The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.
This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & 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 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—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?
The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.
Description taken from Goodreads.
I mentioned in one of my Monday Musts that I’d gone to one of Soman Chainani’s sessions at Cavalcade West and became re-inspired to read The School for Good and Evil. I wanted to reread it with fresh eyes, and I’m so glad I did.
Soman’s session was about crafting great villains, the thin line between good and evil, and navigating that line. The story as a whole made me think a lot more about the nature of good and evil, and I could see the implications of how Sophie and Agatha grew up and lived before the school. I’m currently taking a psychology course, and The School for Good and Evil had me thinking about nature v.s. nurture, attachment theory, separating the person from the behavior, and how it is that we become the people that we are. This not-so-little book holds a lot of deeper meaning and questions, and I valued it for the curiosity it arose and the valuable insight it had.
Especially in the end of the novel, I wanted to explore Sophie’s character more. Soman said during the session that it’s very clear that Sophie’s the villain of book one, but in the books to come it’s less and less apparent. I would like to see a change in her character, or at least the view of her character, for a few reasons. The first is that I’d like to see the results of Agatha’s belief that her best friend is good, can be good. I want to see things from her eyes and see if it can all be turned on its head.
But, the insight and fairy tale theory aside, it’s my personal belief that this book is not terribly well-written. It’s good, to be sure, but nothing exceptional. There are parts that are emotionally-jerking, snippets that are beautiful, and ideas that are innovative, but objectively speaking, the plot is repetitive, the side characters are stereotypical, the language isn’t markedly eloquent, and the pacing is off. That’s not to say it’s not entertaining or a perfectly good read for pretty much anyone. It is. I loved this story and getting to know the characters, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next one. That’s pretty successful debut.
What I am saying is that it’s got plenty of potential that needs to be shaped a bit with practice and experience. I’d really like to see how Chainani develops as a writer and continues with this series because I believe he’s got it in him to create an amazing story, even better than this one. Moreover, I’d love to see him move beyond this series. As someone who didn’t set out to start writing but was inspired and took off, he’ll be an intriguing figure to watch after it’s all over. It could go the way of Rick Riordan and Cassandra Clare and he could write the same series forever, or he could prove he can do more like Marissa Meyer did (very successfully, I may add).
Overall, like I mentioned, I enjoyed the story, but it needs work. I think it’s a great setup for future books, and I’m looking forward to what I hope is some pretty spectacular character development. High hopes for this series, will be recommending. 3 stars.