Friday, 8 November 2013

Book review: Equestria Girls: Through the Mirror (G. M. Berrow)

Front cover of EqG: Through the Mirror
I can't think of anything amusing to say about this
That's right: another review! In truth, this is a book I bought several weeks ago and simply haven't got round to writing about until now. It's the official novelisation of the Equestria Girls film, written by G. M. Berrow. She's already had two chapter books published (one very good and one okay) and there'll be a third coming in the New Year. This book is a slightly different thing, though, in that we've all already seen the underlying story on the movie screen. Come with me and I'll yatter on about Through the Mirror in my usual rambly way!

The first thing you notice about this book is that it's a hardback. Oh, all right: probably the first thing you notice is how purple it is, but I suppose that's fair enough when the cover features not one but two Twilights. Unlike with the cover of Crystal Heart Spell, the Twi we see here is fully levelled up to alicorn status, wings and all. But yes, it's a hardback. I'm not sure why, exactly, as the book's 240 pages could easily have been accommodated in paperback format. Still, points for the dedication, which is to "all the humans who've ever wondered what it would be like to be a pony".

Unlike the recently-reviewed comic annual, Through the Mirror isn't in any way a new story: it's simply a retelling of the story of the movie. Berrow keeps things moving along fairly well most of the time, so I don't really have any problems with the pacing, and she's obviously done her research. Demon!Sunset convinces, for example. There are several rather strange departures from the film (eg Flash Sentry turns up for the dance in a red car) but that may simply because the book was written from a script that then underwent last-minute tweaks before the movie appeared on screen.

EqG: Through the Mirror, back cover
Isn't this the picture we all freaked out about back in the spring?
I mentioned Flash in the previous paragraph, so I'd better complain a bit more about him now. He really isn't any more interesting a character in the book than he is in the film, and his effect on Twilight is even more annoying. On screen, she just blushes and looks a bit awkward from time to time. Here, there are several points where we have the dubious pleasure of reading her actual thoughts about Flash. For example, Twi thinks that she should keep away from him until she's retrieved her crown, but that "then it might be negotiable." Urgh.

Strangely enough, that very page also contains a little extra we don't get in the film: it seems that Rarity has an eye for Flash too. In fact, we learn that the girl who was previously humiliated by Sunset Shimmer — never named in the film — was indeed Rarity. It doesn't make much difference to the story as it was a strong possibility anyway from hints given in the film, but I think it's worth having in there. I'd actually have liked a bit more backstory in this book (and the punny chapter titles from Crystal Heart Spell!) but I suppose you can't have everything.

The dedication
You mean... there are people out there who haven't?
One real problem the book has is that so much of what made EqG good/bearable (delete according to taste) on screen was the shout-outs and cameos by well-known MLP characters. A few of these do remain, most notably Vinyl Scratch (who in the book is playing "an old favourite, "Raise This Barn"!) but mostly they've been jettisoned. No Derpy is one thing, but we don't even get the hugely popular Trixie vending machine scene. And of course there are no songs, so the pivotal cafeteria scene turns into a frankly dull interlude wherein the HuMane Five simply persuade the others to do the Wondercolts thing.

As was the case in the previous two chapter books, Through the Mirror contains an activity section at the back. Here you get the chance to design your own drinks for The Sweet Shoppe (or Sugar Cube Corner, as most of us know it) and to write about why you get on so well with your friends. The most eye-catching part, though, is a sample agenda for the Princess Summit that Twilight is returning from at the start. I'd certainly be more than interested in hearing Celestia's presentation on Canterlot history!

Princess Summit agenda
Hey, I thought only evil Cadance used her full name? Hmmm...
There is no doubt at all in my mind that this is comfortably the least impressive of Berrow's three books so far. I doubt that much of this is actually her fault: we've established that she's a solid Pony writer, but here the fact that she was having to stick closely to someone else's story really does show through quite often. I paid somewhere in the region of £6 from The Book Depository for my copy, and I'm not sure I can recommend that outlay to anyone but a completist (like me). Through the Mirror isn't a terrible book, but it's not remotely a great one.

  • A solid retelling of the film's storyline
  • One or two bits of extra detail
  • The Princess Summit agenda
  • That dedication
  • Far fewer shout-outs than the film
  • Some odd discrepancies
  • No giant standee!
  • The Flash stuff is even worse here than on screen
  • It's just so boring at times

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