Jane Slayre by Charlotte Brontë and Sherri Browning Erwin (2010)

Jane Slayre by Charlotte Brontë and Sherri Browning Erwin (Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster, 2010)

janeslayre“Reader, I buried him.”

A TIMELESS TALE OF LOVE, DEVOTION . . . AND THE UNDEAD

Jane Slayre, our plucky demon-slaying heroine, a courageous orphan who spurns the detestable vampyre kin who raised her, sets out on the advice of her ghostly uncle to hone her skills as the fearless slayer she’s meant to be. When she takes a job as a governess at a country estate, she falls head-over-heels for her new master, Mr. Rochester, only to discover he’s hiding a violent werewolf in the attic – in the form of his first wife. Can a menagerie of bloodthirsty, flesh-eating, savage creatures-of-the-night keep a swashbuckling nineteenth-century lady from the gentleman she intends to marry? Vampyres, zombies, and werewolves transform Charlotte Brontë’s unforgettable masterpiece into an eerie paranormal adventure that will delight and terrify.

Charlotte Brontë was an English novelist and the author of the literary classic Jane Eyre. She lived from 1816-1855, and as far as we know, hasn’t come back from the dead.

Sherri Browning Erwin is the author of historical and contemporary, often paranormal, fiction. She lives in western Massachusetts with her family. Visit her online at www.sherribrowningerwin.com

Zombies are taking over the Baltimore University curriculum, viruses that turn people into zombies are taking over the world of cinema – along with a bunch of Nazi zombies in Norway, there are corporate vampires, freakshow vampires and goddamn sparkly ones too – and werewolves! The 19th century undead butt-kicking begun with Pride & Prejudice and Zombies and continuing on that theme is Jane Slayre, which feature (in chronological order) vampires, zombies and werewolves. Some are critical of this shameless genre mixture, others love it. In fact, the zombie version of Pride & Prejudice is allegedly being turned into a film as we speak. Is it logical to mix genres like this? Surely all us dainty ladies aren’t really into seeing blood and gore spurting in a way that would make Braindead look like a picnic? Saw a good explanation to this, to cite the user nineinchsin on IMDb:

Big fans of zombies tend to be geeks…geeks tend to be smart…smart people tend to read classic literature…and bam! Makes perfect sense.

When you put it like that, yes, it does make sense and I’m freely admit my geekdom. (Geekhood? Yeah, one of those.)

Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed Jane Slayre. Sherri Browning Erwin has taken Charlotte Brontë’s original text but removed the tedious babble and added undead and modernised the vocabulary a bit (I didn’t really notice that, except for a few jarring occasions). I was impressed by how closely the first chapter was to the original book (not to mention how overjoyed I was to have the droning on about Bewick’s History of British Birds ditched) and how cleverly she had made the Reed family into vampires, or – as it says throughout the book – vampyres, and had a good giggle at the fact the stiff servant Abbot had been turned into a zombie!

The book follows young Jane Slayre, a poor, unconnected orphan, living with her vampiric relatives at Gateshead. When she’s finally taken away to Lowood school, everything seems great for a while, but there are some “special students” that sends her slayer senses tingling … The fact that Mr. Brocklehurst has been re-named confused me a lot, because if the book is sticking so close to the original, why on earth has his name been changed to Mr. Bokorhurst? (It’s explained eventually.)

Adult Jane advertises, goes to Thornfield and meets the Master, with whom she falls in love (bet you never expected there were vampires afoot that dreary afternoon in Hay Lane!), but there’s a problem – and it’s not just because Jane suspects one or more of the house party guests to be a vampyre. It turns out there’s a madwoman werewolf in the attic …

For me, this is the best Jane Eyre sequel/rip-off I’ve read so far, because it does stick to the original story (the undead aside) and is fairly in keeping with the characters. Maybe because it’s meant to be a bit of a laugh rather than a really serious story, it’s easier to forgive some character personality errors, because hey, the original book didn’t have vampires to contend with. Maybe.

Jane is turned into a 19th century Buffy, more or less. St. John Rivers was probably the character I had most problems with, because I just didn’t feel he was icy enough, and he even admits to fancying Jane (so, so wrong). Rochester – no qualms there at all that I can remember, surprisingly.

The thing that most bugged me was that while some of the incessant waffle has been removed to make a much sleeker and less eye-rolling read, some of the really nice and enjoyable bits have been removed as well. Did they really have to cut the proposal for pace? I love the bits about equality, for instance – and that was gone. There were some other bits too, which left me wanting. Other bits were added instead, involving undead having their hearts staked or heads chopped off and some of those worked okay with the rest of the narrative, but others failed and were just disappointing “yeah whatever” scenes.

There were a number of occasions where I had to reach for the original to double-check if something was actually in there or if it had been an additions. In most cases, they were in there but I hadn’t really noticed them before. In another, it had been added or at least changed a lot, and actually, I liked the new version better. Can’t remember exactly where, but in Jane Slayre, Rochester and Jane kissed to my heart’s squeeing delight, and when I looked up the scene in the original, it might’ve had a kiss, but it was a bit bland in comparison.

On the whole, though, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a quirky take on a classic and keeps with it reasonably well, considering the addition of a number of creatures of the night. I like quirky things, and I love Jane Eyre, so for me, it really worked. For others, it might not. I’m going to put it in the hands of the Squeeze and say “here ya go, read this” because it’s the story of my favourite literary couple – but in a version he might find more interesting than the original. Failing that, I could always try to persuade him to read the graphic novel.) Or the new movie! Either way, maybe Jane Slayre can help bring more people in to the classics and maybe get an interest in reading the original. If that happens, great. If they don’t, they’ve still read Jane Eyre. And I bet they bloody enjoyed it too.

4.9 out of 5 sharpened stakes.

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