After saving themselves and their fellow students from a life pitched against one another, Sophie and Agatha are back home again, living happily ever after. But life isn’t exactly a fairytale. When Agatha secretly wishes she’d chosen a different happy ending with Prince Tedros, the gates to the School for Good and Evil open once again. But Good and Evil are no longer enemies and Princes and Princesses may not be what they seem, as new bonds form and old ones shatter.
Description taken from Goodreads.
Remember when I said that Soman Chainani isn’t an incredible writer? I said that out of frustration with the lack of dedication to any single part of the plot and also a variety of reasons that I listed in my review of the first book in this series.
Now, having read the sequel, a part of me misses my middle-grade book blog, and I remember why I hope to never stop reading a genre just because I’m not a teen or I’m not a middle-grader. In A World Without Princes, Chainani demonstrates a strong ability to build upon complex plot and extend the depth of his characters over time, both of which are difficult skills. I did mention in my previous review that I’d have to see what Chainani does later on in the series to come to a solid determination about him, but I’m still figuring it out. I guess I’ll just need the next book!
But as for this one, I was especially impressed by how the boundaries of good and evil were pushed even more than before. In his writing workshop, Chainani mentioned that in the later books of the series, it becomes less clear who’s evil and who’s good on both sides. Agatha is forced to confront the darkness that she fears is inside her, and Sophie comes face-to-face with the evil that she’s recognized is inside her. Neither struggle is easy, but they try to get through it together. The character growth in each of the main characters was amazing to watch, and I was completely drawn into watching Agatha, Sophie, and Tedrose come past the boundaries of the people they used to be (Agatha in particular was amazing in this one).
Agatha and Sophie’s friendship was also much more of what I was initially expecting when I stepped into this world. In the first book, I thought that it was just a bit contrived or try-hard or tell-not-show, but toward the ending, I felt the genuine emotion underlying their friendship and connecting them, even through impossible difficulties. The second book was much more like the ending of the first book in that I came to love Sophie and Agatha together, in addition to the new relationships that were explored here.
In that sense, I felt that A World Without Princes was the story I wanted after I stepped out of Chainani’s writing session. It’s about friendship, morality, and magic, and it’s got just enough romance and insight into these parts of life to make it distinctive and remarkable. It’s very much a middle-grade novel, but in a wholesome way, with all the darkness of adults and all the innocence of children.
However, it still wasn’t perfect. I got nitpicky with the plot starting to drift again, and I wasn’t thrilled with the arrival of more new characters. More than anything else, I liked the cast from the last book, and I felt like the arrival of new characters was almost a kind of cop-out. On the other hand, it advanced character development, so I can see where it fits. And I actually didn’t mind it, but the supporting characters weren’t very distinctive. I knew them by name, but some of them started fading on the edges from time to time, and I’d have to look back to see who they were and what significance they had. I feel like the story did a pretty great job of exploring relationships and the main characters though, so that definitely wasn’t a deal-breaker for me.
Overall, a fantastic sequel. I’m looking forward to what Chainani comes up with next, and I’ll be recommending this series for sure. 4 stars.