(This review first appeared on Indie Jane)
“How is it that I can manage estates, be master to more than a hundred servants, oversee countless tenants, outwit masters in their fields of expertise, and yet I can barely put together an intelligible sentence whenever I am near her?”
(from All Hallow’s Eve, page 15)
All Hallow’s Eve is probably the most unique retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that I’ve read so far. In Wendi Sotis’ version, Elizabeth Bennet is insignificant in the eyes of British society, being the daughter of a country squire, but unbeknownst to the ton, she is the leader of a secret, ancient cult. As the High Priestess of Sanun, Elizabeth performs a ritual every year on Oct. 31 that allows the dead to make contact with the living for a few short hours before they must return to the Otherworld. Fitzwilliam Darcy, the master of Pemberley, unwittingly witnesses the strange yet beautiful ritual just before he learns that he is the Soul Mate of the High Priestess.
Centuries ago, an Evil Soul called Cher-nog managed to avoid the Return and has ruined the lives of many people since then, taking over their bodies and making them perform unforgivable acts. Cher-nog is close to uncovering the identity of the High Priestess and is intent on controlling and destroying her. By the time Darcy learns of his role in the Tribes, his attitude toward Elizabeth has changed from believing her to be merely tolerable to believing he can’t live without her. Now he must convince Elizabeth that his feelings for her are sincere…and protect her at all costs.
To be honest, I didn’t expect to like All Hallow’s Eve based on the summary (ancient cult rituals? Soul Mates?), but Sotis truly surprised me. I found myself immersed in the descriptions of the Tribes and the various roles held by each member of the Bennet family, and I wanted to know more about this world. Even when the writing was more telling than showing, I was so caught up in the characters — some of whom are very different from their original incarnations — that I could overlook it.
What I liked best about All Hallow’s Eve is that it’s not as dependent on the original novel as some of the other retellings. Sotis basically takes Austen’s characters and plops them into an entirely different world and situation. This added some mystery and excitement because I had no idea what would happen to the characters as they moved down the path toward the anticipated happily ever after.
All Hallow’s Eve is more than just a fast-paced novel with the love story of Darcy and Elizabeth at its core. Despite the very serious battle between good and evil, Sotis manages to lighten the mood with some jabs at the characters we all love to hate. In fact, I’m not likely to forget a certain scene with Lady Catherine anytime soon. Sotis does a good job balancing two worlds, that of the Tribes and that of British society, emphasizing how the latter depends on the former without even knowing it exists. She also provides some very interesting explanations for the behavior of certain characters, and most importantly, she made me believe them and the world in which they inhabited.
© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.