Marshmallow reviews Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani

Marshmallow has reviewed several books by Soman Chainani already. Most recently she reviewed Rise of the School for Good and Evil and School for Good and Evil. Today, for her last review of this school year before the bunnies take off for the month of July, she decided to talk about Chainani’s Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales.

Marshmallow reviews Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani.
Marshmallow reviews Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about/with magic, monsters, and strong female characters, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Twelve tales that we thought we knew have been reinvented (Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel and Gretel, Beauty and the Beast, Bluebeard, Cinderella, the Little Mermaid, Rumpelstiltskin, and Peter Pan). I would summarize all of them but instead I’ll just go over my favorites. 

Red Riding Hood: Every year the most beautiful girl in the town is eaten by wolves. The villagers surrender the girl, sending her into the woods, down a road alone, until she meets her fate. Our heroine, who isn’t ever named, was chosen by the wolves. She wears a red cape as she walks into the forest, intent on being the first to survive. 

Snow White: A queen asks a mirror for its opinion on the fairest of all. The queen is satisfied by its answer, until it starts to name the queen’s stepdaughter. The queen’s stepdaughter has crow-black skin, blood-red lips, and eyes with whites as bright as snow. The queen doesn’t believe people like that can be fair and orders a huntsman to kill her. But Snow White is harder to kill than expected.  

Beauty and the Beast: A book-loving girl dotes on her rich father. Everyone believes this to be virtue, but in truth, she has plans for her life, bigger than just being a maid/cook/servant. When her father loses his money, and rides out to try to get it back, he is forced to promise to send his daughter to a Beast. The Beast wants love, but the girl has no intentions of befriending the Beast; she wants to kill him. 

The Little Mermaid: A beautiful mermaid is in love with a human. She will do anything for him, despite the fact that they’ve never talked before. In fact, she only saw him once when she saved him from drowning. She wants a sea witch to turn her into a human, so she can be with him, but it turns out that stories always have two sides, and the side you’re on makes the biggest difference.

Marshmallow is reading Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani.
Marshmallow is reading Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani.

Marshmallow’s Review: I found Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales a really good book to read, given certain events going on in human politics. Like in his School for Good and Evil series, Soman Chainani takes fairy tales that we all know and digs deeper. Not only does he change certain thing like places, ethnicities, genders, etc., but he adds an extra layer of meaning. Some of the stories take place in non-descript villages and kingdoms. The time period is that of your average fairy tale. But there is a lot that is different.

For example, Cinderella becomes more than a girl wanting to go to a ball; her story, Cinderella, shows different people struggling to find their happy ending only to find that it wasn’t all it was cooked up to be. Hansel and Gretel isn’t just about two children killing a witch: Hansel and Gretel discover that the witch they’re supposed to kill isn’t the one in the candied house. All the twists are unexpected and fresh, and all together make for really good reading.

That said, some of these tales can be a bit disturbing to younger bunnies—I found the retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story a little scary for example—so I would definitely say that Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales is more for 14-15 and above. Certain stories, mostly Sleeping Beauty and Bluebeard, could be confusing or even disturbing to younger children. In fact, I didn’t quite understand the full meaning of the two fore-mentioned stories the first time I read them. I would say that this would be a good book for both older children and parents to read and then discuss about, especially with the messages in the book. 

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%. 

Marshmallow rates Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani 95%.
Marshmallow rates Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani 95%.

Marshmallow reviews The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

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 reviews The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.
Marshmallow reviews The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.

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 is reading The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.
Marshmallow is reading The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.

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 (coughSophie,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%.

Marshmallow rates The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani 98%.
Marshmallow rates The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani 98%.

Marshmallow reviews Rise of the School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Marshmallow loved Soman Chainani’s School for Good and Evil series, and reviewed three of the six books for the book bunnies blog. So she was delighted to get her paws on Rise of the School for Good and Evil, the much anticipated prequel to this fascinating hexalogy. Below she shares her thoughts on this book, just published in May 2022.

You might like to check out Marshmallow’s reviews of Quests for Glory, the fourth book, A Crystal of Time, the fifth book, and One True King, the sixth book, before moving further.

Marshmallow reviews Rise of the School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.
Marshmallow reviews Rise of the School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about family, fairy tales, and magic, then this might be the book for you. This will be even more of a joy to read if you have already read and enjoyed the six School for Good and Evil books.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Rhian and Rafal have been ruling the School for Good and Evil as School Masters for years. Both twins are immortal as long as they can uphold the balance between Good and Evil and that they both love each other, despite the fact that one is Good and the other is Evil. The Storian (the pen that writes all of the fairy tales happening in the Woods) selected them to be the next School Masters. The School for Good and Evil is where all of the people in fairy tales are trained. Heroes, princes, princesses, fairies, and other Good people/creatures are trained at the School for Good. Witches, warlocks, giants, and other Evil people/creatures are trained at the School for Evil. Students at this school train in the hope that the Storian will one day write their stories. 

