Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review: Ever After High -- Raven Queen

As you probably know, I've been eagerly anticipating the arrival of the brand new Ever After High dolls. I've already spoken at length about my feelings on the idea of the line in general and the promo shots of the actual dolls. For me the thought of Mattel offering a line of dolls utilizing the body style of Monster High but themed to fairy tales was an exciting one. I didn't have to think too long about it though -- just a little over a month after the official EAH website and debut webisodes were launched, the dolls were already hitting shelves! It was rumored they would have a July release but I honestly figured it would be closer to the end of the month. I was lucky enough to find Raven Queen and Madeline Hatter last weekend, and I'm excited to bring you my first EAH doll review!

Raven seems to more or less be the "leader" of the EAH group so it makes sense to start with her. Her box has a clear shell for the cover. In the lower right hand corner is the EAH logo -- a heart-shaped lock with a dangling key attached. The head of the key is the face of a girl with a swath of hair covering her left eye. This symbol seems to more or less be EAH's equivalent to MH's skullette. But what to call this girl? Skullette has such a nice ring to it; the best I can come up with for the EAH symbol is "winker". But that sounds pretty silly, plus she's not even winking. I'm guessing before long someone will come up with something that will stick. Anyway, the clear shell has several tabs that insert into a cardboard back. When you unfasten them the shell lifts off easily, leaving the doll attached to the insert. Raven stands in front of a backdrop emblazoned with her name in violet above her. Behind her is a sketch of some trees, a broken mirror and raven, and a large feather. The style of sketch reminds me a lot of Jeffrey Fulvimari, very feminine and stylized. On the left Raven tells us she's "Conjuring My Own Destiny!" Scrolling downward through all this is text, as if this is a page from a storybook. The ink fades in and out and is splotchy and blotted. Interestingly, the text moves fluidly through several different languages, ending with "Happily Ever After". Take a look...

The left side of the insert mimics the spine of a book. It's deep purple and features a drawing of Raven in an ornate frame, plus her name and the rebel symbol -- a gold heart with wings. The cardboard is even ribbed as if the book's spine has been cracked from repeated readings!

The right side of the insert isn't as thick as the left, and looks like pages of a book. They really were thorough in this box=book design!

The box back features a full-size drawing of Raven, a brief bio, printed interview, and small pics of the other three lead characters. The color scheme is purple. I shared this with you a few days ago but here it is again...

Attached to the front of the insert is a purple bookmark showcasing the rebel symbol, plus a ribbon necklace with charms. Attached to the bookmark is a paper foldout, kind of like the booklets that used to come with cassettes. (Remember those?) The foldout is a short story narrated by Raven. It's broken down into chapters and has several small drawings throughout. I love the story -- it gives a lot of insight into how Raven thinks, in addition to further establishing the world of EAH and several of the other characters. All things considered it's a pretty detailed story, and gives me an appreciation for Raven as a character that I didn't entirely get from the webisodes we've seen so far. I won't spoil all the fun, but I will say there are aspects to Raven that are, if not evil, certainly temperamental. I like these shades of grey a lot. Mattel is using the storybook to not only establish who the character is but set up the world she inhabits to help facilitate imaginative play. And it's doing so while using subtlety (for a doll line), giving us a character who's likable but somewhat flawed. It seems Mattel is practicing what they preach and trying to "flip the script" of fairy tales, offering this cool little modernization on the theme. Here's a taste of Raven's storybook...

If you want to read the full booklet click here.

"Oh my God, John, if you say one more thing about the damn package I'm gonna scream. Get to the doll!" I hear you, I hear you -- but you guys know how I am about paper ephemera. And the stuff included with Raven is impressive in both look and content. I just had to talk about it for a bit! But yes, by the way, did you know this package includes a doll?

I think the most important thing to discuss about Raven is her face. More than anything else the thing that will make or break this doll for people, especially MH fans, is her face. The thing is, hers is very different different from an MH one. And I'm not just talking about the shape. Take a look...

Funnily enough, I'd say Raven's faceup is more detailed than your typical MH one, but the mold itself is very simple. Her head and face are very round, with full cheeks and a fairly flat chin. Her forehead is pretty big too, leading to eyes that are surprisingly flat. The molding of the eyes isn't nearly as bulbous as a typical MH doll. The bridge of her nose is considerably smaller as well. This mold actually reminds me a lot of doll lines of the 80's -- your Strawberry Shortcakes and whatnot. The other day I mentioned on the blog that I think EAH dolls might appeal to kids of the 80's, and this facemold is why. It's kind of like what you might expect the Rose Petal Place girls to look like when they're all grown up.

