A brief aside: I was supposed to meet up with @janoda yesterday/Monday. Not only was I silly enough to get mixed up on dates, but it started snowing mega-buckets, to the point that the trams (my only way into the centre of town) stopped running.
It was Jan who recommended Ember to me, and let me say I am, as usual, extremely grateful for her recommendation. Given that we didn’t manage to meet up in person, it seemed fitting to be with her in spirit by reading a story she has told me she loves.
So, for Jan, here is my apology: a webfiction review.
Ember is a twisted, dark-edged story; a fairy tale as it should be, with all the gory bits left in.
I raced through the story, read it all in one sitting. It’s short and engaging, and written in a conversational first-person that draws the reader right in. And—let’s be honest—any story that opens with the words “sucker punched” has me at “suck”.
The premise intrigued me. Ember is a re-telling of the classic Cinderella story, but with some major differences, the most important one being that the characters are actually well-rounded.
Picture this: Prince Charming is a cursed man who is adored and respected by everyone he meets, never having to work to gain said adoration. Enter the Witch, a woman who is determined to resist Prince Charming’s curse. Does it come as any surprise that the Prince will end up wanting exactly what he can’t have?
Yes, the romance element is strong. And this is definitely not a kid’s book: there are bloody bits, and sexy bits, and gross bits. But that is what gives the story its character, makes it shine. It’s human, it’s real.
As a matter of fact, what really made the story for me was how human Ember—the main character—was. She is flawed, she is wicked, she can be headstrong and ruthless. This is no demure lady waiting to be rescued; Ember knows what she wants, and is not afraid to fight to get it. That said, there were a couple moments when I wanted to slap Ember for being so silly.
The other strength of this tale was the subtle integration of fairy tale mythology into it all, the ironic references, the little twists on familiar folklore. The universe is really well-developed, and I would love to see more of it.
The writing has the simple beauty of a fairy tale, unadorned but with the occasionally surprising turn of phrase that caught me by surprise.
Perhaps my only complaint is that the plot was a little predictable. The main plot twist—the one that pushes the story onwards—is revealed to the reader far before Ember figures it out, meaning that the narrative lost a lot of its potential suspense and intrigue.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed reading the story, and even had a tear or two in my eye at one point. But the tale would have been far more gripping if I hadn’t known all along how things would end.
In sum: Recommended for fairy-tale lovers and sceptics alike, this is a dark, entertaining story, ideal for a snowed-in evening when you’re looking for a little escape.