. Just, it’s … I kind of feel, perhaps unfairly, you wouldn’t treat straight sexual violence so cavalierly.

All of which is to say, complete respect for this author before reading a single page of the book. I should also add that I might have actually hesitated in picking up a book with these themes (not as any sort of judgement of the themes, just on personal taste/comfort grounds) but I felt so goddamn respected and cared for by the NG approval email (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write) that I wound up feeling even if I didn’t like the book I could at least try to help get the author on the radars of people who were looking for a dark sapphic fantasy romance with strong horror elements.

In any case, I liked the book a lot. But I’m also conscious I have even less standing than usual to be talking about books in this particular subgenre so, as ever, apply salt to my words. Also, the other thing I’m struggling to untangle for myself, in terms of talking about The Wicked and the Willing, is that it exists at the intersection of a lot of social, genre and, indeed, gender complexities. The thing is, I do read a fair bit of m/f dark romance because it can be a disregarded/devalued part of the genre outside its own sphere of influence (which, believe me, is extensive) and I’m aware that equivalent queer stories exist but I guess one of the things that complicates queer dark romance is that m/f tends to be written mostly (but not exclusively) by women, f/f tends to be written mostly (but not exclusively) by women, and m/m tends to be written mostly (but not exclusively) by women. 

And, yes nonbinary people exist as authors and characters. And before anyone jumps down my throat I am most assuredly not saying that it’s wrong or whatever for anyone to write about people who don’t match their marginalisations. I write panqueer myself, it would be grossly hypocritical and, also, I just don’t think it’s a helpful way of looking at books or writing. But it does get more nuanced (and, again, please do not reduce this to an "AJH said it was bad that people who identify as women write m/m" – I am not saying that, I have never said that, I wouldn’t never say that)  when you’re looking at stories of trauma and abuse and taboo. Especially when there’s elements of eroticisation around those subjects, you kind of run up against the difference between telling stories about yourself for an audience of people like you and telling stories about other people for an audience of people not like them. 

Then you get to layer on top of that a bunch of fucked up cultural stuff about the way mlm and wlw are perceived by mainstream society: which, in very broad terms, is that we assume wlw are feminist empowering moon goddesses who bathe each other sensually in rose oil and  mlm are primal beasts of masculinity turned in upon itself who want to do nothing but snort coke off a stranger’s genitals in a public bathroom.  All of which means—again, I’m talking about this in the most general terms—that dark romance about queer men tends to be feeding into one type of stereotype and dark romance about women is pulling against each other. And which, in turn, means I’m personally a lot more comfortable with dark romance about wlw than I am with dark romance about mlm, but then I also haven’t gone searching for much dark romance about wlw because that feels kind of independently creepy. 

Of course, I’m not saying I’ve never read a book about women behaving badly to each other, but it tends to be lit-ficcy or thrillery rather than romance-adjacent. And I’ve had a quite a few conversations with sapphic friends over the years about how they wished there was a broader range of stories about and for them, including … y’know … darker stuff.

So that’s a very long preamble to basically say: sapphic (or indeed, non-sapphic) friends, if you are looking for monstrous sapphic women who are definitely monstrous and definitely sapphic in a story full of sex, power dynamics, vampires, murder, violence, torture, horror, blood, frocks, and colonialism then this is 100% the book for you. You’re welcome.

Seriously, as long as you’re okay with or actively looking for all of those things, this is a fucking fantastic book. It’s beautifully written, the characters are complicated, fucked up and deftly presented in all their complicated, fucked upness, the 1920s Singapore setting is really well done—taking us from squalor, deprivation and oppression to imperialist splendour—there’s vampire politics going on, and, of course, it’s … well … I don’t know how to say this politely but it’s unabashedly, gleefully, sometimes wince-makingly nasty-horny. Like, fair fucking play. In short, this a book that Goes There—often it Goes There and then some—and I have nothing but the deepest love and admiration for books that Go There.