The other thing that might not appeal to MH fans is the actual style of the faceup. For Raven at least, aside from her shiny lips, the paint is matte. It's considerably different from the sparkling MH faceups. Combined with the flatness of the eye mold it creates a somewhat odd-looking doll. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and for those used to a diet of constant MH this face may not work. All that said, what do I think? I think she's gorgeous! I'm generally open to new things, and that includes uniquely non-MH doll faceups!

Raven has detailed eyes. She has large black pupils with a dot and streak reflection and ridged irises in lavender and light pink. Thick, black mascara and eyelashes give way to cream eyeliner above the eye. This is topped by royal purple eyeshadow. Underneath, the eye is lined with deep purple liner accompanied by a short strip of silver. She gazes forward, alert but not overly so. Her dark brown eyebrows are expressionless. They have a standard arch and fade towards the center of the face. Her lips are placed in a small purse that gives her slight dimples. They're lined in fuchsia while the lips are magenta. The lower lip is a tad lighter than the upper and features three silver reflection dots. These lips are far more detailed than MH ones, for sure. Raven has a pale, cream-colored complexion, and lightly blushed cheeks. (Another difference from MH dolls.) She is indeed quite stunning.

One of the most interesting things about Raven is how expressive her face is despite the rather flat expression. Tilt her head up and suddenly she's marveling at the stars. Tilt it down and she's giving you the Kubrick Stare. Turn her head to the side and down and she's smirking. To the side and up is wandering curiosity. All the way around is The Exorcist, and you probably shouldn't do it.

Raven's hair is black with magenta running the hairline. The only portion of the hairline not rooted with magenta is the tip of her widow's peak. There are some nice grape lowlights in the magenta "streaks". The hair lands well below her rear with a mild wave throughout. In front, the magenta portions have been pulled and twisted into a ponytail. They hold a simple silver tiara in place. From the front this gives her hair a sort of striped look. In back, it falls down the middle in a thin strip.

In a previous post I reckoned our chances weren't great that the manufactured doll would have nice hair like the promo pic doll. I'm happy to report I was wrong! Her hair isn't Spectra-like perfection but for saran it's remarkably silky and soft. Her first hair brushing session lead to some errant strands but that's pretty common with new dolls. Since then it's been fine. It's maybe not rooted as thickly as it could be but it's not thin by any means. And it's definitely not frizzy. (Hooray!)

Raven wears an outfit fit for a queen even though I guess technically she's a princess. It emphasizes her dramatic nature and plays off the various purple shades found in her eyes and hair. Chains are scattered throughout (between the purple and the chains I'm getting shades of Spectra), but more interesting are the many birdlike touches used to accent her look. The overall effect is Gothic, with hints of punk. A lot of people are saying that EAH as a line is too vanilla, but if you ask me Raven has a definite edge to her. This isn't exactly what I would call a dainty look. At the very least, it's not your typical princess doll outfit.

Based on the promo pic I thought Raven's dress was one piece but it's in fact two. Her top is a fairly simple tank with a dropped front. It comes in an iridescent black; it reflects various shades of purple and green. The top is made of four separate pieces -- two in front and two in back. In back it Velcros while the front has a seam running down the center. What's cool about this is that it breaks up the pattern of iridescence. If the top were one large piece the pattern of shimmer would be continuous. But broken up, each piece has it's own reflective behavior. As you turn her in the light each part of the top reflects differently. (Yes, I've spent a certain amount of time just twirling Raven in the light -- don't judge!) It's a small detail but it adds so much visual interest.

The top is paired with a three-tiered skirt. The top tier is a tulip skirt in gradated plum, getting darker as it travels to her knees in the back. A print of black lace runs the waist- and hemlines. The hem features a print of tiny black stripes and purple thread. The second tier is an underskirt that comes in royal purple netting and is pleated. It's raised in the front, dipping down to below her calf in the back. It is hemmed with lavender thread. The third tier is a another row of pleated netting, this time in magenta. It behaves exactly like the tier above it, hanging just a tad below. In the back it comes close to her ankles. It's hemmed with matching magenta thread. The skirt is paired with plain black fishnets. The overall effect here is very feminine, but not in a sparkly Disney doll way. The colors are deep and rich, the shining plum tulip giving way to the thick layers of gathered netting. The black lace print on the bell of the skirt combined with the fishnets connect the outfit thematically to the heavier Gothic touches we'll find in her accessories.

