Tag Archives: Shannon Hale

Fairy Enchanting: The Ever After High Series (Books 1-3)

As a parent with a budding reader, I’m always on the lookout for those magical stories that capture my daughter’s imagination. I count it as a huge win when she sneaks off to read a book. There have been some great stories that have captured her heart. The first time we read Charlotte’s Web together, as I finished the last page, she took the book from me, flipped back to the first page and said, “Again.”

We read the Chronicles of Narnia together. She then read them on her own. There have been other hits since then. She LOVED the book series by Jean Ferris that begins with Once Upon a Marigold, but she sort of began this quiet retreat from reading. She enjoyed me reading to her, but only read independently if I gave her no other alternatives.

So, like a totally reasonable parent with a perfectly rational, capable mind, I panicked. What if she grows up to hate reading? What if she never discovers that wonder of losing herself between the pages of a great story?

Letting Her Choose Her Own Stories

I realized I needed to back off a little bit. I love deep, meaty stories that explore these intense issues with rich narrative. But I started to think maybe that wasn’t what my girl needed at this juncture, when her real life has been full of intense changes.

I started paying more attention. Listening to her, learning what she wanted to read. I followed her around a school book fair and promised myself that I’d buy anything (within reason) that she asked to read. She picked a couple of books, one of which was the first in the Ever After High series.

We read the series books together. I’m a big fan of Shannon Hale already, so it wasn’t a tough sell.

Ever After High by Shannon Hale

About the Ever After High Books

These are different than the other books authored by Hale that I’ve read. Instead of the powerful narrative, the Ever After High books pack a pop-culture punch with a fairytale twist. Characters use their phones to send “hext messages” to one another. They adore music by Taylor Quick and One Reflection. You’ll either find these sorts of references cute or obnoxious, and you’ll have lots of opportunities to feel that way.

The premise of the stories is that classic fairytale characters have children after their happily ever afters, and those children must commit to relive the familiar stories, keeping their parents’ legacies alive.

One side note: Under this premise, if Cinderella and the handsome prince get married and have a family, then have Cinderella Jr. and Handsome Prince Jr., they would then grow up to live their parents’ story, get married, etc? It seems from the stories like this isn’t at all true, but how it does work exactly isn’t really specified. I think we got past this with four words: willing suspension of disbelief.

The trouble begins when Raven Queen (daughter of the Evil Queen from the Snow White story) doesn’t want to be evil. She wants to choose her own destiny and be kind to others. This throws the whole of Ever After High into uproar. If characters start choosing their own destinies, it will mean the princes and princesses are no longer guaranteed a happily ever after. They might have to (queue dramatic music) make one for themselves!

The fate vs choice theme runs through all three books, and Hale explores some interesting angles. If Raven rejects her destiny to be the next Evil Queen, does that make her good, or does that make her just like her mother, who in fact rejected her destiny and tried to rule over all fairytale kingdoms?


The books are pretty clean. There are mentions of some romance concerning minor characters, but no details. There are some unexplored crushes. It’s very junior high. The books contain no profanity and very little violence. At one point in the first book, Raven (daughter of the evil queen) and Apple (Snow White’s daughter) discover bones in a cave and believe they belong to a former Ever After High student. In the third book, Maddie (Mad Hatter’s daughter) and Lizzie (Red Queen’s daughter) have to fight the fearsome Jabberwocke. There are few battle details and little gore.

There is, of course, a lot of reference to magic. Raven Queen has the ability to perform magic, and it misfires whenever she tries to use it for good. She doesn’t give up, though. Birds constantly show up to help Apple White clean a mess. Ashlynn Ella (Cinderella’s daughter) can talk to fairies. Though there are characters who will grow up to be villains in their stories, at Ever After High, everyone is largely at peace with one another, so there’s not a lot of discussion on good vs bad magic.

Other Books in the Series

The fourth book in the Ever After High world, Next Top Villain, is written by Suzanne Selfors. My daughter requested it at the most recent school book fair, but we haven’t started reading it yet.


Review: Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Book of a Thousand Days
Shannon Hale
Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Published September 1, 2007

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Dashti, a mucker maid, follows her lady into imprisonment in a lonely tower. Lady Saren’s father vows to lock her up for seven years after her refusal to marry the powerfuls but vile Lord Khasar. When Lady Saren’s love, Khan Tegis visits the tower, she begs Dashti to woo him in her place. Dashti complies, unwillingly at first, until the kindness and good humor of the gentle prince stir her own heart. Lord Khasar also visits the tower, demanding that Lady Saren emerge and marry him. Dashti must use all her wits and bravery in order to protect her lady and herself from the monster inside the evil lord.

In a dramatic retelling of the familiar Brothers Grimm tale Maid Maleen, author Shannon Hale introduces a humble maid through journal entries kept through the long tower imprisonment. Dashti relates her story in lyrical prose strewn with cultural references and songs reminiscent of an ancient Middle-Eastern or Asian land so realistic it’s easy to forget it’s fiction.

The expert writing and diary format make it feel like a historical account written by a member of some ancient kingdom. Dashti’s goodness and loyalty make her an easy character to admire. Though she never takes up weapons made of steel, her cunning and bravery in the face of powerful enemies place her among the greatest heroes, a worthy role model for young readers. The writing style and setting reminded me of another childhood favorite, Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy. I highly recommend both stories.