The premise is that the heroine, Gean Choo, has fallen on hard times following the death of her parents. Given an English education in a school established for the purpose, she is able to secure a job at Ambrosia Hall, working as a maid servant for a wealthy reclusive European woman.  The woman in question, Verity Edevane, is—of course—a vampire. And Gean Choo has been brought to the house specifically to be her toy, lover, and blood doll: a sacrifice meant to keep Verity’s feeding in check (because she very much sees herself as one of the good ones). Complicating matters further is Po Lam, Verity’s impassive majordomo who essentially keeps her household running smoothly and gets rid of the bodies, and towards whom Gean Choo cannot help but feel drawn.

I mean, that’s the outline. From here the story is pretty much a nonstop blood murder sex chaos party. And just when you think it’s got as dark as it could conceivably get … the short answer is no. No, it hasn’t. But I think one of the things that makes it such a successful book, amidst the descent into inevitable carnage, is that the author exercises phenomenal control of the tone, firstly allowing the various narrative and emotional tensions to ramp up slowly and secondly by ensuring the characters have moments of stillness, tenderness, and connection (in various ways) amidst the horror. The first half of the book, especially, has a very traditional gothic feel—impoverished heroine, mysterious house, mysterious mistress—and the second half is getting to witness the unravelling of that.  In terms of vampire lore, The Wicked and the Willing felt about 50% Dracula, 50% Vampire: The Masquerade (a roleplaying game from the 90s for anyone who isn’t a huge nerd), which is to say, vulnerable to sunlight, staking and holy water, but also existing as part of a broader society, arranged in hierarchies by bloodline, and governed by a code of conduct that is meant to stop mortal society discovering and turning on them. A detail I kind of liked and don’t see enough in vampire stories is that the vampires in this setting are not capable of being sexually stimulated (which makes sense to me because vampires are literally dead, and their sole animating fluid blood and I don’t really want to think about what happens when a vampire ejaculates). They still experience desire, and engage in sexual behaviour, but it’s mostly desire for blood and power. 

The other thing that really worked for me about the portrayal of vampires in the setting was—and forgive me while I veer wildly out of lane—how well they function as an allegory for colonialist occupation. It’s a bit ironic, really, given Dracula is mostly a story about Victorian fears over foreign aristocrats coming over here and taking our women. And this is a story about how a group of people with unchecked power answerable only to their own somewhat arbitrary system of rules (and in practice not very answerable all) will seriously fuck your shit up and kind of not even notice. In this context particularly, Verity is a fascinating villain. I’m kind a bit shocked, if I’m honest, at all the #TeamVerity reviews, because she’s … y’know … not only physically and emotionally abusive towards the heroine but also … like … actively a manifestation of colonial oppression? I mean, call me a white guilt driven killjoy but I just don’t that hot? And, honestly, I think what makes Verity so successfully *terrifying* (as well as all the ways she’s sexy-scary, don’t get me wrong, she’s also been written extremely charismatically) is that—when we’re in her POV—she consistently thinks of herself as loving and virtuous, mostly because she’s decided she’s “better” than her fellow vampires. And, yes, her fellow vampires are probably worse than she is in the sense they do more murder, at least initially when Verity is trying to keep her hungers in check (although one of the first thing we see her do is eat a sex worker because she just didn’t feel like keeping her hungers in check that day) and they turn the humans who work for them into mindless thralls—which is obviously pretty horrible.

But, at the same time, as the book develops, it’s impossible not see Verity’s so-called virtue as little more than hypocrisy. She supposedly has a deal with Po Lam to only eat once a month or something, but she doesn’t actually keep to this deal once over the entire course of the book and by the midway point she’s found excuses to go on legit killing sprees. Similarly, Verity’s refusal to brainwash her servants just means that she manipulates them in other ways: claiming their loyalty, their silence, their complicity and in the case of Geon Choo their love. Essentially, Verity’s claim to superior moral goodness—which I did get the sense she delusionally believed in, just as delusionally believes she genuinely loves a woman whose consent she has transgressed on multiple occasions—takes more from the people she is exploiting than directly enslaving and murdering them. Her “kindness” makes them feel indebted to her and she, in turn, feels owed. Plus not enslaving or murdering someone less powerful than you isn’t kindness. It’s, y’know, it’s bar of human decency so low it’s a chalk line on the ground.

