Ella, the Slayer is the first in a young adult series. It features a retelling of Cinderella (with lots of little winks toward the tale) where Cinderella is a katana wielding zombie killer.
My position in the village was that simple. When you cannot face beheading the friend who turned up on your doorstep, even though they are salivating to take a bite from your succulent flesh, you summon the girl who carries the sword.
This book is so much fun.
It’s a katana wielding Cinderella that spends her time – after serving her ‘wicked step-mother’ – slaying the recently returned dead.
So, a lot of people died in the Spanish Flu pandemic, but it wasn’t the flu and they didn’t stay dead. Instead, they come back as ravening zombies that must bite the living to spread their infection.
In all this, we have Ella, the young daughter of a knight and a servant, that was raised by a doting father to learn to ride, shoot and swordfight as well as a boy. She takes it upon herself to protect her small village the best she can, with a blade, putting the undead to their final final rest.
There are so many things to adore about this book. I love the setting the author chose for it. It’s 1919, England, just after the end of World War One. This works so beautifully because for the first time, women went with a force into the workplace. So many men went to war that women were the ones responsible for keeping business and factories and homes running. While Ella takes a more active role, literally fighting to protect her village, it doesn’t seem as out of place as it could have at an earlier time.
I’m a huge fan of fairytale retellings. I love the way authors can take something well known – and I doubt there’s any fairytale as well known as Cinderella – and make it their own. And the author definitely did that here. While I’ve never really been a fan of the whole zombie thing, it works so beautifully here because of the dissonance. Who would have ever thought of Cinderella fighting zombies?
Ella herself is a normal girl – just one with a little more skills in fighting than most have and a very protective streak when it comes to her village. What’s more, she wants to be a normal girl. She yearns for the normal, happy life she lead before the war, when her father was still whole, before the dead rose again.
I really think that both the main characters, Ella and Seth, – the prince surrogate that’s actually a duke – have PTSD. One of the secondary characters is explicitly referred to as having ‘shell shock’ which was a term for a type of PTSD before that term was ever coined.
Beyond all that, I think my absolute favorite thing about this book is how Seth accepts Ella fighting alongside him. It’s obvious that he respects her and even likes her for her fighting abilities and her brains. He never once tries to keep her from fighting, just offers a shoulder and a hand if things get to be too much. And I love that.
Content Advisory: This book features a few very graphically descriptive scenes of decomposing corpses and some off-screen/alluded to nonconsensual body modification of a minor character. It is also quite violent, though not graphically so.