My Little Pony: The Daring Do Collection
In season two of My Little Pony, there was an episode called Read it and Weep. The plot was fairly typical children’s fare – One of the main characters, the athletic Rainbow Dash, doesn’t like to read. She thinks that books are for eggheads. Shortly after making her opinion known and mocking her bookworm friends, she gets injured and has a lengthy stay in the hospital. Devoid of any other entertainment and going insane with boredom, she reluctantly starts to read a book from the hospital library. She’s immediately hooked, of course. Afraid of looking like a hypocrite, she spends the rest of the episode dodging her friends and, uh, stealing from the library in order to read it in secret.
That book was Daring Do and the Quest for the Sapphire Stone. There’s apparently a whole series of these books, and they’re essentially a pony parody of Indiana Jones. The title character, Ms. Daring Do, is a young filly in a pith helmet who travels the world searching for lost treasures. Her books are often mentioned in the cartoon and comics, and she quickly became a fan-favourite character, despite being a character herself, if you see what I mean.
So imagine the surprise when Little, Brown & Company announced they would publish some Daring Do books for real. They were to be released in a boxed set, entitled The Daring Do Collection. Fresh from the printers, they arrived on my doorstep a couple days ago, delivered by a man who wasn’t wearing a uniform and showed up in a rusty white Transit. He gave them to me without saying a word, and I eagerly tore open the box.
Of course, I can’t review the actual stories. That sort of thing is entirely subjective, so I’ll focus on the quality and presentation of the books and the writing itself. They come with a hefty price tag, so hopefully I can help you decide if they’re worth the money.
There are three books in this set, and they have wonderful titles that hark back to the olden day adventure serials. We have Daring Do and the Marked Thief of Marapore; Daring Do and the Eternal Flower; and Daring Do and the Forbidden City of Clouds.
They’re hardback, which is a real surprise. The covers each have a lively and well-rendered picture, with the Daring Do logo splashed over the top. The texture of the binding is lovely – its that canvas material, like a proper book for grown-ups. The spines have the title running down the side and a little compass rose at the top and bottom. The author is given as A. K. Yearling, who is not actually a real person – she’s a character from the cartoon, the in-universe author of the books.
I grin from ear to ear, holding these. It’s like they’ve been pulled straight from the cartoon. Adorably, the inside shows “Other books by A K Yearling” and lists all the other books so far mentioned, making these three appear to be part of a much larger series. A bit of a tease perhaps, but necessary – these books are brand new, and it would be a shame to publish books with titles or plots already established years prior.
They come packed in a treasure chest. It’s cardboard, with a paper veneer, but it’s bloody strong. I figured it would just be a paper case to throw away, but it’s really well made. It has little ribbons to hold the lid up and everything. It’s only spoiled by the advertising on the lid, with the My Little Pony logo and flash declaring “Exclusive Daring Do relic inside!”.
About that – it’s a little plastic figure, about an inch or so tall, cast in solid gold-coloured plastic. I guess maybe someone out there likes to collect these things, but that someone is not me. I could’ve lived without it if it meant a lower price.
Mysteriously, there’s a hollow book inside, too. This represents a ‘prop’ of sorts, used in the show – a trick book that Daring uses to store precious artifacts. I think that it was included to bulk out the books so that they would adequately fill the chest (three books would be far too narrow) and possibly as a spacer so that more books could be released in the future and stored in the chest.
Overall, the exterior presentation of these books is superb – top marks. The chest and extra materials are a nice bonus, and although I myself would have bought the books anyway, it certainly makes them an attractive set. Pop that under the tree at Christmas, and you’d blow someone’s mind – it would make a wonderful gift.
But what’s inside the cover? Well, you may be surprised to learn that these aren’t written for little kids. The standard of writing is excellent. I’ve seen worse from Michael Crichton and other big-league authors, and that’s no joke. There are pony puns aplenty, and many references to the larger MLP universe for the fans. I wouldn’t go as far to say that the stories would appeal to people who’ve never heard of My Little Pony, but even the harshest critic of the cartoon would find nothing to complain about.
The paper quality is lacking somewhat. It’s really thin, the kind you find on really cheap children’s books. The print is clear, and the pages are decorated with little compass points and dashed lines, like an old map. There’s a glossy illustration inside each book, but just the one. All the usual accoutrements are found inside such as contents pages and chapter markers, and there’s some pages in the back reserved for notes and drawings should you go on your own quest. But the paper itself is cheap – it’s really disappointing considering how nice the books look on the outside.
My one and only serious complaint about the books is this; the font is large, as is the spacing between words. Not a problem in itself, but that means that each page averages maybe six words per line. The text is also justified in a narrow column in the centre of the page. Words are often split with a hyphen to accommodate this format.
It’s very much like reading a newspaper. I simply cannot fathom why such good writing was mangled in this way, my only guess is that some fool at the publishers decided the words needed to be BIGGER, and didn’t realise that increasing the size of the letters decreases words per line.
Or perhaps it was done to increase the page count. The cynic in me finds this to be quite likely.
Anyway, I get more hung up on it than I probably should, but I’m sure that any competent reader, young or old, will find it frustrating.
You’ll find this set for anything from £35 to £50, so we can call that a tenner a book if you’re lucky. You can make up your own mind as to whether they’re worth it or not. It all depends on what you want them for. As collector’s items, they’re great. As books, they’re a little flawed thanks to the odd formatting, but the quality of the writing should definitely be taken into account.
Overall, I think they’re lovely, and one of the finest things in my MLP collection. I’m chomping at the bit to read more of Daring’s adventures, so I hope more books will be published in the future, but someone needs to lose their job over that ridiculous format.
“The inside shows”