Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Book Review: Mistress of All Evil: A Tale of the Dark Fairy (Villains #4)

Release Date: October 3, 2017
Author: Serena Valentino
Publisher: Disney Press
Length: 309 pages
Source: Library Audio Book

The tale is told as if it's happening once upon a dream: the lovely maiden meets her handsome prince in the woods. The story has been told many times and in many ways. But always the maiden finds out that she is a princess-a princess who has been cursed by a dark fairy to prick her finger on a spindle and fall into an eternal sleep. Though her three good fairies try to protect her, the princess succumbs to the curse. But the power of good endures, as her true love defeats the fire-breathing dragon and awakens the princess with true love's first kiss. The two live happily ever after.

And yet this is only half the story. So what of the dark fairy, Maleficent? Why does she curse the innocent princess? What led to her becoming so filled with malice, anger, and hatred? Many tales have tried to explain her motives. Here is one account, pulled down from the many passed down through the ages. It is a tale of love and betrayal, of magic and reveries. It is a tale of the Mistress of All Evil.



Characters: Ahhhh, that's much better. With the previous installment, Poor Unfortunate Soul, I felt like the Villain the book focused on, Ursula, got sidelined by the original characters of this series, whereas in this book Maleficent very much takes center stage in this book. There's a great deal of focus on Maleficent's past, her interactions with the other fairies, and what led her to eventually curse Aurora to die. Like with the other villains this author writes about, it wasn't hard to be sympathetic to her and feel sad for what she went through. As the novel progresses her story unfolds bit by bit, which I really enjoyed, but Maleficent isn't the only character focus this story had. Like the previous installment, and since this is in many ways a direct sequel to the last, we learn more about Nanny's past as well, where she comes from and her role in Maleficent's story, though I do have to say I wish I understood the whole "One of Legends" nonsense, it feels as if I'm supposed to understand "who" Nanny is, but it's never really confirmed. That may come later, or she may be a completely original character with no ties to Disney movies or fairy tales, but with a title as grand as she has, it feels like you're supposed to know who she is. Lastly, for our main characters, we have Circe, the little sister of the three Odd Sister witches. After being freed from Ursula's imprisonment she hopes to wake her sisters who've fallen under a sleeping spell. Along the way, she teams up with a rather unlikely ally, someone you'll have met before if you've read all the previous installments, and they discover some rather startling secrets about Circe, the sisters, and even Maleficent herself. Of course, Princess Tulip and Prince Popinjay also make appearances, but they felt like minor characters compared to everyone else. They're there, they do things, they aren't annoying, and that's pretty much all I can say for them.

World Building: I almost breathed a sigh of relief while reading this book because after a rather rocky road with the first three installments, all of which are enjoyable but flawed, I finally felt like this series is really coming into its own. Much like with the previous installment, this book is more about the original characters of this series and how they fit into the more "behind the scenes" aspect of the story and their role in the life of the installment's villain. With this series getting as large as it is, I loved seeing the author really having fun with this Disney world and bring in characters that I wasn't expecting to have a larger role in this story as well as Maleficent's life. This story takes a rather large look at the roles of the fairies, since that's what Maleficent is, and their life. I loved getting an expanded look into the world of the fairies and how they work, their schooling, and their own personal aspirations.

Predictability: Given that the previous installments of this series felt rocky, to say the least, I really went into this book with zero expectations. I had no theories as to why Maleficent did the things she does in the movie, and I was more along for the ride than trying to ferret out this book's secrets. Still, even if I was trying to figure out all of the little twists and turns in this book, I highly doubt I'd succeed. There were a few twists that were quite obvious, but they were also rather small twists, the big things, the game-changing things, I didn't see coming a mile away. Eventually, I just rolled with each blow and enjoyed the ride.

Ending: Because there is a continuous plot through these books now, instead of feeling more like companion novels, when, after a final climax that felt familiar (of course) yet had a depth and sadness I wasn't prepared for, the story shifts back to one of the original characters and ends on, well I guess it's a cliffhanger, but it didn't feel like one. The book just sort of ends abruptly, which, considering I was listening to an audio book, felt extremely abrupt and I wish there was something to sort of plateau the ending a little bit more or I wish there was a more startling cliffhanger to agonize over.


Between the original characters, their personal storylines, Disney characters popping up all over the place, and a villain backstory that wasn't, "I'm evil because a man I love(d) wronged me or died unnecessarily, " I both loved this installment and am truly excited to see where the story goes from here. Even if I had a couple problems with how this particular installment ended, I love this series more than ever and am so happy that it has found its groove... speaking of which an Yzma book would be amazing!


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