And then you’ve got Verity’s own POV sections which are masterpiece of neediness, self-indulgence, cruelty and obsession. And the fact that, abuser as she is, she is also a victim, exiled to Singapore for a misdemeanour against her sire, and having lately caught the interest of a local vampire leader—a white man from a bloodline that gives him the power to control people by voice alone (he’s a Ventrue, okay, he’s basically a Ventrue, he even wears a light grey suit). This doesn’t make Verity’s actions any more acceptable or sympathetic—at least it didn’t for me—but it offers a degree of nuance to her character by placing her within a particular context, one where power and abuse of power, are eternally and inevitably self-replicating. And you definitely don’t have to be an actual vampire for that to feel resonant.

Also, I’m super aware I’ve spent most of this review of a book set in Singapore talking about the white character. But I guess I feel more qualified to talk about the white character, and also it’s a monster book, and she’s the monster. I’m belatedly worrying I might have sounded judgey about the #TeamVerity folks, so I should add that while I was personally (albeit appropriately) horrified by her, she doesn’t behave in ways that I think are non-standard for the genre.  Or rather, she’s not noticeably worse than a monstrous male lead in a m/f story: the only difference is, I think, The Wicked and the Willing is more explicitly willing to acknowledge that kind of dynamic as inherently abusive. And, more to the point, it offers both its heroine and the reader a choice of ending. More on that later.

Heroine-wise Geon Choo is … fine. She’s a gothic heroine, so the story kind of requires her to be relatively passive, plus there’s a major bedrock of pain, damage, and disempowerment that makes her reactions (or lack her thereof) feel more understandable than is usually the case for gothic heroines. I wish we’d got a little bit more of her interiority, especially leading up to the moment she chooses to defy Verity near the end, and her on-going refusal to leave Verity—despite knowing exactly who and what Verity is, and having experienced some seriously fucked up treatment at her hands. Some of this is seems to be related to Geon Choo feeling what Verity offers her, with its uneven power dynamics, is all she deserves, but she also seems to genuinely desire (at least on some occasions) Verity for herself, uneven power dynamics and all. Weirdly, the most interesting reflection on this—for me—comes in one of the three possible endings to the story, where Geon Choo and Po Lam manage to escape together, and after they’ve consummated their relationship in still-sexy-but-more-vanilla terms, Geon Choo actively asks Po Lam to be rough with her, physically and verbally. I found this section a little rushed in general, especially their discussion after it, where Po Lam (who is just the best, just the absolute fucking best, #TeamPoLam) is concerned that liking treating someone in a sexually aggressive manner might make hr a bad person, and Geon Choo reassures her. But basically I just really liked the idea that part of the reason Geon Choo spends most of the book acting like a gothic heroine is that … well. She’s just kind of a horny little masochist? And a happy ending for her involves getting her horny little masochist itch scratched without needing to surrender herself to a murderous white lady.

And I guess having mentioned it, I should probably say something about the fact this book has three endings, like a very limited CYOA. Two are available in the book itself, the third for a newsletter subscription (I have never signed up for a newsletter so fast in my fucking life - I literally got out of bed to do it). Honestly, I still can’t decide how I felt about this. On the one hand, death of the author, let the reader choose the kind of book they wanted The Wicked and the Willing to Be, so far so good. Unfortunately, I think … I think, for me, in practice, I was just left feeling vaguely dissatisfied with each ending, finding them a bit rushed and insubstantial, and even slightly damaging to the book as a whole—in the sense that each ending has to feel like an emotionally plausible choice for Geon Choo to make in moment of her making it. And I guess that mostly worked? But I also found myself wishing Geon Choo had needed to be less narratively *adaptable* because I think it contributed to her character, and her character’s decisions, feeling a bit woolly and inconsistent towards the end of the book. On top of which, in one of the endings her POV literally includes lines like “why had she done that?” I DON’T KNOW EITHER GIRL. IT WAS CLEARLY A DREADFUL IDEA.