The Pen never specified which brother was the Good one and which one was the Evil one, but the twins were sure they already knew. Rhian was the Good one (described as tan with golden, wild hair), and Rafal was the Evil one (described as pale with white, spiky hair). Still the two brothers get along well and love each other.

Unfortunately, the arrival of one student turns their dynamic upside down. What starts out as a joke between Rhian and Rafal creates a rift between them. Challenge after challenge threatens to tear them apart. Will their love for each other be enough or will the rift between them eventually tear the School apart? 

Marshmallow is reading Rise of the School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.
Marshmallow is reading Rise of the School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.

Marshmallow’s Review: WARNING! DO NOT READ THIS BOOK UNLESS YOU HAVE READ THE OTHER BOOKS IN THIS SERIES! I generally don’t recommend reading books in any certain order, but in this case, reading this book before the others would be a mistake. I think that Rise of the School for Good and Evil is a book meant to be read after the others. The story fits in well with a lot of things that we saw in the other books, and fills some gaps, but you wouldn’t understand it unless you read the other books. Let me also add, without spoiling anything, that the ending of this book is not definite and would definitely not be satisfying unless the reader had already read the other books. One does not have to have read the entire series, probably just the first three books. However, I feel that this would definitely be better as an addition to the series, not an introduction. 

However, this is a great book that is a great addition to the series. It doesn’t go fully into some of the details discussed in the previous books, but it definitely shows the events that led up to the hexalogy. I especially liked how we saw characters who were completely Evil in the previous books in a different light. I also enjoyed how we saw the ancestors of some of the characters in the previous books, as this book is set much before the rest of them. 

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%

Marshmallow rates Rise of the School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani 95%.
Marshmallow rates Rise of the School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani 95%.

Marshmallow reviews Thornwood by Leah Cypess

Marshmallow has reviewed several books inspired by fairy tales before. See, for example, her reviews of A Tale Dark and GrimTuck EverlastingElla Enchanted, and Half Upon A Time. She has also enjoyed the whole School for Good and Evil series, which also explores fairy tales and their characters in depth. Today she writes about Thornwood by Leah Cypess, a book inspired by the story of Sleeping Beauty.

Marshmallow reviews Thornwood by Leah Cypess.
Marshmallow reviews Thornwood by Leah Cypess.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books that retell classic fairy tales, or if you enjoy reading books about sisters, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Briony’s sister Rosalin was cursed when she was a baby. The evil fairy queen said that when she turned sixteen, she would prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. Luckily, Rosalin’s fairy godmother changed the curse slightly, so instead of dying, she would sleep for a hundred years, along with everyone else in the castle.

For her entire life, Briony has been the less important princess. Briony is always only an accessory to Rosalin’s story, or only an annoyance. Everyone pays more attention to Rosalin. Even so, Briony really likes her sister, and Rosalin likes her back, though as an older sibling, she is often dismissive of her.

On her sixteenth birthday, Rosalin pricks her finger on the spinning wheel. And she falls asleep, along with everyone else in the castle.

Marshmallow is reading Thornwood by Leah Cypess.
Marshmallow is reading Thornwood by Leah Cypess.

Years later, Briony wakes up and goes to Rosalin’s room. On the way there, she discovers that there are thorn branches that move which have grown around the castle. Briony comes to Rosalin’s room in time to see the prince wake her up. Rosalin is happy to see the prince, but when she sees Briony, she seems terrified for a moment and she quickly returns to a normal expression.

When Briony meets the prince, Prince Varian, she is suspicious of him because his story is a little fishy. He says that he cut through the thorn branches with a magical sword. He claims that he no longer has the sword because the thorn branches wrested it from him. He claims to have fought through the remaining thorns with his hands. Briony finds it suspicious that he has scratches on his hands but none on his face. And it turns out that Varian is not who he says he is, and it remains to be seen whether he can get them out of the Thornwood, or whether they will be stuck there forever. 

Marshmallow’s Review: The plot of Thornwood is well thought out, well-written, and full of twists and turns. I was very surprised by one of the big reveals.

I really like how the story is based off of a fairy tale that many people know, but the plot sort of changes from the original tale. It also introduces Briony, the sister whom we do not know about from the usual telling of the story of Sleeping Beauty, and things get a lot more complicated than expected.

I think that the characters are realistic. They have realistic and relatable personalities, and they all have their habits and their flaws. 

This is the first book of a new series Sisters Ever After, where the author Leah Cypess reimagines several different fairy tales. Thornwood is a reimagining of Sleeping Beauty. I am curious about the next book, which is apparently about Cinderella. If I do end up reading it, I will definitely write about it.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates Thornwood by Leah Cypess 95%.
Marshmallow rates Thornwood by Leah Cypess 95%.