Hiding in the corners of Hell Hall, I'm writing my review of the final version of Evil Thing: A Tale of that De Vil Woman. First and foremost, the object itself is a blending of beauty and terror. Jeffrey Thomas outdid himself on this cover: Cruella's thin face, evoking a skeletal with the glee of evil in her eyes is absolutely chilling and really captures the spirit of this devilish character. The white half of her hair, as well as one of her jade earrings and a piece of her iconic fur coat, are also included which is beyond appreciated once you've read the story and know the meaning behind every one of those elements. The second cover reveals Cruella with eyes full of rage, a spider and her web circling inside her pupil because after all isn't she a spider ''waiting for the kill''? Now we can discuss the story: Once again, we are locked up in Hell Hall with Cruella De Vil. The first chapter starts after the events of the movie but with a bit of magic and Cruella's maniac voice, we go back in time, to her lavish yet extremely lonesome childhood. Indeed she..
Cruella De Vil: How foolish can you get by the minute, bloody in-between? My childhood wasn't lonesome, ugh. Don't listen to him duckies. He doesn't seem to share my talent for telling stories or reviewing great books. One of them being my fabulous memoir. What a fascinating life I had! My father was such a cheeky man and I must say I miss him deeply. Oh, all his playful grins, and his ability to make me travel through the presents he brought me home. Though they were quite dull, he still wanted to please me.
MR.Havisham: Dull? He brought you expensive jade (cough cursed) earrings and made sure you'll be able to live the life you wanted to.
Cruella De Vil: Enough! Let me speak. Oh, and my mama was a living goddess, wearing the ''in'' fashion of London. She always bought me the most exquisite outfits and took pain to spend time with me despite her overbooked life. We would have tea in the morning room and chat about our day. I was lucky to have such lovely parents. Our time with mama was a well-known oasis( and I saw a real one, with my CrackerJack in Egypt!) from my classes with my governess, Miss Pricket, always stating the obvious.
MR. Havisham: Yeah, your mother absolutely had to meet her friends for shopping, opera, dinner, yet she couldn't handle spending time with her daughter. Sometimes, she would leave before your time with her ( one hour a day, wow) was over.
Cruella De Vil: Ah, as everyone in my life, you're speaking ill of my mother. You never saw her for who she really was. A lady had serious engagements at that time, that's how things were done in our social circle. She was a socialite, for heaven's sake!
MR. Havisham: Yeah... Oh and Cruella had a dear friend, someone you know very well. Anita. the sweetest girl ever, determined to make a life for herself despite the fact that she wasn't born in money. Someone that couldn't care less for what people had to say about her lack of connections. I loved that Serena Valentino gave us a bit of background on her and shower her dreams. She actually refuses to live a life of adventure and extravagance with Cruella not because she doesn't love her, but because she wants to live in the real world, learn how to fend for herself. Her guardian was a rich lord and her best friend the daughter of socialites: She did know opulence, yet she knew it wasn't who she was. Relationships between women and their living conditions were greatly explored in this book in a very adult way, something that you would expect to read in a Jane Austen novel ( and this author is quite referred to as well as many known figures such as Clark Gable, Queen Elizabeth I or Anubis).
Cruella De Vil: BLAST! You're writing nothing but lies! I used to love that wretched girl but she is nothing but the dishrag of a foolish songwriter. To think I was willing to repair our relationship. Ah! She doesn't care for me anymore and neither I!
MR. Havisham: As Cruella's character is definitely even more complex and layered here, it's hard to not feel fascination, pity, and yes, even indulgence towards her. Whether it's about her relationships or her life experiences, the level of deepness is what makes this book, in my opinion, the Golden One of this Villain Series.
Cruella De Vil: Of course, it's the Golden One. Between a woman who talks to mirrors, a man who's precious treasure is a rose, a purple diva who has tentacles, a fairy without wings, and an old crone who sing to flowers, I'm the real deal! And wait until I publish my second book which will feature a picture of me with this magnificent dalmatian coat! And perhaps a small bag with their spotted fur!
MR. Havisham: As you can see, Cruella's state of mind is a bit... frail at the moment. I think I'll just call the person that is taking care of her right now. Read her story and found out how and why she ended up locked up in Hell Hall. Who would be brave enough to stay with her? you ask. Well that's something you'll find out. As well as the secret behind her black and white hair, her fur obsessions, her link with Dalmatians and so much more! Now it's time to end this review.
Cruella De Vil: Nonsense! It's time to realize my marvelous plan! Oh, you'll learn all about it in my book, dahlings! With the success of Evil Thing, I'm ready to prepare my revenge! I will get those puppies! And I will finally get my life back.
*I felt, like some readers, that Cruella loved Anita more than like a friend or a sister. However, Serena didn't try to force their relationship. Everyone can look at it from their own perspective and decide for themselves. But her being so hateful of Roger, wanting to hurt Anita and keep writing to her in secret, yet deciding to pursue her life with her husband and not even inviting her to her wedding... It was of course due to her mother and a couple of other facts mentioned in the novel but I felt there was more underneath. Anita gave her the love, care, and attention she craved because the woman who birthed her refused to. What is certain, is that Cruella and Anita's relationship is the most powerful and well-explored female friendship of the series. Finally, an adaptation of 101 Dalmatians took into account the fact that both women were friends from school and dig their past to explain this unlikely duo. From childhood to Miss Upturn's Academy for Young Ladies, through Christmas, birthdays, and adulthood, we see them evolve, and blossom in a society where women aren't allowed to flourish.
* Cruella's relationship with her husband Jack is another fascinating one. It presents parallels with her father: both men try to protect Cruella from her mother, allow her to travel, gift her jade jewelry, die prematurely, and sports their Clark Gable smiles at her. I wonder if Lady De Vil even noticed it and if Cruella's theory about her father wanting Jack to be apart of his daughter's life was true, or if she was simply attracted to him because he reminded her of the father she had lost at a young age.
* Last but not least, Lady De Vil had certainly a huge influence in Cruella's life: neglectful towards her daughter, when not emotionally abusive, she also seems to have displays physical abuse on her once: when she threatens to slap Cruella if she doesn't go in her room, Cruella states that she'' knew her mother would make good on her threat''. From abandoning her daughter after the death of her father to creating a scheme in order to separate Cruella and Anita or seizing her daughter's money with a manipulative strategy of emotional abuse and fake love, nothing stops her. She doesn't care about anything but money, and then again throw it all away so she can wear the most fashionable clothes or the shiniest jewels. The scene at the Criterion for me underlined that. What's truly ironic is that she isn't very present in Cruella's life, yet her role in our devil woman's story is a huge one. Lady De Vil is either responsible of all Cruella's problems or plays at least a large part in it, causing her to move to Hell Hall after selling the familial house of Belgrave Square, forbidding her to go back to school, and even blackmailing her emotionally about Perdita. Lady De Vil is also aware of the fact that her child worships her and therefore can almost never do anything wrong in her eyes. In the end, despite all her hateful acts, she gets to have a happy ending with Lord De Vil's fortune.
Notes: One thing that I loved about the ARC was that we had more background on Cruella's reasons for drinking and smoking. This has been deleted in the final version, which might be understandable due to the audience target of those books, yet since it was a mature book, I think it could have still been included. It added a little something about women's conditions, a few lines that gave an idea of what smoking meant for some of them at that time.
Rating system: 5 out of 5 spotted puppies.