The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
Published May 14th 2013 by HarperCollins
Genre: Young Adult (or Middle Grade) Fantasy
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…?
In the forest of primeval
A school for Good and Evil
Twin towers like two heads
One for the pure
And one for the wicked
Try to escape you’ll always fail,
The only way out is
Through a fairytale.
So the premise is simple. Sophie is the perfect book princess, she loves pink, she’s beautiful and believes that she has a kind heart. Agatha on the other hand is the daughter of the town’s witch, lives in a graveyard and is perceived to grow up a villain. All of this changed when their roles have reversed. Agatha was sent to the school for good, while Sophie was sent to the school for evil.
It’s interesting to read about this world, since there’s so much to explore other than their schools. The world building is pretty strong, and heavily based on fairytales and their tropes. The schools are all so very stereotypical too. The school for good is practically a palace, featuring portraits of the most successful fairytale heroes and princesses. Their classes include Beautification, Princess Etiquette and Good Deeds. They have groom rooms where they could spend time perfecting their appearances, and shaping themselves to be as good as possible. The school for evil on the other hand is a dark castle, with dungeons and doom rooms instead where students are tortured. Their classes include Henchmen Training, Curses and Death Traps, and Uglification.
Their classmates are also related to famous heroes, princesses and villains in said storybooks like Tedros, the son of King Arthur, and Hort the son of Captain Hook. So being good or evil actually runs in their family, and is their legacy, except for Agatha and Sophie, who were plucked out of Woods Beyond.
I absolutely loved Sophie. She wasn’t really meant to be a likable character. She’s the blonde girl who is a lousy friend. But I love her. She’s oozing with sass, she’s vain, conceited but her character development in this is amazing. I’m not the biggest fan of Agatha, but I like her too. She’s funny, witty and is fiercely loyal to her best friend. Tedros wasn’t appealing to me at all either. He seemed very bland, and very flat as a character. He wasn’t even remotely princely to me.
Story wise, the pacing isn’t consistent. One moment everything’s happening so fast, then it suddenly slows down to the point of being draggy. But overall, the book was good, and it’s a strong book to start a series. The character developments, and the twists are amazing. The ending wasn’t something I expected either, but I like it nonetheless. This book is something I’d recommend if you’re into fairy tales. Go check it out!