Let's Review Some Ever After High Books!

Did you know that there are several fairy tale franchises that portray the legendary princesses as mothers? One of the most famous is Ever After High, Mattel's series of dolls, books, and animated webisodes that ended abruptly a couple of years ago. I consider myself a casual fan of this series, watching or reading stories as I find them without going out of my way. I love the concept of fairy tale characters fighting to write their own story as well as the beautiful character designs that were cleverly engineered to sell as many dolls as possible. A couple of weeks ago, I hit the jackpot at a local library sale that had not one, not two, but three Ever After High books available for my reading pleasure! Until then, I had only skimmed through the first book in the series, The Storybook of Legends by Shannon Hale, which was the only book with a faithful animated adaptation. The premiere series went on to release three other full-length novels. I got my hands on the second one, The Unfairest of Them All, as well as two books from a spinoff series by Suzanne Selfors that introduces students at Ever After High.

The first thing I noticed about these books was how much love was put into the physical copies. As someone who mostly reads ebooks, I was impressed by the bright and colorful hard covers that made them look like diaries and the extra magic that was added to them, such as the design printed on the edge of each page that create the words "Ever After High" when you close the book as well as the school logos, insignias, crowns, and doodles that are printed at the beginning of each chapter. I've always been a fan of the creative character designs and costumes in this series and didn't realize that the reach of these creative aesthetics spread as far as the physical copies of the books. Futher creativity abounds within the story world, which many people who have watched the cartoons on YouTube or Netflix are already familiar with. The students eat at the "castleteria," they send "hexts" on their "mirror phones," and are "best friends forever after/BFFAs," just to name a few. Shannon Hale's books have full chapters that consist solely of Maddie, the daughter of the Mad Hatter, bantering with the books' narrator. These lovable details are what set this series aside from similar franchises such as The School for Good and Evil or Disney's Descendants which take themselves too seriously and are afraid to have fun with the premise.

I decided to start with the Ever After High: A School Series by Suzanne Selfors so I could learn more about the characters who tend to get less attention than Apple White and Raven Queen. The first book I read is Next Top Villain, which features Duchess Swan, the daughter of Odette from "Swan Lake." In it, Duchess Queen is placed in a villainy class despite being the daughter of a princess. I think this book handled the concept a lot better than The School for Good and Evil, which had a similar premise. Though Duchess questioned why she was in the class initially, the focus was on deciding what path she wanted he life to take, unlike Sophie. who was tortured after being quite literally thrown into a pack of wolves, forced to change her physical appearance against her will, separated from her only friend, and given terrible food to eat. Meanwhile, Duchess benefits from the same perks as any other Ever After High student and is simply offered another possibility besides turning into a swan at the end of her story. This detail confused me a bit since the real Odette dies at the end of "Swan Lake" and does not become a swan permanently, but I could see how that sort of dark ending wouldn't mesh with the lighter tone of Ever After High.

The other School Series book was Truth or Hair, featuring Rapunzel's daughters, Holly and Poppy O'Hair. This book was by far my favorite of the three, though I'm sure there was some personal bias involved. Holly O'Hair has a blog about princesses where she writes her own original princess stories and dreams of one day living out her mother's fairy tale so she can become a legendary princess herself. The book had a cute nod to Shannon Hale by referring to "Shannon Tale" as one of Holly's favorite authors who she aspired to be like one day. When she discovers that she and her twin sister, Poppy, may have been switched at birth, meaning Poppy could be the one with the fairy tale destiny instead of Holly, Holly's long hair begins to shrink, and Poppy's short hair begins to grow, forcing the two of them to switch places in yet another Princess Switch scenario. It's a really cute story that follows the same themes as the rest of the Ever After High series about choosing your own path instead of submitting to fate or destiny.

Unfairest of All by Shannon Hale was the most disappointing of the three books I read. Even though it was longer than the School Series books, it felt like that was more out of obligation to being the premiere series in the franchise than Shannon having a big story she wanted to tell. In fact, so much of the book felt like filler left over from The Storybook of Legends that it was difficult to figure out when this book's story would even begin. It happens about a third of the way through when Maddie Hatter is accused of releasing a monster and threatened to be banished to Neverland. It's up to the same old boring protagonists,  Apple White and Raven Queen, to prove her innocence. The way they go about it is very draggy, and the stakes are barely there because nothing bad actually happens to Maddie except for the looming threat of exile. It felt like Shannon was forced to write this book because Mattel wanted more full-length books in the franchise and not because she had any new ideas for the characters. As much as I enjoy this series as a whole, this book suffered from a bad case of sequelitis, which makes me wonder if the other two Shannon Hale books have the same problem.

If you are a casual Ever After High fan like me, I definitely recommend reading some of these books, especially the Suzanne Selfors ones. They do a fantastic job of expanding upon the world and characters with lots of humor, puns, and levity that many other competitors were unable to achieve. I love the theme of being able to choose your own destiny and the aesthetics of the characters, which clearly had a lot of love put into them to make such high quality dolls. Is there an Ever After High book I haven't read that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments!


isa said…
raven or apples diary

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