Anyway, this review is getting out of hand. The Wicked and the Willing is a bold and fascinating read. While it didn’t always work for me on all levels (still wrapping my head around the multiple endings), its ambition, its distinctiveness and its utter commitment to its storytelling was more than enough to paper over the cracks.  While they’re very different books with very different goals, I can see of see Mexican Gothic DNA in here—just in the sense of using the tropes of gothic fiction, which traditionally position “otherness” as a source of threat, to reframe whiteness and straightness, power and privilege, as villainous forces from which marginalised people must wrest their freedom and self-worth. 

PS – #TeamPoLam
Was this review helpful?
A destitute maidservant must choose whom to love: her vampire mistress or the woman trying to save her life. Clever, thought-provoking, evocative.  A touching and beautiful novel. I don’t think I’ll be able to articulate quite how good this book actually is.
Was this review helpful?
I'm rounding up a bit on this admittedly. I had high hopes from this from the description and that amazing cover. First, the warnings are probably quite helpful as towards the later half of the book things get very intense, abusive and there is some heavy mutilation, suicide and torture scenes. I can absolutely see how this wouldn't be readable for those with certain triggers.

The character with the most detail to her was Verity Edevane and as a result she was by far the most interesting one. Even though she was a walking trigger for a lot of the book. Admittedly, could have done without her racist dirty talk but for book in 1920's colonial Singapore I probably should have expected it. That said, more interaction with early 1900s Singapore would have been so good. Other than complaining about mosquitos and the heat, it could really have been set anywhere. 

Po Lam was a bit less put together than Verity and her entire romance with the main character was abrupt, or at the very least felt rushed. There was a lot more from her perspective that could have been fleshed out, more on the whole 'why her? why now?' questions she was having. We learn a little about her life in and before the house but not really enough to make her seem like a whole character.

The main character almost could have been replaced entirely and it not made a difference. She felt like half a character, where there were some thoughts about her personality and experiences but they entirely stopped at 'Let's make her innocent and naïve'. There wasn't room for character growth because there wasn't really a full character. 

If you want a graphic adult erotica book about lesbian vampires, this might be your thing. Mind the content warnings, they aren't just for show. And also, don't go into this thinking it's a full on romance. It is a depiction of a lot of abuse and dysfunctional relationships.
Was this review helpful?
When I saw this book on Netgalley, I quite literally didn't look further than "sapphic vampires" before I requested it. While I have no regrets, as I really loved this book, you probably should pay a bit more attention than I did, because the book has some serious trigger warnings.

tw: rape, racism, torture, suicide, self-harm (you can find more info on the author's website)

The book follows Gean Choo as she gets a new job as a maidservant for a wealthy English woman. The book is set in 1927 in Singapore, and while there are many stories surrounding the house she's now living in, Gean Choo is not afraid. Her new mistress, Verity, is cold and demanding and Gean Choo doesn't see herself developing feelings for her in any way. There is also Po Lam, who is also a servant of the house, who's worked there for many years and is now looking for a way out. Against her better judgment, Gean Choo develops feelings (albeit, very different ones) for both of them. If you enjoy dark romance, specifically lesbian vampires (and humans), stories where villains are villains to the very end, this might be for you. What I really liked, is that this story has a choice of endings, where you get to pick who the main character ends up with, and they are very different. (you also get a third, bonus ending if you sign up for the author's newsletter)

This book started off slow for me, and it took me a moment to really get invested but when I did I was not able to put it down, I needed to know more. The characters are all well-developed, and very complex. The main characters we follow are Gean Choo, Verity, and Po Lam, and what makes it so interesting is that they're all completely different and yet you very clearly understand where they're all coming from (even when you don't agree with them).

The romance that develops between Gean Choo and Verity is so dark, yet you understand how Verity draws her in. This truly does have a perfect gothic horror atmosphere where you are wanting to scream "no, don't do it!" to characters, and yet are compelled to keep reading. Gean Choo struggles with her feeling of self-worth and wanting to be needed, and that is exactly what Verity uses to keep her by her side. As the book goes on tension rises, and Gean Choo starts seeing how taxing this is for her, both mentally, and physically with what Verity puts her through. She is still unable to turn away from her, even as she sees Verity for the monster she is.
As the book goes on, Gean Choo also gets closer to Po Lam. They are both trying to keep each other at a distance. Gean Choo as she is already in deep with Verity, and Po Lam because she knows how this usually ends when Verity gets interested in someone.

