Monday, 13 January 2014

Book review: Rainbow Dash and the Daring Do Double Dare (G. M. Berrow)

Rainbow Dash and the Daring Do Double Dare -- front cover
"I dare Hasbro to provide some different vectors for once"
G. M. Berrow's series of chapter books starring the Mane Six have quickly become a fixture of what you might call the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic expanded universe. The first book, about Twilight, was very good, if slightly butchered for its UK edition. The Pinkie-centric follow-up scored a little lower but was still worthwhile. Now, we have Rainbow Dash and the Daring Do Double Dare (say that six times fast!) which you can buy from The Book Depository for £3.07. Only Berrow's novelisation of Equestria Girls seemed a little lacklustre. I've been hoping that that was simply because of the iffy source material. After the jump, we'll find out!

Rainbow's story focuses on her love of danger: Rainbow "Danger" Dash is name-checked, though the more recent "Professionalism" bit doesn't seem to have occurred to her just yet! We're taken to Ponyville at the time of the midnight release of the latest Daring Do book, but this is no straight rehash of "Daring Don't". (There is a nice nod to the revelations of that episode, though.) Instead, Rainbow, prompted by her need to prove herself Daring's ultimate fan, is dared to perform the most daring of dares. Er, as Pinkie Pie might say.

Talking of Pinkie, she's involved in one of the book's funniest sequences,involving name badges. It may just be another take on a very old joke, but when those are written well (as here) they still make me laugh no end. The book has a lot of funny moments, most of which come fairly early on: the story splits fairly neatly into a domestic, humorous first half and a more expansive and adventurous second part. If this were being made for the show, I think it would probably require a two-parter to do itself justice. (Mind you, so did "Magical Mystery Cure" and look what happened there...)

RD & the DDDD -- back cover blurb
"I dare you to steal some more slippers!"
Characterisation is excellent throughout the book, with Rainbow Dash coming over as exactly the sort of pony we know from our screens. The one time she shows real apprehension when potential dares are being discusses is when "a purple Earth Pony" (no idea if that's a nod to someone specific) suggests daring Dash to get a hooficure. I'm sure we all remember what happened in "Ponyville Confidential"! Twilight, meanwhile, is bookish and nerdy and a bit worried and... well, Twilight. Her new-found royal Alicorn status is a bit of a side-issue this time round, as in most of S4 so far.

The adventure part of the tale is quite different in tone to what has gone before, but it's equally interesting. The Everfree Forest is what it should be: a creepy, uncertain and largely unknown place where anything might happen. Zecora, whose tendency to rhyme without considering scansion is perfectly replicated, provides help with the mysterious "Spirit Circle" (whose name I'm not entirely sure really fits Pony) but even she and Twi together don't know everything. That's proved by the appearance of Braze, a terrifying (and anagrammatic) zebra.

Berrow has quickly become a popular figure in the fandom, and I'm sure part of that is because of the little bones she threw the bronies in Crystal Heart Spell. These pretty much disappeared in Pinkie's book, but now they're back! There's nothing quite as blatant as "Pegasister-in-law" or "True Love and Tolerance" from Twilight's story, but I really doubt that Snowflake's name-check was included just for six-year-olds. The same goes for the suspiciously careful description of how Lyra is sitting in her chair. There's even a speaking part for Wild Fire.

Rainbow Dash standee
"The Great and Powerful Dashie doesn't need a body!"
As usual, the back of the book contains some goodies in the shape of puzzles and games. Three of these are linked together as a "Wonderbolts Test" (though if you think I'm doing any Jumping Jacks, think again!) while there are also word games, a maze, a spot-the-difference page and a space to write about overcoming your own fears. Naturally, there's also the Enterplay "GIANT trading card" standee, showing Dashie in one of her slightly more show-off poses. (The chapter intro vectors are the same old, same old... sigh.)

I absolutely loved Rainbow Dash and the Daring Do Double Dare. Yes, it's aimed at young children, but the best children's fiction has always been read and enjoyed by adults. As Walt Disney, a man who knew a thing or two about family entertainment, once said: "You're dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway." The show itself has been proving that statement right since 2010, and Berrow has done the same here. It's only just over three quid, people. There is no reason to be without this book. Heartily recommended!

PS: What an interesting Plot Twist.

  • Extremely funny in the first half...
  • ...and grippingly adventurous in the second
  • Braze is an interesting new character
  • Excellent characterisation
  • Fandom nods, but done unobtrusively
  • Since when did Rainbow save Rarity with a Double Rainboom?
  • You just know "how in the hoof" etc will be edited out for the UK


  1. I really enjoyed this book as well. Double rainboom? Is Berrow getting confused between official episodes and fan made ones?

    It always felt to me that the whole adventure was a pretty obvious set-up by Zecora and the other five to teach Rainbow a lesson about not going it alone all the time. They could be heard close by whenever Rainbow was in any real danger, presumably to ensure that she didn't get herself eaten or drowned in quicksand, and the gifts were rather too conveniently suited for their eventual uses. However, this question is never conclusively resolved, leaving it up to the reader to weigh up the clues... or maybe I'm just reading too much into things.

    1. I really should have replied to this comment weeks ago, but I somehow missed it... I think reading too much into things is what bronies do, isn't it? ;) And yes, it was clearly a set-up, but I don't mind that when it leads to such a good story.