Review: “Charm” (A Cinderella Reverse Fairytale Book 1) by J.A. Armitage

Charm (reverse Fairytales) (Volume 1)

A review by Vanessa

What’s a girl to do when she suddenly finds herself the heir to a kingdom, in need of a husband and totally devoid of any romantic entanglements? First, she must mourn the loss of her older sister, and then she needs to take dancing and etiquette lessons fit for a Queen. The ball meant for Princess Charmaine’s older sister to find a husband among 100 applicants is still going to happen but Charmaine is going to have to do the dancing and the picking. It’s the last thing she ever wanted, especially since she sucks at dancing, but when she wanders down to the kitchen for a late dinner she finds help in the form of handsome, downtrodden, dishwasher named Cynder. He just happens to know how to dance, and he does magic. Romance isn’t something she can have with him, because he is a servant and a mage, but she just can’t help it. Cynder opens her eyes to so much, including love, and the tense state of the kingdom surrounding the subhuman treatment of magic users. But Charmaine needs to pick five potentials out of the 100, and over the next months, narrow it down to one. But when chaos erupts at the ball, and the magic users make it known how unhappy they are, things might just not go according to plan.

This book definitely had all of the meat and potatoes of a good story with enough depth of conflict and emotional gravitas to keep the readers’ interest. The twist of making the Cinderella character male, and the Prince a Princess, while throwing in the political climate surrounding magic and those who use it was interesting. Making his status as a magic user the source of Cynder’s downtrodden life was really intriguing. Princess Charmaine is actually an interesting character to follow, and the way she looks at and regards the other characters is an interesting lens through which to view the story. However, she herself at times seems a bit two dimensional. You want her to step up and be the hero of her story, as the Prince would be in the original story line, but she seems to end up flowing with the story rather than driving it along. She has great moments of intrigue occasionally, especially when plunged into romantic situations, but she lacks the gumption you would want from the hero of the story.

While the concept of this reversal of the fairy tale is an interesting one and it was overall a pleasant read, I couldn’t help being a little disappointed with the world building. Turning this classic fairy tale upside down and inside out presented a chance to create a whole new fictional universe, but I feel like it was a very large missed opportunity. Instead of being new it ended up being simply a modern day wherever, with modern technology like cameras and TV, but for some inexplicable reason they ride around in carriages, and there happens to be magic. It’s very difficult to get a mental picture of the kingdom. Are they a castle province in the middle of an American-like township, with modern apartments and businesses, etc? Or are they in an old timey British-like town with old architecture, and traditional crafters and artisans? It’s almost like Armitage took a bunch of elements of older fairy tale worlds, threw them in a blender with some modern day elements and hit frappe! The last thing you want to do with a first in a series is make it difficult to imagine how the characters fit into the world. I enjoyed this one enough to try the next in the series but I will be keeping my fingers crossed for stronger world building.

3 out of 5 stars

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BOOK TOUR: Review: “Ella, The Slayer” by A.W. Exley

"Ella The Slayer" b A.W. ExleyA review by Maria.

I would like to thank author A.W Exley for allowing me to read her book: Ella, The Slayer in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This book was a pleasant combination of Cinderella, Downton Abbey, and The Walking Dead.

Ella’s father is the master of their house, and her deceased mother was a servant; but Ella still lived an elegant life. Several years back her father re-married. Her stepmother and two stepsisters forced her to live the life as a servant and not a lady. When her father came back from the war brain-damaged and disabled, 17-year-old Ella was left to care for the estate and the whims of her ambitious stepmother. Then the dead started to rise up and started attacking the living. When Ella kills one of the undead she’s deemed hell-bound and acts as the official slayer for her town since she’s already doomed. Then she meets Seth deMage, the new Duke of Leithfield, by nearly decapitating him thinking he was one of the undead. A partnership born of attraction and respect is formed. But Ella’s stepmother and stepsister will stop at nothing to gain Seth’s hand in marriage.

Ella is a braver version of Cinderella; one who is capable of saving herself and those around her. She’s kind, witty, stubborn, and courageous. She’s prepared herself to kill the undead even though the church says it is at the cost of her soul. But better one soul lost in the killing of the undead rather than many. Ella proves resourceful both in her slaying but also in thinking of ways to spend time with Seth. She knows the attraction can’t go anywhere because he’s nobility and she’s a servant but she enjoys their time together. She worries that one day he’ll learn her secret or worse, her step-family will.

Seth was a very pleasant substitute for Prince Charming in the story. Instead of hiding behind his noble birth, Seth went and fought in the war and continues to fight now against the un-dead back at home. He’s fascinated with the capable katana wielding Ella; and wants to get to know her more.

Also worth mentioning were the wonderful characters in the servants quarters both in Ella’s home and Seth’s. Through Ella, the book offers glimpses at how hard the life of a servant still was in 1918 and what little rights they had.

The only complaint I had about this novel was that I wished the author had delved more into the multiple character’s lives during their time in the war and a little more about how the undead zombies came into existence. But the theory on what motivates the undead and comparing them to a beehive was a fantastic new take on the zombie lore.

Fans of Cinderella, Downton Abbey, and The Walking Dead would enjoy this book as it’s a terrific blend of all three. I recommend this book to young-adults and adults alike. Even though the legend of Cinderella factors into this story I wouldn’t recommend it to younger readers as there’s plenty of gore and zombies in it.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

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Welcome to my tour stop for Ella, the Slayer by A.W. Exley. Ella, the Slayer is an Edwardian retelling of Cinderella with an undead problem. It is an upper young adult novel.

The tour runs August 10-21 with reviews only. Check out the tour page for more information.

ELLA ebookAbout the Book:

The flu pandemic of 1918 took millions of souls within a few short weeks.
Except it wasn’t flu and death gave them back.

Seventeen-year-old Ella copes the best she can; caring for her war-injured father, scrubbing the floors, and slaying the undead that attack the locals. ‘Vermin’ they’re called, like rats they spread pestilence with their bite. Ella’s world collides with another when she nearly decapitates a handsome stranger, who is very much alive.

Seth deMage, the new Duke of Leithfield, has returned to his ancestral home with a mission from the War Office — to control the plague of vermin in rural Somerset. He needs help; he just didn’t expect to find it in a katana-wielding scullery maid.

Working alongside Seth blurs the line between their positions, and Ella glimpses a future she never dreamed was possible. But in overstepping society’s boundaries, Ella could lose everything – home, head and her heart…


A.W. ExleyAbout the Author:


Books and writing have always been an enormous part of A.W. Exley’s life.
She survived school by hiding out in the library, with several thousand fictional characters for company. At university, she overcame the boredom of studying accountancy by squeezing in Egyptology papers and learning to read hieroglyphics.
Today, Anita writes steampunk novels with a sexy edge and an Egyptian twist. She lives in rural New Zealand surrounded by an assortment of weird and wonderful equines, felines, canine and homicidal chickens.
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Signed paperback of Ella, the Slayer by A.W. Exley
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Ends August 26th
Prizing is provided by the author, hosts are in no way responsible.
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