The book progressively gets darker as the story goes on. The tension is through the roof, everyone is on edge and most of it boils down to Gean Choo and who she chooses, and which path she chooses for herself. What the author does amazingly is present how confusing and numbing can be living through an abusive relationship. As her relationship with Verity starts falling apart, and Po Lam gets more desperate, Gean Choo very stubbornly digs her heels in and doesn't want to make a choice. The switching POVs in this book is also very well done, as it does a great job of painting everyone's personalities and motivations so you see their past trauma, what they want, and what they need. The writing is absolutely amazing, it is atmospheric and the descriptions are lovely.

Slight complaints I have are that Gean Choo was at times, a slightly frustrating character to follow. It is clear to see she has a personality and her own strengths but at times, it felt as if she was too naive, too easy to guide a certain way. It seemed as if she was only stubborn in the worst possible times. I do understand why her character is as it is, of course, this is just something I noticed while reading. I also would've loved if there was a bit more of her and Po Lam together, if we'd seen a bit more of their relationship develop.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. It was definitely what comes to mind when you think of gothic horror with a lesbian vampire - it lived up to my expectations. If this is something that interests you, I would highly recommend it. I especially enjoyed the choice of endings, as it's not something I often see in books (and I actually really liked all of them!). But do keep in mind the trigger warnings if you decide to read this!

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an arc in exchange for an honest review!
Was this review helpful?
3.5

I highly recommend you check this out if any of your buzzwords include: sapphic love triangle, gothic horror, vampires, historical/colonial Singapore, indie pub, or dark romance.

To be honest, I was sort of terrified to read this book because the reviews made it seem like I would either love it or hate it and I was really hoping it wouldn't be the latter. While I didn't end up loving it, I thought there was a lot of pieces to love. 

The first 25% or so was incredible. I loved the atmosphere and the way Lianyu Tan built up the tension and desperation of Gean Choo, our main character. I also loved the little nods towards classic gothic and vampire stories throughout the book and the way the melting pot of colonial Singapore felt so immersive.

Unfortunately, it didn't last. Part of that is my preference as a reader as this is a dark romance and that is not a genre I love. Definitely check the trigger warnings, which the author lists on her website and at the front of the book. But part of it is also that I just didn't understand either of the pairings in this love triangle and so I found it hard to root for either couple. The middle of the book seemed to zoom by and I felt it lost the sense of atmosphere I loved so much from the beginning, though it returned at the end.

An interesting feature of this book is that there is a choose your own adventure ending, which I thought was really fun. I read through both versions and honestly loved both versions, though I'm not sure that would have been the case if I was more invested in one half of the love triangle over the other.
Was this review helpful?
The Wicked and the Willing is dark, twisted vampire story. It is DARK. Please be aware of the content warnings as it's not going be for everyone. It's beautifully written and unlike anything I've read before. It's haunting and deep in a way I haven't encountered before. The setting is so detailed and beautifully done. I was immediately taken into this world and unable to let go. If you want to try something dark and different give this one a try.
Was this review helpful?
FIRSTLY: Thank you, NetGalley and Shattered Scepter Press for providing me a copy of Lianyu Tan’s work.

I sincerely encourage all readers to review the content warnings on Lianyu Tan's website (https://lianyutan.com/content-warnings/#wicked) before engaging with this text and to prioritize self-care (during, after…actually, self-care in general is a good thing…).

ANYGAYS: I finished this book at 4:30am. There are already excellent reviews with sharp synopses + witty remarks neatly packaging the story arch, plot points, and general narrative content.  To be honest, I feel like my own positionality as a lesbian abuse survivor deeply informs my visceral response to this text and is steering the forthcoming format away from a more traditional review template. 