By far Raven's most dramatic and impressive piece is her high collar. It consists of a guard that fits perfectly over her shoulders and supports the actual collar. The entire piece comes in grey, with the molding shaded in black to create an illusion of depth. The guard is made up of layered feathers that perfectly cup her shoulders. In the back you'll notice what looks like bones traveling up the center. These bird bones align perfectly with what would be Raven's spine. So cool! Centering the front is an amethyst fastener. Two strung, black chains dangle beneath it. The shading was done so well here that when I first de-boxed Raven I thought for just a second that maybe the piece wasn't removable! It looks like one solid piece, the tab behind the fastener hard to notice. The collar rises to Raven's ears, perfectly framing her face. It juts outward to scalloped edges where you'll find some intricate detailing and more black shading. The outside body of the collar has a simple grid pattern while the inside has molded vertical indents, as if the collar is lined with wire to hold it's shape.

I thought the collar moving up and down with her arms would bother me but it actually works extremely well.

Matching the collar is a grey belt with more black shading. The sides cup her torso and are connected by a thin clasp in the front with a chain dangling below it. It is weighted by a tiny bird skull. Wound around her left wrist are chains and studs. Unfortunately this piece doesn't have the shading, but if you look closely you'll see another bird skull. There's also a dangling amethyst in the same style as the one on her collar. It can be hooked onto her index finger or you can leave it loose. I prefer the hooked look personally. Raven carries a small purse. It comes in black with an ornate silver bow and detailing that frames a small oval. It looks like maybe a sticker was supposed to go in the oval but they changed their minds at the last minute. That's what I'm guessing anyway. The black portions feature a grid of studs. The purse has a silver handle displaying yet more birdy decor, this time another small skull, plus two outstretched wings. The handle is lopsided and, if it were shaded like the collar and belt, would look authentically antique. No matter, it's still extremely cool and odd and dark.

Raven's shoes are solid black wedges with a row of silver vamp chains in the front. Even though aside from the chains everything here is solid black, these shoes are amazing -- it's all in the molding. We again touch upon the bird theme, with molded feathers holding the chains in place. The wedge is also comprised of feathers, these pointing downward. Molded tufts wrap the ankles while the heelcaps seem to be made of birdlike skin. Yeah, I have no words for how mindblowing these shoes of life are. Take a look...

Raven comes with a silver stand and matching brush. The stand functions exactly the same as an MH stand, with the EAH logo working as the base and a waist clip resting on a vertical bar. One nice little touch is that the waist clip has "ea" molded into it. The MH waist clips are plain, you'll remember. As for the brush, it's also very similar to the MH brush, if a bit smaller. It's shaped like a key, with the top consisting of a crest that frames that winker girl logo. (Remember her?) The handle of the brush is comprised of the shaft and shoulder of the key.

The last thing I'm going to touch on are the body mold differences. Everyone wants to know how the EAH body compares to the MH one. Take a look...

Raven is curvier than Ghoulia in general. Also, her thigh and calf joints are a little longer,
while Ghoulia's torso is longer. End effect? Same height, slightly different proportions.

Raven's legs are a little thicker.

You can see the difference a little better here...

... and here.

Raven has a shorter torso, wider hips, larger bust, wider shoulders, and their groins are a little different. The sculpt of the stomach is different, too. Raven's been using that AbFlex Ghoulia threw out a long time ago.

General back comparison.

Raven's bum is a little wider than Ghoulia's.

Raven's arms are thicker and a tad longer.

Raven in one of the tightest MH dresses you'll find. Looks pretty good to me!
And she's standing on her own here.

And here.

The tightness of the dress combined with the grid pattern on her bum have created
an unfortunate cellulite effect.

It took a little work to get the Velcro fastened correctly but it came out fine.

And the MH shoes fit Raven like a glove!

Ghoulia isn't swimming in Raven's tights but there's definitely some bagging going on.


Even Raven didn't look great from the back in this dress.
Something about the cut isn't very flattering.

It's a bit "Ghoulia gone flamenco". I'm not sure if that's good or bad.

The top looks baggy on Ghoulia but a lot of that is the cut, not the size.

And the EAH shoes fit Ghoulia like a glove!

