Saturday, February 4, 2017
Ella the Slayer by A.W. Exley
I don't like zombies much, either. They're gross. Enough said. Still, when I saw a zombie/Cinderella crossover, I couldn't resist and took a look. There's just something about a princess wielding a katana that softens my anti-zombie heart. Was it worth it? Well, let's dive right in.
In the early 1910s, a pandemic of Influenza swept the country of England, killing hundreds...and they didn't stay dead. In the town of Somerset, young Ella has a heavy load to bear. A slave to her stepmother, a servant in her own house, primary caretaker for her nearly comatose father, and village zombie slayer. When she meets the handsome new duke who just arrived in town, she quickly finds herself falling for him. But her wicked stepsister, as well as every girl in town, has their eye on the duke and there is so much of her he doesn't know. Could they possibly be together, or will her gory work and life of servitude keep them apart?
This story definitely has its ups and downs. The ups are that this is actually a pretty good Cinderella retelling. This story has been told so many times with many people clambering to be the ones who do it best, and this one is pretty successful. Ella herself is heroic and brave, but not invulnerable. Even though her job of killing the local zombies (though in the book they call them "vermin"), while necessary, doesn't make her very well received. People think her soul is stained and she's going to hell for what she does, even though it saves lives. Top that off with how she's treated at home, it's amazing that she still manages to be a good person. The stepmother in this story is one of the most despicable that I've read in a really long time. Most evil stepmothers can almost come off cartoonish, but this broad? Pure. Unadulterated. Evil. I hated her, in the good way. You're meant to hate her and, trust me, you will.
The duke, Seth, is also really well done for a Cinderella story. Usually, the "princes" in the story can be bland or just kinda handsome with nothing else to them. But Seth is a complex veteran who has just returned from one war to fight another against the undead back home. We have a chance to spend a lot of time with him and get to see who he is as a person, just as Ella does. Oh, and at the moment in the book when Ella realizes that she loves him, you'll fall in love with him too. It's an awesome moment. The servants, including Ella's best friends Alice and Henry, are fun characters who help lighten the mood and keep the story from being too depressing. Finally, with the stepsisters, they do that thing where one is horrible and the other is actually kinda nice. I keep seeing this a lot and I wouldn't mind so much if the "good" sister would accomplish something, and this one just doesn't. They could have been a bit more developed.
Now the downside of the story? The zombies. Because I don't like them? No, actually, because there wasn't more of them. Yes. I, a zombie hater, wanted more zombies in this book. The scenes where they show up are so few and far in between that you kind of forget they're there until they show up again. There's a defining wall between both the zombie side of the story and the Cinderella side. Every new chapter I started making a mental list. This one's a Cinderella chapter, this one's a zombie chapter, these two are Cinderella chapters, this next one's a zombie chapter, etc. The two don't blend together at all. Heck, the book even tries to have two climaxes, the iconic ball scene and a big gory zombie fight. If you took the zombies out of the story completely, the story wouldn't suffer at all. It's like they're there just for our hero to be able to use a sword. There are also plot lines that go pretty much nowhere, things left unresolved, lots of sequel fodder and it got a bit sloppy near the end. I just wish the story flowed more, that the two defining elements weren't so separate from each other. It's a pretty big flaw in an otherwise pretty good story.
This book had promise, it really did. Two halves of two good ideas but woven together poorly. It comes together as two stories, while well written, have almost nothing to do with each other. Still, if it sounds up your alley, it's worth a read but you should probably wait for it on paperback.
Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts.
Next time: Who's afraid of the big bad genetically mutated animalistic super soldier?