Two years after a zombie plague infected the world the city of Weimar, Germany is one of the few remaining safe havens. Since her rescue from the zombies, Vivi has been living in a mental hospital, sheltered from the horror of the world outside. On her first day out in a work gang, she witnesses a tragedy that leads to major setback in her mental health. She escapes on the supply train where she meets up with Eva, the work gang supervisor who is also on the run from the authorities. When the train breaks down in the middle of nowhere, the two young women must find their own way to safety.
Ever After is a beautifully illustrated story of two young women fighting for survival not only against monsters but their own past mistakes. It was written and illustrated by German artist and writer, Olivia Vieweg. The original German graphic novel, Endzeit was adapted as a feature film in 2018.
The cover might lead you to expect a book that is a cute adventure story, but don't be fooled. The story gets quite dark, with themes of mental illness, self-harm and graphic violence, and there are things stranger and even creepier than zombies out in the wilderness. Come to that, the hospital warden's controlling, over-protective attitude towards Vivi (including telling her to dye her hair and preventing her from going outdoors), at the beginning is as creepy as anything found outside the city.
Vivi and the warden
Some of the art is gorgeous, with lots of delicate watercolours in pastel colours. There is a definite manga influence in the way the people are drawn, which is fine if you like that sort of thing. It seems a bit pedantic to mention, but I found the way the text is so small compared with the size of the speech bubbles a bit jarring. It might be a side effect of the translation from German.
And this is why we still need to read fairytales to children.
The story is strange and dreamlike, and it is hard to tell how much of what the reader sees is really happening and how much is in Vivi's head. I found it refreshing that there isn't much exposition, allowing the illustrations of the setting to speak for themselves. Parts of the book were scary, and strangely the zombies were not the source of most of the sense of dread. It was more to do Vivi's fears and regrets from the time before. The zombies were the kind of monsters you may have come to expect from recent films, with the exception that apparently they go "kkkkchhh" when excited. Perhaps that's another translation issue.
Ever After is a surreal, dark graphic novel that is full of grief and horror but without being too bleak. It's not My Little Pony, but it's hardly The Walking Dead either. It's suitable for teen readers, though with the warning that it does contain some adult themes.
Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary copy of this book by Lerner Publishing Group, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.