Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends by Shannon Hale

Genre: Fantasy
Rating: ****
Pages: 304
Series: First of a trilogy
Raven Queen's Legacy Year is not going well. Classmates flee from her presence, her counselor signed her up for Kingdom Mismanagement, and all the teachers want her to murder her roommate. At Ever After High, the children of fairy tale characters are groomed to follow their parent's destinies. For Apple White that means dwarves and a daring prince. And Raven? She's supposed to poison Apple.
Raven doesn't want to be evil. But if she doesn't sign the Storybook of Legends on Legacy Day the Snow White tale will be wiped from existence. Poof. Apple can't let that happen.
Then Raven discovers a secret. Long ago, two sisters rebelled against their destiny. They vanished along with their story. What if they didn't go 'poof?' What if there's another option? With Apple's reluctant help, Raven sets off to uncover the sisters' fate and rewrite her own story.
This novel is meant to support Mattel's new Ever After High doll franchise. Expect a description of Apple's outfit every time she walks into a scene. Gotta sell those accessories. The book's loaded with groan-inducing puns. Students eat in the Castleria, read hextbooks, and take Chemythstry class. But never fear, this writer is witty. There are bonuses for those of you who know your stories (Raven has a pet dragon named Nevermore) and pop culture references (students rock out to Tailor Quick and One Reflection). Plus, you'll find lots of sarcastic commentary on the fairy tale genre.

     Princess Darling Charming fainted and was caught by no fewer than twelve boys, who began to kick one another's shins to try to get the others to let go.
     "I've got her!"
     "No, I've got her!"

My favorite character is Raven's friend Maddie Hatter. At first I was reluctant to find Alice in Wonderland included as a fairy tale. It's a novel, people. We know the author. It's not some old story jotted down by a nameless, wandering bard. In Ever After High we meet Maddie, Lizzie Hearts, and Kitty Cheshire, but no Alice, oddly enough. The most intriguing thing about Maddie is her ability to hear the narrator.

     Maddie trolled through her hat, pulling out a pink vial of Embiggen Potion. She cocked her ear. "Yep, the Narrator said this pink vial is Embiggen Potion, so it must be. Thank you, Narrator!"
     Aargh! I did it again!

The Narrator follows both Apple and Raven though this is obviously Raven's tale. Apple strikes me as a very intentional Mary Sue. The girl keeps candy on her balcony in case an adoring crowd happens to wander by. It's easier to root for the Rebels-Raven and Maddie's crew-than the Royals, Apple's band of not-that-heroic princes.
Despite its lighthearted tone, The Storybook of Legends is a spellbinding tale of friendship with a powerful message at its core. What would you risk to take control of your own destiny?

Raven Queen
Apple White
Left to right: Briar Beauty, Ashlynn Ella, Lizzie Hearts, Blondie Locks, Cedar Wood, C.A. Cupid, Maddie Hatter, and Cerise Hood.

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