Profanity and Crude Language Content

Sexual Content

Spiritual Content
Polytheistic religion incorporated into the story.

A girl very briefly tells her maid that she witnessed a man brutally murder another man.

Drug Content


Favorite Reads of 2014 (Part 1)

With summer in full swing, hopefully you’ve found yourself with some extra reading time. Out of over 70 books I’ve read since January 1, 2014, these are the top ten best. If you’re looking for a hot summer read, check these out.

We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt The emotional intensity. The slow, dramatic build-up. These are things I love about this story.From my review: “Reading this novel is like taking that first ride on a roller coaster and feeling the adrenaline and rush building over each tick-tick-tick as the coaster inches up to the top of its track until its riders can look out over the imminent fearsome drops and wild loops ahead. Reinhardt nails the emotional turmoil of teen relationships and the anxiety of difficult choices, creating a powerful story about both the healing and destructive powers of love.”

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart If you like stories that take you unexpected places, this is a must-read. I finished the last page of this book and had to pry myself away from it because I wanted to return to page one and read it again.From my review: “This is an amazing story, full of stark, beautiful prose and gut-wrenching emotion. Cadence experiences the fullness of love and loss, and through Lockhart’s phenomenal storytelling, readers can’t help but share in those moments. Like the best stories, the conclusion of We Were Liars turns all its previous chapters inside out and forces the reader to reexamine every element of the story, especially the explorations of both healing and destructive forces within a family.”

All the Truth that’s In Me by Julie Berry Historical fiction is not my top go-to genre, but this one really hooked me. I couldn’t help caring for Judith and rooting for her as she struggled to regain her voice.From my review: “As a lover of angsty teen novels, I found it refreshing to read a historical novel so emotionally charged and yet so hopeful. How many times have we read novels which ultimately condemn the rigidity of the Puritan culture? I loved that this novel didn’t go that route. Not that the leadership were without fault, but that hope, forgiveness and love – which believes the best – ultimately triumphed. Great story. Highly recommended.”

Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne My first experience with the work of this author (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) left me absolutely stunned. He has an incredible way of reaching into a historical moment and holding it in front of our faces, challenging us to act, to respond. That’s powerful writing.From my (soon to post) review: “Using the viewpoint of a child allows the story to explore how the war affected those on the home front without focusing on the violence of the battle front. No one humanizes characters the way that an admiring young boy does. He grieves for his neighbors who’ve been removed to internment camp and for his father’s friend, a conscientious objector who is severely beaten for his convictions. Alfie’s voice fills the pages of the story with compassion.”

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale I stayed up most of the night reading this book for the first time. I’m not a huge fan of novels written as diary entries, but this one really hooked me with its vast landscape and rich culture.From my (soon to post) review: “The expert writing and diary format make it easy to forget that this is not a historical account of some ancient kingdom. Dashti’s goodness and loyalty make her an easy character to admire.Though she never takes up weapons made of steel, her cunning and bravery in the face of powerful enemies make her a worthy role model for young readers.”

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee This novel is reminiscent of the great stories that pull ordinary children into extraordinary worlds. I loved the larger-than-life museum setting and the interplay between members of the grieving family.From my review: “This is a whimsical tale full of fascinating creatures and loveable characters. Though Ophelia herself is the real hero, her father finds his strength and stands with her in a demonstration of protection and solidarity. Middle grade readers will enjoy Ophelia’s tale and the emotional journey she faces is sure to encourage readers dealing with losses of their own.”

Me Since You by Laura Weiss In a culture that gawks via internet at everything from awkward to cruel, author Laura Weiss weaves a powerful story about the devastating wounds inflicted on those starring in unfortunate viral videos.From my review: “Rowan’s story packs a serious emotional punch. It is loss come to life. Weiss describes a gut-wrenching grief exacerbated by the (sometimes well-meaning) friends and family members of the grieved. The voices of wisdom and comfort come from those who’ve lost someone themselves. (How true to life is that?!) In addition, she forces readers to examine the fallout which come from people posting cruel comments to one another over the internet.”

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein Women pilots in World War II? Memorable quotes? Heartbreaking sacrifice? Yes, yes, and yes! Such a great book.From my review: “While some of the content definitely places this novel in a category for older teens, it is a powerful story brilliantly told. Author Elizabeth Wein brings to life the story (inspired by history) of two courageous women who served England during World War II. Wein captures not only an intricate physical description of the places in the story, but the desperate, patriotic feel of war-time existence.”

Like Moonlight at Low Tide by Nicole Quigley The notes of loss, hope and courage create a strange sort of harmony in this novel. I love the Florida setting, because it’s home to me.

From my review: “Missy’s story is peppered with moments of keen emotional insight and turmoil, though some of Missy’s realizations seem too far beyond her maturity level. Her spiritual conversations with Josh are at first sincere and different, but at times his explanations seem a little dense and formulaic. Still, Missy’s moment of conversion is genuine and as powerful as the emotional pain that make her such an easy character to connect with”

A Cast of Stones by Patrick Carr I enjoyed the epic feel of the story-world and the fact that Carr sidesteps the obvious plot, giving readers a more unexpected story.From my review: “Carr’s deft and thoughtful storytelling can’t help but leave readers eager for the next chapter in the fascinating world he’s created. Errol’s unexpected and expertly crafted transformation from cowardice to heroism makes this novel both moving and memorable.”