Overall: Obviously I think she's the best thing since sliced bread and oxygen. As I told a friend a couple of days ago, she's officially a DOLL OF LIFE for me. Never mind that she's genuinely gorgeous, she's also loaded with personality. There's something quirky about that half fierce, half cherubic face. Her outfit conveys style and authority -- you gotta have power to pull off a collar like that! Raven carries that power effortlessly. Speaking of raven, the bird theme has been executed with consistency and no shortage of darkly Gothic, fashion-forward drama. How does she compare to a Monster High doll? It's hard to say -- she's obviously similar, and yet her general vibe couldn't be more different. Raven definitely has her own thing going on. Mattel could've gone the easy route with EAH and literally given us "MH in a princess dress". Instead they tried something different, giving us dolls with unique, odd faces and clothes that occupy a somewhat indefinable realm -- not fierce or edgy, but not soft and sparkly either. By not catering to Monster High fans, Mattel is taking a risk with Ever After High. I respect that. And I admire them for doing it. And more than anything else, I simply think Raven's a great doll, one of the best I've come across this year.


  1. Great review, John!
    I'm not actually bothered by the slight physical changes from the Monster High dolls. The ghouls are either undead or animalistic monsters, whereas the EAH girls are alive & supposed to be more fuller figured & round in the face.
    I really love Raven's top. Looks like one of those versatile items that'll look good with many items. She's like Spectra in a way, but also *very* different. I like it.
    Raven seems to channel Charlize Theron's & Lana Parilla's 'Evil Queen' look moreso than the Disney villain. And I'm cool with that.
    Anyways, loved the review & can't wait for Maddie's (and Apple & Briar, when you get them).

    1. Thanks Felicity! I like the new body mold quite a bit. It's wider but also a little more buff, less willowy. I think it works really well.
      I did a clothes swap between Raven and GNO Spectra today and Raven looked perfect in Spectra's minidress and purple jacket. Spectra didn't fare so well in Raven's dress lol.
      It seems like Mattel is channeling several different interpretations of the fairy tales and throwing them all into one big stew. It's cool, you kind of don't know what to expect because of it.

    2. Ooh, did you get all 3 GNO dolls? What do you think of them?
      I can't wait to get mine! :D

    3. Yep, got all three! At first I only grabbed Rochelle and Spectra, but I went back a few hours later and got Lagoona too. Somehow I failed to notice in online pics that she had fabric wrist cuffs. They're really cool! All three dolls have a lot of cool little touches like that. Oh and all three purses are excellent, some of the best to date! In terms of accessories I feel GNO is a step up from DDG.

    4. You're killing me! Stop with the taunting! lol

      I'm kind of surprised they used Lagoona & Spetra again, considering both were in the DDG line. But it's okay. Spectra looks incredibly different!

    5. Yeah I thought about the party line re-use for Spectra and Lagoona too. Lagoona's been in all of them so far, even DOTD! Mattel has done a good job making the three lines very different from each other stylistically so I don't mind it. Rochelle makes a good addition, definitely.

  2. I have just discovered your blog yesterday and I love your style of writing. You know so much about fashion! I'm sold on this review. I'll wait for this doll to arrive in my country, hopefully not with the usual threefold increase in the price tag.

    Personally, I like the way the clothes look from the back. I actually had a similar top and skirt once so I may be biased. But they look fine. It probably looks off because you are used to the skinnier butts of MH.

    1. Thank you! Glad you're liking the blog! If I may ask, where do you live? I've heard about similar price gouging in several other countries and I think it's ridiculous. Do you know if it's the stores doing the markups or does it come from Mattel?

      I feel like the dress makes Ghoulia's rear look big too, but I do think Raven's larger body sculpt is at play as well.

    2. I live in Eastern Europe. It's indeed ridiculous because wages are on average 10 times smaller than in the US. I think it's the stores (one store, actually); in France they cost about 150% the US price.

    3. I wonder if you'd be better off to just buy the dolls online from the US? I've heard of people doing that before and it actually saved them money. :)

    4. The problem is, few places ship here, and when they do, they charge an arm and a leg. I can't do that except when I have someone physically there to pick up my purchases. Thank you for your concern! ^.^ I'll get around somehow.

  3. I just love your reviews! Your point of view is so different from mine, it makes everything so much more interesting for me. And I really must thank you for pointing out all the little details. I liked Raven before, but now I think I love her! :)

    1. Thanks, Meow! I have to admit when I do these reviews I do try to push certain aspects of the dolls, bring things about them to light that I feel aren't getting enough attention, stuff like that. Raven really is beautiful and has set a benchmark for EAH that Mattel hopefully lives up to as the line continues.