My initial urge was to write about how the cover, the material blurbs, the snappy categorizations that all deem this book a “Dark Seduction” “#WLW Romance” “#LoveTriangleTrope” are woefully misleading—this is NOT an erotic, sensual, or love story. BUT, the more I process this tale, the more I think maybe its marketing parallels a fundamental piece of the narrative itself: abusive relationships and oppressive systems are unlikely to present themselves for what they are (even in self-reflections). Such rebranding is evident in the text, as one of the abusive MC’s earnestly positions “loving too much” as her fatal flaw VS. her status as a serial rapist, killer, racist, bigot, classist, emotional manipulator, exploitative narcissistic imperialist… 👀...Yeah, not being able to control the pesky side effects [ie mutilation, violent violations, trail of traumatic carnage] of “caring too deeply” is definitely a more aesthetically appealing cover than any/all of the less figure flattering descriptors in the (blood-red flag 🚩) list above….

🤔: Is there anything explicitly accurate portrayed by the cover + marketing materials?
🔎: Yes. The book is about “Choice[s]”—and a lack thereof. Although picking  #TeamCuddlyHottie or  #TeamIceAristocrat isn’t the gut wrenching, soul tearing, desperately grasping, selection process unveiled here. Instead Tan tackles issues of intersectionality, privilege, and agency—the choice of whether to endure, to survive, to self-sacrifice without ever being allowed space in which one might form a sense of self or worth beyond a price of sale. 

OVERALL: Tan subverts WLW novel expectations to reveal traumatic carnage manifested from layers of abuse and enabled by systemic oppression. This book is horrifying—as it should be. The supernatural isn’t scary, but surviving is. 

Accepting yourself in the glaring light of survival requires bravery. Perhaps that’s the reason monsters hide in the dark.
Was this review helpful?
Look, this is the horny multi pairing D/S sapphic vampire book. You aren’t getting cute stuff, you are getting a weird rich white lesbian vampire sucking the mouths of her scrappy Asian handmaiden while they draw deeper into a spooky codependent bloody bond. If you like dark evil sexy gay vampires doing the old “it’s so wrong and yet so right”, this book is for you. If you want porn with an actually really brilliant and well thought out plot, get ready to have your mind blown. The author took all of her kinky energy and channeled it into one place.

Many folks are gonna walk out of this experience being upset that someone wrote a lesbian book for lesbians who wanna do dark horny kinky shit and likely will wanna put the author in horny jail for what she’s done: but I say…more of this please. We have enough snooze fest sapphic fantasies about nice queers; so let’s now get to enjoy our mean queer book with icky themes. GOOD FOR HER

Also the book has multiple endings which is very cool, you basically get to pick what ship you want to be endgame
Was this review helpful?
2.5 stars rounded up. 

I had high hopes for this book and it started out really good, but quickly dissolved into a mess impossible to follow, with inconsistent characters, overly long descriptions and unnecessary scenes. My interest might have not disappeared if it was half this long. Many times I felt like the plot has totally stopped, for intervals as long as several chapters. Sometimes there didn't even seem to be a plot. In my personal opinion, this book needs some serious editing, if that is still possible. 
The good things about this book are the setting (time, place, supernatural elements) and maybe some of the characters, but it's as if the author couldn't convey their depth. Like I'm sure they're very complex characters in the author's mind but I couldn't really become intrigued by them or care for them. Many times it appeared as though only the surface of their thoughts and motives were written down - which might have been done to build suspense, but the execution didn't work for me. And I know the love interests were supposed to be morally gray, but I just found them inconsistent, especially Verity. 
I am disappointed because I was expecting a scary, gripping horror story - and instead I was thoroughly bored.
Was this review helpful?
A f/f vampire romance set in 1920s Singapore? Count me in!
In the beginning I was in love with this book, I quickly got into it and the short chapters made me fly through it. The best thing for me is the atmosphere. I love the premise, the setting and all the women. I also liked seeing the vampire high society and the self-awareness of the story (our vampire lady wondering how long it will take the mc to find out that they're, in fact, vampires). The major problem for me is, that all the characters fall flat. We have a general idea of them, but their personalities are never fleshed out. It might work for the vampire lady, but the main character having no own agenda is quite disappointing. Same goes for the relationships, there is so much telling instead of showing. Oh, they talked the whole night? Good to know...would've loved to read that. They had dance lessons the whole past year? Wow, they must've had a great time..
I would also urge you to check out the trigger warnings. From the 60% mark this book just went crazy with sexual and physical abuse. Maybe I'm just too unfamiliar with the dark romance genre, but I wouldn't call it a romance at all.
I wanted to love this story so bad, but sadly it was not for me. There is an overwhelming amount of positive reviews though, maybe check those out.
Was this review helpful?
I knew this novel was going to be dark but holy shit. If you want to pick this book up, please do check the trigger warnings first.

