Marshmallow loved Soman Chainani’s School for Good and Evil series, and reviewed three of the six books for the book bunnies blog, way back in our first year: Quests for Glory, the fourth book, A Crystal of Time, the fifth book, and One True King, the sixth book. Then a couple weeks ago, she got her paws on a prequel Chainani wrote this year, Rise of the School for Good and Evil, and reviewed it for the blog. After reading it, she decided to reread the very first book, School for Good and Evil, to see how it would hold up. She was not disappointed.
Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about magic, friendship, love, and fairy tales, then this might be the book for you.
Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Sophie has waited all her life to be kidnapped by the School Master and be whisked away from her boring, plain life. Sophie lives in the quaint town of Gavaldon, where nothing is magical. Perhaps the only out-of-the-ordinary thing in Gavaldon is the kidnappings. Every four years, two children are kidnapped. One child is beautiful and virtuous; the other, cruel and ugly.
For hundreds of years, no one knew what happened to them, until the children realized something strange. The kids who were taken seemed to find their way into the storybooks. They just showed up years later in the fairy tales, but as fierce witches, beautiful princesses, brave princes, or violent villains.
We learn, as events unfold for the main characters of the book, that these children go to a school, specifically the School for Good and Evil. The kidnapper is the School Master. Villains, witches, warlords, and other Evil creatures are trained at the School for Evil, while princes, princesses, and other Good people are trained at the School for Good.
So in this backdrop, Sophie knows that one day she will be taken to the School for Good. She makes sure to do Good Deeds to show the School Master how good she is and why she should be taken to the School for Good. Sophie knows she will be the perfect princess. On the other hand, everyone in Gavaldon knows that Agatha will be taken as the Evil child. Agatha lives in a house in the middle of a graveyard, with her mother (whom everyone believes to be a witch), wears only black, and dislikes almost everyone.
Almost everyone. Sophie visits Agatha (as a Good Deed) every day, until the two become friends. Agatha slowly becomes more than just a pawn used to ensure Sophie’s place in the School for Good. While Sophie wishes for grandeur and eternal adoration, Agatha just wants one person who likes her, one person who could care about her “measly soul”.
Then the girls are both kidnapped, and Sophie’s dreams are realized… until she is dropped into the School for Evil, while Agatha is placed in the School for Good. Sophie struggles to get herself into the School for Good, while Agatha struggles to try to get them back to Gavaldon.
Eventually, the School Master tells them that if Sophie proves that she is not a witch, and if Agatha proves that she is not a princess, they can go home. He asks them: what is the one thing that a witch can never have, and a princess cannot live without? The answer: Love. If Sophie can find love, and Agatha can’t, they can go home. Given who they are, their roles seem easy to play.
Only one complication stands in their way: Sophie doesn’t want to go home; she doesn’t want to at all.
Marshmallow’s Review: The first thing I should say is that I have read and reread this book so many times, my original copy of the book totally fell apart. For this review, I ended up getting a new copy so I could take pictures with it.
One of the reasons why I like this book so much and find it so interesting that School for Good and Evil isn’t just a different retelling of the familiar fairytales, but a whole new one. I think that this tale does fit into the world of other fairytales, and I really enjoyed reading about the world that Soman Chainani created.
School for Good and Evil, as probably everyone who has heard of it knows, is the first of a series of six. It is more or less self-contained, you could technically stop at the end and be done with it, but why would you? Chainani’s world is fascinating, and the stories get even better as you go deeper into the series.
The series is fantastical, magic, witches, fairytales, all are quite extraordinary. That said, the characters are very realistic. And some of them are very annoying (cough, Sophie,cough). I really enjoyed the way the characters developed throughout the series however. And I really liked how all of the characters had very big flaws in addition to their strengths. It was interesting to see that even fairy tale heroes have problems.
Rereading the book after having just finished Rise of the School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani, all I can say is that if you just read the Rise and are about to embark upon the rest of the series, you are in for an amazing ride. The prequel does not spoil the fun of this first book, though of course it does spoil a little bit of the surprise. It is not a big deal however, either case, you learn about the School, one way or another, and the story works either way.
I am excited that Netflix is developing a series version of the books! Here is the trailer / teaser:
I for one am looking forward to it!
Marshmallow’s Rating: 98%.