  4. I just Got Briar Beauty but now you really got me wanting Raven! XD

    1. Sweet! Congrats! I still haven't been able to get my hands on the Royals but man I can't wait! I think my local store is getting sick of me calling to see if they're in yet lol

  5. Another nice review!

    What I've found most interesting about the rumblings/complaints some had about all the girls so far sharing a facemold is that it reveals who is a doll collector & who is strictly a monster high collector.

    Having collected & bought dolls long before MH ever came to pass I understood that companies (especially mattel) can work magic with paint & face-ups to turn the same molds into different looks ('So in Style' is a current testament to that) so I wasn't worried but those people who only collect MH alone may never realize just how unique/amazing the fact that each character has their own specific mold is, especially as some have only one version of their doll currently made. If anyway, it's an odd sort of laziness that each MH girl looks unique because of having a different mold, if that makes any sense? Because making dolls look unique from each other when they already have the advantage of different molds isn't all that hard. With the MH girls some often have similar make-up (Abbey for one) so the challenge instead becomes 'how do we make them look different but still in character in a way that works for their coloring/mold'. I'm grateful that the EAH girls do have the same mold because even if they all technically look identical facial structure wise it's immediately evident how talented the EAH artists are in making the faces unique.

    Back on topic - Raven is really quite lovely and the girl I'd say most closely matches her webisode versions. The most interesting thing about these dolls - be they EAH or MH - is of course her diary and the insight into her character. I liked the bit about her childhood the most - from her magic changing to the guilt over loving her new clothes - but all of it was nice. Interestingly I only plan on getting her & Apple together because for me having her or Apple before buying the other with her seems wrong to me since both girls are the mains (with slightly more Raven focus. I can't wait for a real apple spotlight episode again!) and should be together always.

    I can't wait to see what you do with Maddie ;3

    1. You're one sharp tack, Andrew! I think you're absolutely right on both points. I was also a doll collector before MH came along and I love the EAH dolls. I feel your point also relates to the people who complain when a doll's accessories dare to re-use a previous mold. Obviously we all want the dolls to have brand new extras and such, but it's not realistic. Compared to pretty much every other line, Mattel has already given us *so much* when it comes to accessories and extras. We're honestly pretty spoiled as MH collectors. I think younger and/or new doll collectors don't realize how rare it is to get so much from a line like we do with MH.

      As for the facemolds, it definitely pushes your creativity to have to come up with unique looks using one mold. I'm really interested to see how the Legacy Day dolls turn out. I wonder just how different the faceups will be. I know the webisode gives us a good idea, but the webisode and the actual manufactured doll can be two very different things.

      I agree about Raven -- she definitely looks the most like the character design. Apple and Raven are like two sides of the same coin. They have to have each other to exist. There's a duality to the whole line that I think is really cool and ties perfectly into the fairy tale theme.

  6. i have been thinking about the face molds being the same and andrew is absolutely right it dose not matter if the molds are the same bc of the 4 dolls we have seen so far they all 4 look totally different and that is talent and i am in love with the fact that they did such a great job on making the eyes look so real !! i keep falling more and more for these dolls and with the royal rebel theme i leaned more towards liking the rebels but i must say i absolutely love apples doll and the shoes on all 4 so far are amazing i think EAH is going to give us the best doll shoes we have seen in a while !! i cant wait for these dolls to make it to my area and i think the packaging is awesome i love the book look and the dolls have a lot of nice little details that takes them a long way... i think the first 2 i will get are going to be apple and maddie... on a MH note i am so glad you got the GNO line i cant wait for your review and great pics of them, GNO is really a great line and i don't know why but for some reason GNO really stepped up the sexiness !!

    1. I agree, Ricky. I think Mattel has done a wonderful job giving each doll her own personality through her faceup. The facemold is really simple, very plain tbh, so it lends itself well to a variety of paint styles. I can't wait to hear your opinion on the storybooks included with the dolls -- they're one of my favorite things about these dolls, and I think you'll really be into them. They give the characters so much personality and the stories are detailed and genuinely interesting.

      I'm very impressed with GNO as a line. I feel overall it's a step up from DDG. I love the dolls' different styles and all the little details and extras included. They even come with booklets -- a first for an MH party line. And the purses -- wow!