Monday, April 7, 2014

The Storybook of Legends by Shannon Hale

On Legacy Day each years, the students at the Ever After High boarding school sign the Storybook of Legends and pledge to fulfill their destinies as the next generation of Snow Whites, Prince Charmings, and Evil Queens. Everyone believes that refusing to sign means both you and your story will vanish forever after. Poof!
Raven Queen, however, is having doubts. As the daughter of the Evil Queen, it is her destiny to give the poisoned apple to Snow White's daughter. But Raven has a spark of rebellion in her heart, and she knows one thing for sure: Evil is so not her style.
On the other hand, the royal Apple White, daughter of the Fairest of Them All, cannot wait for Legacy Day! It will be the day she shuts the book on getting her Happily Ever After. But her destiny is intertwined with Raven's, and if rebel Raven doesn't sign the Storybook of Legends, it could mean a Happily Never After for them both.

~Print copy (from the library), 304 pages
Published: 2013 by Little, Brown and Company

Okay, so this is a princess book. The pages are decorated in pink and purple. Sometimes the narrator has characters with one of the secondary characters in the book (Maddie, the Mad Hatter's daughter). And it alternates between Apple White's point of view and Raven's, and Apple's point of view -- to be frank -- is nauseatingly happy. (What did you expect from the daughter of Snow White?)

But still. It's Shannon Hale. Despite the pink and purple cover, we're talking about Shannon Hale -- who wrote Goose Girl and Book of a Thousand Days and Princess Academy, which all deal with royalty of course, but I LOVED them when I was younger. Princess Academy is still on my greater-favorites bookshelf. And anyways... I'm always a sucker for fairy tales.

I picked this up at my local library, and -- although a little embarrassed to bring it to school with me -- I began reading. It took two days. 150 pages a day, between school and writing, because I just had to make time for it.

This book was just... it was splendid. (Or, as Goldilocks's daughter says, "just right.") In this novel, the daughter of the Evil Queen and the daughter of Snow White are put in a room together at a boarding school where everyone must sign a pledge to follow the scripts of their parents, or else the story -- and them -- will die.

But the Evil Queen's daughter isn't... well, evil. She's a bit more shades of gray. And, despite the pretty, happy appearances she puts on, so is Apple White. The two pledge to be friends despite their story, but Raven's determination to avoid signing the Storybook and Apple's determination to keep her Happily Ever After eventually come into conflict throughout the novel, as Raven finds the name of a girl who didn't sign the Storybook and tries to find out what happened to her.

Let's start with the characters. Apple White is sickeningly a princess. Spoiled, pretty, but still nice. Throughout the whole. Freaking. Book. She helps Raven with her quest, she expects princes to always save her (as they usually do, seemingly unable to help themselves), and has animal critters help her do her work. She wants to be seen as a Queen who can pull her weight and run the kingdom nicely, but all most of them see is her beauty.

Raven, on the other hand, does not have princes saving her, and the woodland creatures avoid her at all costs. She's miserable, with her mother punishing her for being too kind and the group of "happily Ever After" royals at school generally looking down at her. But with this one name -- this girl who didn't sign the Storybook -- she finds a little bit of hope that she can escape her destiny. And, unlike Apple, she doesn't want anyone making this decision for her.

It's a great comment on choice and destiny -- on how, even with a magic book in the way, a person should always have the choice to choose the right destiny for herself. It shows how selfish both sides are, Apple wanting her Happily Ever After at Raven's cost, and Raven wanting to choose her own ending at Apple's cost. The light tone and princess-y subject matter only serve to underscore the conflict of both sides.

And, while we're at it, I actually like the plot and ending. (For once.) It's never slow or boring, and the ending fits just right. If there were any flaws (other than my hatred of Apple's goodness), they were entirely overlooked. As I said, I got through it in two days, when I really should have been focusing on schoolwork and writing.

 This book is part of a series, it seems -- the second book appears to be out on e-book -- and I cannot wait to pick up the second one. (But maybe I'll wait until it's in paper book format.) I would recommend this to anyone who still loves a good fairy tale, and a good twist on the familiar. While yes, it's probably MG and intended for a younger audience, it is still an amazing book.

Five stars. Easily.

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