Review: Cruella De Vil Tells All in ‘Evil Thing’ by Serena Valentino

Image Courtesy Disney Hyperion.

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Styled as memoir in Cruella’s own voice, Evil Thing is yet another triumph in the Disney Villain series written by Serena Valentino. From her estate, Hell Hall, the infamous character reveals everything about her life. From childhood to finishing school all the way through the tale of those puppies and her current… situation.

Evil Thing begins with Cruella’s childhood where she grew up as pampered as possible, the daughter of socialites with more wealth than they knew what to do with. It’s early in the tale when readers are introduced to a familiar face in Anita. Valentino takes a small line from 101 Dalmatians in which Roger calls Cruella Anita’s “dearly devoted old schoolmate.” It’s from this small seed Valentino grows a brilliant story and we see how the two were indeed very close as children and adolescents. We also see the deciding moment that ultimately sent them their separate ways.

The friendship between Cruella and Anita is just one of the familiar elements worked into her tale. Valentino also uses Cruella’s famous wardrobe from the Disney film to give deep, personal meaning to each item. Her shocking half white hair, her love for her slinky black dress, a massive fur coat and some very, very interesting earrings all take on a new meaning after reading Evil Thing. Readers will even discover how Perdita came to live with Anita, and it’s not what readers might think! From her love for fur coats to her obsession with puppies, readers will come away feeling as if they really know Cruella De Vil.

Evil Thing cleverly details small moments throughout Cruella’s life that slowly transforms a young, wealthy, and carefree woman into the character we see in 101 Dalmatians hell bent on a puppy coat. Throughout the tale, Valentino keeps a certain naïveté in Cruella as she suffers two heartbreaking losses and finds only constant rejection, rather than comfort, from her unloving mother. It’s a familiar literary trope, and one that serves to highlight the two very different paths a character can take when suffering neglectful parenting.

While the elements of the story are great, possibly the very best part is Valentino’s decision to style Evil Thing like a memoir. Written in Cruella’s own voice, it brings her tale to life more than any other format possibly could. There are moments where Cruella will break the narrative and speak directly to the reader, calling them “dear” or interjecting that she is rushing the story. When reading, it gives the feel of sitting across from the villain herself and elevates the tale from just a story to a first person narrative pulling you in from the very first sentence.

In true Cruella De Vil fashion, the exterior of the book is sleek and elegant. Like the other titles in Valentino’s Disney Villains series, the book jacket features Cruella smiling, but remove the cover and we find an entirely different Cruella with crazed eyes and wild hair. The title is cleverly taken from the famous tune created by Anita’s husband, Roger. In the movie he sings, “Cruella De Vil, if she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will.” So grab a copy, read her memoir, and decide for yourself if Cruella is an evil thing.

Evil Thing is available in stores and online now!

Brianna

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Brianna works full time in the publishing industry, passionately building books to bring to the masses. Her first fandom was Harry Potter, which she joined at age 11. Her love for books took her abroad to earn her Masters Degree at University College London, after which she lived in New York City, and now resides in Austin. She loves all things fandom including Supernatural, Doctor Who, and more. Ever the introvert, she can usually be found reading, playing with her dog, listening to music and practicing yoga. Brianna joined the Nerds and Beyond staff in 2018 where she unites her love for all things "nerd" with her passion for writing. Find her on Twitter here: @bookbag09

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