Keeping in line with some fairy tale / fantasy titles, let me introduce you to a new spin-off series featuring some secondary characters from the Ever After High series, written by new to the series author Suzanne Selfors and narrated by Kathleen McInerney. The general premise holds that the children of the fairy tale characters we all know are destined to follow in their parent’s footsteps as they navigate their way through high school, preparing to take on ‘real life’.
Next Top Villain
I expected this story to feel more seamless, even with the author change. I’ve reviewed the second title in that series and enjoyed the whimsical twists and personalities given to the ‘true royalty’ of the fairy tale world. In this series, focused more on secondary and lesser characters, the focus seems to rest on backstory and ‘in between’ moments, not truly driving the plot forward but providing some new information about characters not mentioned or important enough to be in the main stories.
Focusing on Duchess Swan, she isn’t given a destiny that leads to love and a happily ever after: she will be alone with only her talent as a prima ballerina to occupy her time. And, Duchess does manage to carry some of those disdainful, selfish and ‘doing my own thing’ attitudes into her character, even if she is purported to be a good girl Placed in the General Villainy class with her roommate Lizzie Hearts (yes, daughter of the Queen of Hearts). While Lizzie is very gung-ho off with their head sort of girl, Duchess isn’t quite so willing to be brazenly open with her thoughts. This story gives us more of them, and her questions about destiny, choice and desire.
With plenty of dramas and quite a few characters to get to know, Duchess’ story moves quickly traipsing through and over issues. Keeping it light with a few connections and a few more missed to the original genesis series, this works as a decent if slightly less whimsical and engaging series about the lesser characters.
Narration is provided by Kathleen McInerney, and while I looked forward to a similar performance in the tone of Ever After High, I found this group of characters lacked those pointed distinctions that would give each of them a unique voice that evoked and felt natural to their personality as developed by the writer. And perhaps there is where the problem lies: the characters had personalities explained for us: she is a good girl, she is bloodthirsty, etc., rather than actually (with the standout exception of Lizzie Hearts) being that character. So, while McInerney’s voice isn’t unpleasant, there weren’t distinctive highs, lows, inflections or emotional push that would have given the characters body and depth. I’d have to say that the narrator can only embody the characters in context and depth that is provided by the author, while presenting the emotional elements that come from the written words. I was a bit disappointed in the story, finding it needing more whimsy, stronger growth and development in characters and a bit more continuity.
Stars Overall: 3 Narration: 3 Story: 2
Title: Next Top Villain
Author: Suzanne Selfors
Genre: Children's Literature
Narrator: Kathleen McInerney
Published by: Hachette Audio, Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Published on: 6 January 2015
Source: Hachette Audio
Audio Length: 3 Hours: 52 minutes
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A brand-new series of school stories from the world of Ever After High!
Duchess Swan and Lizzie Hearts are roommates at Ever After High. While their personalities are very different, they bond over not quite fitting in with the other Royals. Lizzie, however, has one thing that Duchess doesn't: a happily-ever-after at the end of her story.
While Lizzie and the other princesses train for the day when they will rule their kingdoms, Duchess is torn between her role as the perfect, dutiful princess and her rebellious ambition to be a queen. When both girls are selected to attend General Villainy class, Duchess sees an opportunity to be a rebel while following the rules. But can she play a prank on her roomie to ace the class? Find out if Duchess' desire to change her destiny will make her Ever After High's Next Top Villain!
A copy of this title was provided via Hachette Audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.