Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review of Jane Slayre by Sherri Erwin

Jane Slayre by Sherri Erwin and Charlotte Brontë

First, let me say that attempting to do a mash-up of a well-beloved classic takes a ton of guts. Blood and guts and green goo, too. It is a huge undertaking for several reasons. One, folks don't like authors messing with their favorite classic books. Two, seamlessly blending the old text with new text is quite a challenge. Not only does the author need to adopt a new "voice" (that of Charlotte Brontë), but the new material must be incorporated into the classic manuscript in a flowing, non-jarring way. Three, you know damned well that folks will be comparing your book to the classic, which must be intimidating in the extreme. Finally, you have to "make it work" in the immortal words of Tim Gunn. Which is to say, mix horror with historical romance, and make it entertaining, clever, and satisfying.

Having just read the original Jane Eyre for the first time, I was really looking forward to seeing a new twist on the classic. Jane Eyre charmed the pants off me....I loved the romance, I loved the melodrama, and I adored the heroine. I also love quirky unexpected twists in my reading material--taking a children's fairy tale and turning it into a BDSM erotica, creating a book that mixes historical romance with steampunk paranormal comedy (Soulless by Gail Carriger), sexing up the Santa Claus myth (my own book, Sweet Inspiration). So, mixing horror (zombies, vampires and werewolves) into a classic piece of literature seemed like a heavenly proposition to me. Shaun of the Dead is one of my all-time favorite movies. Horror and comedy go together like chocolate and peanut butter, like Sonny and Cher, like Dean Martin and a martini. It's a fabulous combination!

So, did it work? Well, Erwin made a few improvements on the original in my estimation. The pacing is much faster in her book and the story flows better. The incredibly long-winded bits of narrative and dialogue (especially from Rocky McRochester) in the original were at times painful to slog through. Although you get used to it. But for modern readers, we're not really used to that sort of pacing. Erwin's mash-up still manages to keep the "flavor" of the original (with the lush description and heart-felt dialogue) but moves it along at a brisker pace.

Also, let's face it. The original Jane Eyre is not a funny book. Jane's journey is emotionally draining and painful, but wonderfully romantic at the end (just like a good romance should be!). It could have used a bit of comedic relief, which Erwin provides in a most hilarious way. Jane doling out round-house kicks to vampires, lopping off zombie heads and getting sprayed with green goo, and sharpening her wooden stakes, are all wonderful additions to the original story.

I must admit that part of the "magic" of the original book was lost in this version. But two things made it a big winner in my opinion. One is that Erwin kept the ending intact (the HEA)....with a paranormal twist of course. (Poor Rocky McRochester has a bit of furry werewolf-y problem which Jane takes care of). The ending of this story is just as fabulous and satisfying as the original. The most excellent change to the original is how Erwin has transformed Jane into a butt-kicking monster-slayer. It was truly difficult to read about how powerless Jane is at the beginning of Jane Eyre...being abused by the Reeds, Brocklehurst, etc. In Erwin's version, it doesn't take long for her slaying tendencies to kick in, and it empowers her, and the reader, in a fantastic and oh-so-satisfying way.

There were a few things that bothered me. One was having Helen turn into a zombie...I saw that one coming, but since Helen's death was one of the most touching and emotional moments of the original book, I didn't think it was the best place for a comedic reference. Also, some of the best bits in this book are the funny lines....and there just weren't enough of them. There is a time and place for restraint, and a zombified version of Jane Eyre is not one of them! Erwin has a great sense of humor, and I would have liked to see it slip off its leash a bit more. Also, it occurred to me that some juicier love scenes would have been fun. I think Erwin could have taken a few more liberties with the original text, and pushed it a bit more over the top.

All in all, I found this book to be a fun and entertaining twist on the classic Jane Eyre. If any heroine was ever meant to be a butt-kicking vampire slayer, it is certainly intrepid Jane. I am now inspired to read Pride and Prejudice and all the kooky new versions of that book, too!

Grade: B+

Happy Days,