The Storybook of Legends
Review posted October 27, 2013.
Little, Brown and Company, 2013. 305 pages.
I love Shannon Hale’s writing. So when I learned she’d written a book starting a series designed to go along with dolls made by Mattel, I had to at least try it. I also love fairy tale variants, and this series is set up to play off of fairy tales.
This book is fun, but I couldn’t really buy the premise at all. And to be fair, I’m guessing that pretty much everything I didn’t like was probably not Shannon Hale’s idea, but the framework in which she was asked to write. When I judged for the Cybils last year, I learned that in Fantasy novels, I’m a big stickler for internal logic. Could such a world exist? The premise of Ever After High stretches credibility a bit too far for me.
The idea is that in the world of Ever After, the children of storybook characters are destined to live out their parents’ stories. In fact, on Legacy Day, second year students at Ever After High have a big ceremony and sign the Storybook of Legends in order to embrace their Destiny.
It’s a cute premise, and the idea is that this has been going on for generations and generations. If a character doesn’t sign, they are told their story will disappear, and so will they. But, come on – what if the storybook characters don’t have children, or don’t have them the right gender for the story, or have them at totally different ages from the other characters in the story? It seems like there’d have to be an awful lot of coincidence for this to work.
Anyway, in our story, we’re focusing on Apple White, daughter of Snow White, destined for Happily Ever After, and Raven Queen, daughter of the Evil Queen. Raven is not at all happy about being destined to be evil. What will happen if she doesn’t sign the Storybook of Legends? There are rumors of a student who once upon a time didn’t do that. Did she survive and live happily elsewhere? Or did she indeed go poof? Apple, however, is determined to make sure that Raven embraces her destiny – that’s the only way Apple will get her Happy Ever After.
I think my favorite character in this book was Maddie, the Mad Hatter’s daughter, who can do impossible things. Some other fun ones are Cedar Wood, Pinocchio’s daughter, and Briar Beauty, who falls asleep often but has a great fashion sense. Dexter Charming, younger brother of Daring Charming, was a nice contrast to his brother.
It seemed kind of silly the way certain words were changed, fairly randomly. They used “hexcellent” instead of “excellent” and “fairy” instead of “very,” for example, even though the change didn’t really make any sense, but just made it sound more related to magic. I also noticed that certain outfits were described in tremendous detail – I’m thinking because the outfits are being sold along with the dolls.
But as I said, most of the things I didn’t like were probably set up by Mattel, not the author. She did have a lot of fun within the premise. As you can imagine, there’s a strong message of making your own choices.
It will be interesting to see where they go from here.