Sometimes, you just find a screaming good deal you cannot pass up. That happened when we went to the local library just before tax day, and while mine were already taken care of, I couldn’t pass up such a trip. I browsed through some to the things they had for sale, just to see if anything would catch my eye. Something did, and for just $3.50, I discovered The School for Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani.
Book description reads:
“This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good and Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy-tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate as a storybook princess. Meanwhile, Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.”
“But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed – and they’ll quickly find that the only way out of a fairy tale… is to live through it.”
I would find all of that is covered, in more detail, within the first two chapters. You can see how they’re already playing around with the idea of Good and Evil, and our preconceived, fairy tale notions of such, which fascinates me.
At first, I thought this novel must have come out awhile ago, and I just hadn’t heard of it. On the contrary, it came out only two years ago, in 2013. Which boggles my mind, because apparently someone bought this book, then decided to donate it, and then the library decided to sell it, all within two years, and I am wondering why anyone who got their hands on this book would let it slip through their hands at all, let alone so quickly!
Needless to say, I enjoyed it. 🙂
Skating around the major spoilers as much as absolutely possible…
Sophie is the quintessential “pretty girl,” and one who is eager to be kidnapped so she can be rescued by Prince Charming and live happily ever after, la-la-la. She thinks she does good deeds, but she is so shallow, self-centered, and obsessed with appearances that she hasn’t actually done a good deed in her entire life. In fact, everything she’s done has been superficial and self-serving.
Agatha is a stark contrast against Sophie in virtually every way imaginable. Not everyone believes in the stories of a fairy tale school, and Agatha is among them. She’s an intelligent, no nonsense girl, up front and honest, withdrawn to the point of being antisocial, never smiling, wearing black, and living in a graveyard. Oh, and she named her cat “Reaper.” Yet, though she knows Sophie is selfish, Agatha cares for her, and does all she can to protect her. She may not be outgoing, but she is selfless, and sees the good in others.
Of course, based entirely on appearances, their introduction into the dual-castle school, Agatha to Good and Sophie to Evil – neither one a willing student, as Sophie wants to be in Good and Agatha wants to take Sophie and go back home – makes for a huge upset. But then the schools get to know them, and they get to know the schools… and things get even more chaotic, until the difference between Good and Evil becomes so blurred that everything is turned upside-down and inside-out.
Amidst the considerable turmoil which takes the school by storm, Sophie and Agatha undergo prolonged metamorphoses which revolve around that simple question: what is the difference between Good and Evil? It is in the midst of calamity that they find the answer, the simple, quiet truth, which rings so powerfully that it transforms and saves them, their fellow students, and the entire school.
And what would such a fairy tale be if it ended in exactly the same way as all the rest, eh? Not only is there a little twist at the end, but it ends on a cliffhanger… of sorts. While this novel tells a full and complete story, it ends at a perfect spot for a “To be continued…” Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Chainani outlined the entire series as one novel, then just picked the most ideal spots he could to divide it up into a trilogy. I seem to recall Tolkien did something like that, but Chainani does it better. 🙂
Basically, I just had a fun time reading this novel, and I fully intend to read the complete trilogy, once the third novel comes out this July. Also, hearing about a movie trilogy. That’s getting to be par for the course, but still, I’m looking forward to seeing how well they do!
I’m giving this one a rating of 8 solid stars out of 10.
Grade: In the range of B-Plus or A-Minus.