fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Unfairest of Them All by Shannon HaleThe Unfairest of Them All by Shannon Hale

The Unfairest of Them All is the second book in Shannon Hale’s EVER AFTER HIGH series for children. These are tie-in novels for Matel’s line of EVER AFTER HIGH dolls, clothing, diaries, and sundry accessories. I feel like a real chump for obliviously falling into Matel’s greedy little trap, but I love Shannon Hale’s children’s books, so…. so THERE.

The first book in the series (The Storybook of Legends) was sweet and charming, so I went in to this one knowing exactly what I was doing and I found it just as original and adorable as the first one. In The Unfairest of Them All, Raven Queen, daughter of the evil queen, refuses to sign The Storybook of Legends, a contract that would require her to carry on in her mother’s evil role. Raven doesn’t want to be evil, but by choosing not to be evil she ruins everyone else’s “happily ever after.” Now some of her friends think she really is evil because she wants to choose her own destiny and ruin theirs. She’s in quite a quandry. How can she rebel without hurting others?

The Unfairest of Them All is Apple White’s story. Apple is Snow White’s daughter and the person who Raven Queen is supposed to give the poisoned apple to. But Apple and Raven are also best friends. While Apple admires and respects Raven’s decision to not poison her, Apple risks losing her “happily ever after” with Prince Charming if she isn’t poisoned. There are plenty of other classmates at Ever After High who are in a similar situation. (It’s probably occurred to you that there should be two high schools in fairyland — one for the heroes and one for the villains. Then these destiny-killing kind of mix-ups couldn’t happen.)

All the cute quirky characters are here again, including Humpty Dumpty the rapping hacker and Madeline Hatter who keeps trying to learn secret information from the narrator. It’s all so cute (gosh, I keep using that word) and silly. Some of the silliness starts to grate (such as using words like “Hexcellent”, “hextreme sports” and “hext message”) but much of it is delightfully clever.

There’s actually quite a bit of contemplativeness, too. Using the fairytale context, the story thoughtfully explores real-world issues such as prejudice (especially about interracial marriage), dysfunctional families, benevolent leadership and crisis management, and the consequences of following or not following social norms. As silly as this book is, there is plenty of opportunity for serious discussion of these social issues, too.

Once again I listened to the audio version read by Kathleen McInerney and produced by Hachette Audio. McInerney gives a wonderful lively performance. I recommend this version.

Ever After High — (2013-2014) Publisher: At Ever After High, an enchanting boarding school, the children of fairytale legends prepare themselves to fulfill their destinies as the next generation of Snow Whites, Prince Charmings and Evil Queens…whether they want to or not. Each year on Legacy Day, students sign the Storybook of Legends to seal their scripted fates. For generations, the Village of Book End has whispered that refusing to sign means The End-both for a story and for a life. As the daughter of the Evil Queen, Raven Queen’s destiny is to follow in her mother’s wicked footsteps, but evil is so not Raven’s style. She’s starting to wonder, what if she rewrote her own story? The royal Apple White, daughter of the Fairest of Them All, has a happy ever after planned for herself, but it depends upon Raven feeding her a poison apple in their future. What if Raven doesn’t sign the Storybook of Legends? It could mean a happily never after for them both.

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Find the Ever After High short stories here (most are free on Kindle).


  • Kat Hooper

    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.