Pros: Stunning, hot new interpretation of ‘Cinderella’
Cons: Virtually none
Rating: 5 out of 5
I don’t normally review free ebooks, but I’m making an exception for Bettie Sharpe’s Ember. I first encountered it on the ultra-fun blog of Dionne Galace, where Ember was posted as a ten-part serial, one part per week. It gained a devoted—nay, worshipful—following, and we were split between horror at having to wait to read more from week to week, and dread at having the amazing story actually end. You can go back and read it on Dionne’s blog in ten parts, or download it directly from Bettie’s site—go to the freebies section and scroll down.
But as so often happens, I’m getting ahead of myself in my enthusiasm!
Everyone loves Prince Charming. They have to—he was cursed at birth by a witch. Only Ember, a witch herself, has the fire and tenacity to fight against that curse, and unfortunately for her, that only catches his attention. Ember’s stepmother and step-sisters do what they can to help her, of course, but even they aren’t immune to the Prince’s charms. So Ember disguises herself as a cinder-wench in her own home, hoping to at least avoid the Prince’s attention, and if possible find a way to counteract his charm. She never imagined she’d fall in love with the coarse man who cares for the Prince’s horses, and she never guessed that the Prince himself still has a few tricks up his sleeve.
Bettie turns the story of Cinderella on its ear in ways that will amaze you. Cinderella isn’t a shrinking violet; there’s no fairy godmother; and the stepmother and step-sisters are only wicked in some rather unexpected ways.
There are details and plot twists that other authors would have tried to hide as mysteries, that the characters themselves are too blinded by emotion to figure out, that aren’t difficult for the reader to spot; in almost any other author’s hands this would have led to a feeling of annoyance at the characters’ foolishness or a boredom and feeling that the story was predictable. Instead, these things give the story a weight of tragedy that only adds to its beauty (yes, I admit there was a spot where I cried). Rather than spending the story trying to unravel a mystery, the reader spends it on edge desperately hoping against hope that all will come out well for the characters.
If I had any criticism at all it might be that toward the end there’s a spot or two where the pace slows a little, but that isn’t even enough for me to knock half a point off of my score. This is an incredibly fresh and unique take on a story that’s been told dozens of times, with characters that sparkle and a story that draws you in like a riptide. I found myself visiting Dionne’s blog every Thursday to hit ‘refresh’ over and over throughout the day just so I could find out what happened in the next part. You don’t have to wait—you can go read the whole thing for free right now.
This story could fit in any number of genre buckets—romance, erotica, horror, fantasy. It’s a story first and foremost about people, however, and any blood or explicit sex within its pages is merely a means toward the end of telling their story.
I delayed my review of Ember until today because Bettie’s first published ebook is coming out today and I love her work so much that I wanted to help get the word out. I’m about to go buy my copy—I suggest you give Ember a read and, if you like it, do the same.