recommendations and reviews for the aspiring reader

recommendations and reviews for the aspiring reader

Review: Mistress of All Evil : A Tale of the Dark Fairy

Mistress of All Evil : A Tale of the Dark Fairy

by Serena Valentino

” Whatever her origins, she belonged to the crows. “


Everyone knows the stories that belong to the princesses. They are tales as old as time, told of beautiful girls blessed with the most virtuous of qualities — infinite kindness, quiet empathy, the ability always able to choose just the right words, and of course, a perfectly lovely singing voice. They always find their happy endings, and always with a handsome Prince Charming in tow.

Everyone also knows that for princesses, their story would not be complete without a terrible villain. There is always someone evil lurking in the background waiting for an opportunity to dash the gorgeous and innocent princess’s dreams. The cruel villain is always one step ahead, taking great pleasure in holding the princess down and reducing her to tears and agony while stomping her dreams into dust. Whether it’s locking the princess in a tall tower, forcing her to sleep among the cinders, or luring her to imminent death with the offering of a shiny red apple, the villain of the story is always in charge of bringing darkening shadows into the princess’s golden days. It is always a fight of good over evil.

And while the princess’s story is always predictable and ends with a happily ever after, it’s easy to forget that the co-star in the script also had a story of his or her very own. And what’s also easy to forget is that villains are seldom born . . . but instead, are created. They are molded by their surroundings and by their experiences like so much manipulated clay, and when you take the time to peel back the singed or fraying layer of darkness, you might just be surprised at what you find hidden underneath.

When Serena Valentino took it upon herself to begin putting the very personal and eye-opening stories of the familiar fairy-tale villains to paper, the Disney Villains series was born. While the books each focus largely on one particular villainess and her background, there is a tandem storyline linking all of the books together. The order of the series is, thus far, as follows:

Mistress of All Evil : A Tale of the Dark Fairy follows Maleficent, who is best known as the hauntingly grim fairy who plagued the infant Princess Aurora with an impending sleeping curse when she is banned from the festivities given in the newborn’s honor. The curse is set to come down upon the girl with gold of sunshine in her hair and lips that shame the red red rose on her 16th birthday by way of a prick of her finger on a spinning wheel. But why did Maleficent patiently wait until the girl turned 16 to enact her revenge upon the kingdom that treated her so poorly? And was it actual revenge? Or something more?

Giving a voice to the dark fairy, a story of misguided anger and unfounded prejudice is woven between the past and the present. While nearly every adult in young Maleficent’s life went out of their way to fail her and encourage the bullying attitude of her peers, there was one who cradled the fragile mind of Maleficent and helped her hone her powers. Nanny, sister to Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, fought against the odds in her attempts to introduce some fairness into Maleficent’s life, but no matter how hard she tried, the cruelty of the outside world always found a way to peck it’s way into the young fairy’s world.

Picking up right where Poor Unfortunate Soul left off, readers will embark upon a deeper adventure with The Odd Sisters, Snow White and her mother, and the young princess an her prince. Aurora is indeed trapped in her sleeping curse as Maleficent foretold, but she is not in a blank sleep as one might think. The Princess Aurora is instead a prisoner of a haunting dream world full of mirrors and the horrors within, and she struggles to get out yearning for a reunion with her Prince Philip. Circe has been left behind to try and pick up the pieces of the kingdom and hunt for a way to bring The Odd Sisters out of their place in limbo, but she has problems of her own to contend with as well. The funeral of Ursula has brought with it the march of the dark fairy and her minions, and this has put everyone on edge. While the years had passed with Maleficent in near banishment and agony, the outside world continued to trek on without her. . . including the world of Nanny, the one person who was supposed to always understand and be there for her young and misunderstood charge. . . and this is something that Maleficent will never forget.

Serena Valentino’s fourth installment in the Disney Villains series is twisty and raw, much like the thorny bushes the dark fairy sends springing up all around Aurora’s enchanted castle. A sharp mixture of Once Upon a Time, with shades of Gregory MacGuire’s Wicked and the charm of The Sanderson Sisters, it is a mid-grade book ready for readers to curl up with this fall season.

I give the book 3.5 out of 5 stars, because while the book did have a lot of background on Maleficent, I felt that too much time was spent on other story lines instead of dedicating pages to the transition of the dark fairy. It constantly felt as if the story was a gap-filler between novels instead of a true telling of the dark fairy. While it was foretold that Maleficent was to eventually become evil, there was a lot of goodness to be found in Maleficent in her younger years and I was disappointed that more time was not spent on building on this storyline. She was able to persevere against constant unkindness and prejudice by the other fairies, and I was interested in that particular aspect of her personality.  In short, there was simply not enough of her story told in this book. The bouncing back from each point of view to the next felt choppy and scenes that should have brought about revelations appeared rushed.

I do recommend this book to Disney lovers and those who enjoy a twisted tale featuring familiar faces. Young readers will enjoy this series the most, and it is recommended for those ages 10 and older.

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