Review: Ivy's Ever After by Dawn Lairamore

Dawn Lairamore's website [n/a] // $11.53 from {amazon}

Publisher: Holiday House (May 15, 2010)
Hardcover: 320 pages
Summary: from {goodreads}
Once upon a time in the kingdom of Ardendale there lived a spirited princess named Ivy, who had no interest in being rescued by Prince Charming, and an undersized dragon named Elridge, who was better at solving word puzzles than breathing fire. Sailing into this world on a ship made of whale bones came Romil, a handsome prince with dastardly designs on Princess Ivy and her kingdom. Ivy and Elridge, both disappointments to their families, join forces to try and thwart Romil's evil plot. In the process these traditional enemies become fast freinds, discover hidden strengths, and earn the respect of all who know them. Full of humor and high adventure--and plenty of slightly skewed fairy-tale motifs--this frothy fractured fairy tale is sure to delight young readers.

Rating: View my rating system.

My Thoughts: Ivy’s Ever After was surprisingly better than I expected, especially considering it’s intended for elementary to middle school students. Hey, the premise doesn’t lie when it promises a brave heroine with her cute sidekick, the mini-dragon.

The beginning of the book was incredibly SLOW. Dawn Lairamore’s writing sticks true to the standard fairytale style with third-person, straight-forward writing, and clean images. However, her writing frequently grew elaborate to the point where my interest was rapidly dwindling in the middle of a paragraph, making me doubt how well it will keep a fourth grader’s interest. There’s very close attention to detail, but it often distracted me from the main plot and tempted me to skip a few paragraphs ahead... but no, I prevailed! Take for instance:

“[Princess Ivy] dug her way through the trove of clothing. The light-weighted frocks and flimsy underthings would tear too easily, but she pulled out the thicker cloaks and the heavier of the winter dresses and tossed them into a pile on the floor. She added the bed linens as well. That done, she set about tying the lot into one long chain, using a sturdy knot called the Lover’s Embrace, which Boggs had taught her long ago. She knotted sheets to sleeves and skirts to necklines, not caring how roughly she handled the fine material. (Tildy would have a fit!) She worked feverishly, and by the time she was done, she had a length of fabric so long it coiled around the room like a colorful sea serpent.”
I enjoyed the small touches like the “trove of clothing” and the “colorful sea serpent,” but the specifics on exactly what type of clothes and what not were toilsome to trudge through, considering the previous 88 pages were essentially like that as well. And Boggs, in addition to other unnecessary details, is just sort of thrown in there, though he plays no significant part in the story. General consensus: Dim down the vocabulary and extraneous details to make younger children want to read it more.

However, if you’re willing to brave through the beginning, Ivy’s Ever After presents an unique, interesting adventure. Ivy travels to the land of the trolls, a haunted swamp, the land where faeries live, and more. I definitely saw Lairamore’s originality shining through instances like the troll chief’s giant spider hat – very creepy cool. There were also scattered tidbits of humor that made me smile as I read. :)

With the progression of the story and the increasing action, the writing became less stylistic and more concise and I found myself slowly being drawn into the story and actually caring about Ivy and Elridge, her dragon’s outcome. For me, sympathizing with the characters defines at least moderate success in the character department and Ivy and Elridge were certainly enjoyable, admirable, and reasonably developed, though they lacked any particular, special quality that would differentiate them from the characters of other books.

Ultimately, Ivy’s Ever After teaches some solid lessons about courage and self-confidence, regardless of one’s outer appearance. They’re definitely lessons that I would like my little cousins to grow up knowing, and I will be suggesting this book to them (that is, after hinting that Ivy’s Ever After starts off a bit slow). The only thing I’m sad about is that the handsome, cold-hearted ice prince couldn’t turn out to be some swoon-worthy good guy inside (aka reference to Ash from The Iron King)! But all’s well that ends well, and Ivy’s Ever After ends the grand adventure with an efficiently wrapped-up, and not rushed, ending that gives the satisfying promise of a happy future.

Romance: n/a. Practically non-existent.
Cover: 3.0. The art is very appealing and the cover is formated nicely but it doesn't really stand out. Perhaps with less muted colors?
Writing: 3.5
Characters: 3.0 - I could have used more development on all of the characters (even Ivy and Elridge, who I still felt were a bit flat), but, then again, this is a younger book and a fairytale remix.
Plot: 4.0 (Graded a bit favorably with consideration of younger children.)

Bottom Line: Ivy's Ever After is an empowering, intriguing debut on the helpless princess that offers strong lessons to young children, and I'm just sad that this ride on the dragon's back had to end so soon. Bring it on, swamp sprites! ;)

**Sidenote: Though it was still enjoyable for me to read, I think younger audiences will enjoy Ivy's Ever After much more that I did.

Thank you to Barbara from BlueSlip Media for the copy!