While I was at NYCC a couple weeks ago, the Daring Do Adventure Collection arrived at home, together with some other books I had preordered earlier in the year. Yesterday I finally managed to finish reading all three books! I'm going to write a spoiler-free review.
Presentation-wise, the box set is fantastic. The box itself is shaped like a treasure chest, and has elegantly tapered sides, ornate decorations, and a sturdy design with two ribbons to keep it from opening too wide. It holds the three books and the "false book" from the episode "Daring Don't" very securely. If future Daring Do books are released, it looks like the false book could be swapped out with up to two additional books. The bottom of the box (and instances throughout) identify the books as the three newest Daring Do books, published after those mentioned in the episodes "Read It and Weep" and "Daring Don't".
The "false book" is a fantastic replica of its appearance in the show, even if its perfectly flat spine makes it hard to confuse with a real book. It has a glossy finish on the outside. The Daring Do idol figurine is just an unprinted recolor of the Daring Do figurine from the My Little Pony miniatures collections and blind bags, but it still looks very nice. It is held in a small blister pack on a dark red backing card, ensuring that it stays fixed in the center of the box, and the blister pack hinges open so there's no need to deface it to access the figurine. The box is a bit big for a single figurine, so a more cynical person might see the mostly-empty "false book" as an excuse to make the box set appear to include more than it really does. But you could easily use it to hold other My Little Pony miniatures, or other treasures of your own.
The books themselves are also elegant as far as presentation is concerned. The box set includes three books: Daring Do and the Marked Thief of Marapore, Daring Do and the Eternal Flower, and Daring Do and the Forbidden City of Clouds. Herein lies my first real criticism — there is no obvious hint on the book covers to tell you which book to read first. The order does matter, since each book references the ones before it. Thankfully, inside each book is a list of "Other books by A.K. Yearling" which lists seven unpublished books and the three in this box set, in sequential order. But people not looking for this clue might end up reading the books out-of-order without realizing it.
The books are sturdily-bound hardcovers around 200 pages long. Each book has a differently-colored cover. The front cover features a full-color illustration mimicking the design of the Daring Do books in the show. The spine features the book title and printed clasps (I don't know if this is a proper bookbinding term) featuring Daring Do's cutie mark. The back cover features a description of the book, as you'd expect from a book of this sort. There is no dust jacket, but that's just as well because the covers are elegant enough without them.
Inside the cover of each book are some lovely endpapers featuring Daring's cutie mark, followed by yet another full-color illustration depicting a scene from the story. All the illustrations for these books (drawn by Franco Spagnolo, a professional illustrator and character designer) are extremely elegant and accurate to the visual style of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. My second criticism is that the beauty of these illustrations left me wanting more. Two illustrations per book, however elegant, felt like a bit of a tease! The illustrations are not 100% accurate to the text as far as certain colors are concerned, but they're still beautiful, and accurate to the spirit of the characters and stories, if not to all the details.
The pages themselves are decorated with motifs that suit the Daring Do adventure series, such as squiggly dotted lines and Daring's compass rose cutie mark on most of the pages, carvings like those on the edges of the "treasure chest" box at the beginning of each chapter, and Daring's face by each chapter header. The text is large enough that kids should be able to read it with ease, but the text itself is not at all "dumbed down" to cater to kids. Two pages into the first book, I came across the word "inimitable", and the same book is peppered with other complex vocabulary like "decennially", "pedagogue", and "somnambular". This means the books will also be a great learning experience for young and old readers alike, not just a fun series of stories.
In the back of each book, there is a glossary of characters, plants, artifacts, and miscellanea specific to the Daring Do stories. The back of the first book also features ten pages for the reader to make field notes and sketches from their own adventures. Like a lot of the activity pages in G.M. Berrow's other My Little Pony chapter books, I will not likely be making use of these. It pains me to mark a book that is not strictly an activity book in any way, and those times I have done so in the past have usually been followed by regret. But perhaps to others these pages won't feel quite so superfluous.
The stories are full of world-building for the universe of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and details on Daring Do's friends, foes, and previous adventures. They are not the easiest reads, due to all the lore and vocabulary, but they are exciting enough to make it worthwhile. Daring is well-written: definitely not a carbon copy of Rainbow Dash, but still a character Rainbow Dash could identify with and admire. Popular culture references (especially to the Indiana Jones franchise) and horse puns are of course present, but not so much that they become distracting or overwhelming. Best of all, the final book seems to set up for many future Daring Do adventures, which hopefully G.M. Berrow and "A.K. Yearling" will be bringing to us in the future!
Overall, I'm very glad that Little, Brown and Company has been such a fantastic partner to Hasbro. Every My Little Pony book they've published has been extremely elegant in terms of presentation, and this box set turns that elegance up to eleven. The quality of the stories is also fantastic. I thoroughly recommend this set to any fans of the My Little Pony franchise, particularly its adventure stories.
The biggest drawback is the price tag. The box set's RRP is $75 USD, an extraordinary sum for three adventures less than twenty chapters long — even in hardcover. That elegant presentation certainly isn't included for free. Thankfully, Barnes and Noble still has it on a considerable markdown, just as they did when I preordered it (the link at the top of this post goes to this site). If you still can't afford it now even at the discounted price, perhaps you might wait and see if the books are published individually or in paperback form in the future, or see if used copies become available at a lower price.
Source: Official My Little Pony topic