The Wicked and the Willing is a slow paced book that languidly sucks you in. The amount of build-up towards the climax made me a little impatient but it's all worth it because the later half I think is the book's strong part. I really liked the writing and the concept of the book, it's honestly so rare to see Southeast Asia as a setting for historical romances in general and I was happy to see it and the way local folklore was even weaved into the story.

I think the strongest, most solid character was Verity/Mrs. Edavane. I don't love her because well, she really was a monster. But she's also so interesting and out of all of them I was drawn to her the most.

I agree with a review that said Po Lam was a missed opportunity. Her and Gean Choo's romance felt put to the side and I would have loved to have seen better development for them.

Gean Choo on the other hand, felt like an empty vessel. She was naive and to be honest? Practically useless. When that pontianak came and she was just like "Ok kill me :(" I was so???? She just lets herself get pushed around by everyone.

I loved the fact that while there's a love triangle, you get to pick whoever Gean Choo ends up with. While I both liked her romances, I can say that while her ending with Po Lam was lighter and made my happy-ending lover heart sing, the ending with Mrs. Edavane made me go "ooooh."

The romance here is in no sense wholesome or lighthearted.  There's blood and gore speckled through it. But if you love a dark sapphic romance, I would definitely recommend this one.
Was this review helpful?
Honestly this book was interesting and I can see why some people may love it, but I definitely struggled to get through it. I didn’t feel invested in any of the characters, the love didn’t flow well, and it seemed like the author was holding a thesaurus as she wrote the book. Thank goodness I was reading it on my kindle because she picked the most unheard of words to get her point across. 

I personally would not read it again, but I would recommend it if I ever came across someone looking for a sapphic vampire bdsm style book.
Was this review helpful?
DNF at 60% - this book was amazing to start out and then it went into a rollercoaster of horror that I wasn’t prepared for.

PLEASE DO NOT MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE I MADE - I didn’t realize there was a website with all the listed trigger warnings. Therefore I definitely read past a point of almost no return before I decided to stop reading. Boy am I glad I did. So, please please be sure to read all the triggers. 

I couldn’t handle any more after the dubious consent and constant abuse/manipulation. After the mention of infants being sold to vampires, I was out for good.

The premise of this book was really alluring but I feel like some of the shock value was unnecessary. Po Lam was a wonderful character and the author really does write very well. This just wasn’t the book for me and my empathetic/sensitive temperament.
Was this review helpful?
Lianyu Tan is a master of dark romance lesfic! I’m also a massive fan of lesbian vampires(Carmilla, anyone?) I’ve been hungrily waiting for this book ever since it was announced and it did not disappoint! Just a quick note: this book contains a multitude of trigger warnings, so read with caution!
Tan’s writing style lends itself perfectly to the atmospheric darkness of this gothic lesbian story. Gean Choo, Po Lam and Verity are fascinating characters, each with their own demons and flaws(although let me be clear, Verity is a total monster, not because she’s a vampire but because she is racist) I appreciated the way the book used the relationship between Verity/Gean Choo as a bit of a commentary of colonialism, this was very apparent in scenes like the one where Verity refuses to use Gean Choo’s name and white washes it into Pearl. Also, I massively adored Po Lam, it’s so rare to have butch lesbian rep, and to have it done so well? Incredible. Po Lam is conflicted, tortured and ultimately the hero( imo anyways)
This book does something I’ve never seen before, and that is a choose your own ending! I read both endings out of curiosity and both were great endings! Although I liked Po Lam’s ending more(in case it isn’t clear, Po Lam is my fav) The only things I didn’t like is that the Verity/Kalon plot ended up being a little anti climatic, and there were a few things that weren’t explained to clearly that left me feeling a little confused. Over all though, I really enjoyed this book, and cannot wait to read what Tan writes next! 4.5/5 stars
Was this review helpful?
I don’t typically enjoy horror but I couldn’t turn down the appeal of a sapphic vampire novel. This book is dark, and I would pay close attention to the trigger warnings before reading, but it did keep me on my toes. The main characters were very well developed although it was hard to root for them as a couple at first because of the manner of her and Verity’s relationship. Something that I thought was really interesting was the choice the author gave to the readers, the choice to choose the fate of the book and the love of our heroine.
Was this review helpful?
After Gean Choo’s deadbeat father passes away, she's stuck with his gambling debt and needs to pay off his lenders, so she accepts a well-paying position as a companion for Lady Verity Edevane. However, there are no mirrors in the house, her mam’s hands seem strangely cold, and Gean begins to suspect she may not be human.

