The Storybook of Legends: I got sucked into Matel’s merchandising scheme

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsEver After High: The Storybook of Legends by Shannon HaleEver After High: The Storybook of Legends by Shannon Hale

Okay, call me clueless, but I when I picked up Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends I had no idea it was a tie-in to a line of popular dolls, diaries and YouTube Webisodes produced by Mattel. All I knew was that it was a children’s story written by Shannon Hale and I happen to really like Shannon Hale’s children’s stories. I soon found out the truth and was disgruntled that I was sucked into Mattel’s merchandising scheme, but I must admit that Mattel made a brilliant move by asking a Newbery Award winning author to write their stories. Shannon Hale soon appeased me. The Storybook of Legends is a cute little tale with endearing characters that are sure to go over well with the target audience. Thinking about it from a mother’s perspective, I’d rather my girls play with fairytale character dolls than Barbies. At least they’re learning real literature!

Ever After High is a boarding school for the children of famous fairtytale characters. Here they are taught by Headmaster Grimm and, at the end of their education, on Legacy Day, they sign the Storybook of Legends. This seals their fate — they will become the new version of their famous parent. Each new generation of students must sign the Storybook. If they don’t, their story dies and will no longer be told. Which means that, essentially, the character dies, too.

Raven, daughter of the Evil Queen, doesn’t want to sign the Storybook of Legends. She doesn’t want to poison her friend with an apple. (Awkward!) She doesn’t want to be evil. That’s really sweet, but Raven’s classmates at Ever After High who are expecting a “Happily Ever After,” don’t want Raven to shirk her wicked duties. If Raven doesn’t play along, she changes the story for everyone. Then there might not be a happily ever after for her friends. Is there some other solution? Or must Raven be resigned to fulfill her evil legacy?

The Storybook of Legends is full of fun quirky characters. There’s Apple White (daughter of Snow White), Madeline Hatter (daughter of the Mad Hatter), Briar Beauty (daughter of Sleeping Beauty), Cerise Hood (daughter of Little Red Riding Hood), Pinocchio’s daughter, Prince Charming’s sons, Baba Yaga, the Gingerbread Man (he’s the gym coach — run, run as fast as you can!), Humpty Dumpty (a hacker) various hunters, huntresses and woodsmen, etc. They each have their own personalities which aren’t necessarily like their parents, so while they are recognizable, they’re new creations. The only noticeable bow to the merchandising effort is that Hale briefly describes what each character is wearing in different scenes and, while I understood that I could purchase these outfits and accessories along with the dolls, I didn’t think their descriptions were more excessive than I’d expect in a fashion-conscious YA novel. Shannon Hale handles this well.

Raven’s story is funny in a silly sort of way. For example, Madeline Hatter can hear and interact with the narrator, who gets flustered when that happens. (This works particularly well with the audio version I listened to.) There are some awful puns but some genuinely amusing humor, too:

“Ah, your class schedule. May I?…. Hmmm…. it all looks hexcellent, except for this Muse-ic Class. That’s really only for Happily-Ever-After princesses to help them develop their signature power ballads.”

The story feels modern. The kids send each other hext messages on MirrorPhones and drive in hybrid carriages. There are cute pop culture references, too:

“Sparrow Hood was using the empty room for his band’s practice session. They weren’t great, but hey, it was music. Sparrow, in a green felt cap just like the one his dad, Robin, had made famous, was rocking out as the lead. The Merry Men backed him up on guitars, bass, drums, and one enthusiastic cowbell.”

I’ve highlighted some of the silliness, but I should emphasize that Shannon Hale uses a light hand with this — I didn’t think it was overdone.

More than anything, The Storybook of Legends feels like a Disney movie, which seems completely appropriate for a story about fairytales. Sweet oddball characters who have a serious predicament and manage to solve it in a way that’s entertaining and funny but also wholesome and inspirational, too. There should be a power ballad at the end.

There are at least two sequels to The Storybook of Legends: The Unfairest of Them All and A Wonderlandiful World, plus several free short stories in ebook format. I listened to the audio version of The Storybook of Legends which was produced Hachette Audio and narrated by Kathleen McInerney who has a lovely voice and perfect pacing and inflection. I recommend this version, especially for readers who may find the little spelling puns (e.g., “Muse-ic”) to be annoying. You won’t notice them in the audio version.


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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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