The Wicked and the Willing by Lianyu Tan is a hypnotic and gripping historical vampire romance set in 1920s colonial Singapore.

Now, this book may not be everyone’s cup of tea. The characters aren’t saints. They’re flawed and morally questionable and do messed up things, but that’s partly what makes them so compelling.

I also thought it was really unique that, towards the end, readers get to choose between two different actions that result in different endings. I thought that was really clever and reminded me of timed decision-making games like The Walking Dead or Until Dawn.

Overall, I found it refreshingly satisfying to read such an apologetically raw and dark sapphic romance along the lines of The Handmaiden, and I can’t wait to see what else Tan has in store.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you so much Shattered Scepter Press and Netgalley for sending me a copy of The Wicked and the Willing.

I was so excited to dive into this book as I was so excited for the lesbian, vampire romance. And let me tell you, it is not a romance. Our main character, Gean Choo, is dealing with the trauma of her childhood and the "love interest" Verity.

However, their love interest is manipulative with a weird power imbalance. The sex scenes are strangely clinic and neither woman actually enjoys it. Verity, as a vampire, physically can't enjoy sex, only feeding. And Gean Choo is constantly being pushed into acts that she is not comfortable with. Their first sexual encounter is actually assault and after that, it is impossible to root for them.

I was excited to read this novel because it was promoted as the villain remaining the villain even after she falls in love. But neither of these women are in love with each other. Verity is using and manipulating Gean Choo to feed from her and Gean Choo has nowhere else to go.

The trigger warnings are intense. And a lot of the assault was unnecessary, especially (in my opinion) the childhood assault from her teacher. I appreciated the extensive list of theories.

I loved the first half of the book, I can't lie. This book is beautifully written. Lianyu Tan is incredibly talented. But then I realised that there were still 200 pages left. And it was exhausting...

The setting of 1927 Singapore was amazing and I wish we dived into that more. That was the most exciting part of the book.

Then there was the choose your own adventure ending that I loved and hated. I wish the author made the decision, although I loved seeing what happened if Gean Choo went down two different paths. Although I found the second love interest a tad random. I don't know...

Perhaps horror isn't for me and this book certainly wasn't.
Was this review helpful?
What a great book!! Usually I don’t read horror books, but I thought I would get a little bit out of my comfort zone with this one since it was a horror/romance, and I must say it did not disappoint! This is a sapphic, historical, gothic horror, vampire novel based in the 1920’s Singapore and you are transported into the book almost immediately. The novel follows Gean Choo, an orphan who takes a job as an amah to pay off her father’s debts, Verity Edevane, Mistress of the house and to locals known as the Ghost bride, and Po Lam, eldest in her family, supporter to her younger sisters and Mrs. Edevane’s Majordomo, Gean Choo falls for both of them and will have to choose. This book is incredibly well written and I absolutely love the fact that the author gives you an option to choose the ending of the book. 5/5 will most definitely recommend, I will say though, please be sure to check the trigger warnings.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I was sold on this book as soon as I read the premise. This book is definitely dark and heavy and has several serious trigger warning so please be aware of those before diving into this book. 
This book was great. It was definitely dark and had an eery feeling throughout the book. I was constant eager to find out what would happen.
Was this review helpful?