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

Last June, Marshmallow reviewed Rise of the School for Good and Evil, the first of the two prequels Soman Chainani wrote for his School for Good and Evil hexalogy. And this week, finally, she was able to get her paws on the second prequel book, Fall of the School for Good and Evil, fresh off the press (the book just came out on May 2, 2023). Below, she shares her thoughts on this long-awaited book.

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

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about fairy tales, friendship, family, or any of Soman Chainani’s other books, then this might be the book for you. But to understand the book fully, you should probably have read (or checked out my reviews of) some of the other School for Good and Evil books. For example check out The School for Good and Evil, the very first book that started this whole saga, or the book right before this one: Rise of the School for Good and Evil.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Twins Rafal and Rhian rule the School for Good and Evil (a school that trains children to be in fairy tales) together. Rafal is the evil twin, and Rhian is the good twin. Their two contradicting souls, bound by their love for each other, balance the school and allow them to serve as School Masters. That is until they start having problems and tensions rise between them. If their bond does not last, they will both lose the immortality and magic given to them by the Storian.

Fall of the School for Good and Evil starts off when the twins go to Gavaldon to find new students for their school after losing several of their best ones. Gavaldon is a town outside of the magic of the woods, and the townspeople are called Readers. Gavaldon is not magical, but its inhabitants read the stories and fairy tales that happen in the woods. Their children read of magic, unaware that it is real. Rafal hopes that this will make them more effective and excited students, as opposed to the children who come from the kingdoms in the woods who have grown up with magic their entire lives.

Upon visiting Gavaldon, Rhian selects a Reader named Midas and takes him to be a new student at his School for Good. Rafal also picks a Reader to take to his School for Evil, but unfortunately, this person betrays him; Rafal is captured and accused of being a witch. Luckily, the brothers manage to escape with Midas. When they return to the School for Good and Evil, the twins discover their immortality is fading. They fear losing their powers and immortality. But a new division has started with Midas; each twin wants Midas to join his school, which causes competition between them. By the time they realize and recognize their division, the cracks are too big. The fight that started out as a small sibling rivalry becomes a full-blown war for the position of School Master with more than two competitors. But the result of the conflict is not what anyone would have expected and will change the course of fairy tales forever. 

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

Marshmallow’s Review: This is a sequel to Rise of the School for Good and Evil and is set before the School for Good and Evil series. I would definitely suggest reading those books before this because otherwise nothing will make sense. The other books are necessary for understanding the fantasy world that this book is set in. However, for those who have read the other books, this book is full of twists and turns that will leave readers astonished by revelations hidden throughout the entire series. Even though the reader thinks they know what will happen (since this book is set before the others), the road to the future of the School for Good and Evil is long and not as straight as one may think. The characters (specifically one!) in the other books is not who we thought they were.

I loved how Fall of the School for Good and Evil added nuance to the other books and built the world in which they are set. The depth of Chainani’s characters is astonishing. The characters we read about in Peter Pan and other fairy tales are transformed into living, breathing, and complex characters. I loved how characters from other fairy tales are given a new level of nuance and depth.

Fall of the School for Good and Evil did not have as much romance as previous books written by Chainani, which I think was a good move since it left more room for character and plot development.

This is a book that is appropriate for most ages, though it is likely more interesting for readers 8 and up.

Overall, this is an amazing book for those who like (retellings of) fairy tales and the School for Good and Evil series. 

Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%.

Marshmallow rates Fall of the School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani 100%.
Marshmallow rates Fall of the School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani 100%.

Marshmallow reviews The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

Marshmallow has been reading S. E. Hinton’s classic novel The Outsiders, first published in 1967. Today she shares some of her thoughts on the book with the blog readers. Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Marshmallow reviews The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton.
Marshmallow reviews The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton.

Sprinkles: So Marshmallow, can you introduce us to this book?

Marshmallow: If you like books about belonging, growing up, and facing challenges as a young person, you might like this book.

S: That’s a good start. So now let us move into the book. Can you tell us a bit about the plot?

M: There are two gangs, or maybe groups of friends, who hang out and occasionally clash, sometimes pretty violently. They call these things rumbles, they are basically fights.

S: Okay, so two groups. Made up of young people, and our main characters belong to one or the other. What are the names of the two groups?

M: One of them is made up of richer kids and they are called the Soc, short for “social”. The other group has poorer kids in it, and they are called the greasers, because they put grease in their hair. Mostly boys but there are girls that hang out with one or the other group.

S: Okay, that gives us a good idea of the setting. So tell us now about what happens in the book.

M: The main character is this boy named Ponyboy. And that is his real name. And his middle brother’s name is Sodapop.

S: Those are some creative names!

M: I know, right? The oldest brother has a much more typical name, Darrel, but people call him Darry.

S: Alright.

M: So these three boys’ parents are dead. And the oldest brother Darry is taking care of the younger ones. Ponyboy is the youngest of the greasers. The other greasers are Steve, Johnny, Dally, Two-Bit, and I think that is mainly it.

S: Okay.

M: One day Ponyboy, Dally, and Johnny go to the movies and meet two Soc girls named Cherry and Marcia. Dally is rude to the girls, but Ponyboy and Johnny become closer to them. Then some Soc boys come and there is some trouble. Eventually, another day, there is a fight, and Johnny ends up killing one of the Soc boys while trying to save Ponyboy from getting hurt. So Johnny and Ponyboy run away and hide, with the help of Dally, who has gotten into trouble with the law before.

S: That sounds kind of big, killing someone. These are still only kids, aren’t they?

M: Well, they are more or less. Ponyboy is 14 and Johnny is 16.

S: Alright, then what happens?

M: Well, I cannot tell you everything, but there is a big fire, and the boys try to help save some children who have been trapped in the fire, so they become heroes of some sort, but Johnny still has killed someone, so he needs to be punished. But he is also pretty injured during the fire. So I will stop here because we are already talking about stuff way into the book.

S: Alright, that makes total sense. We already got the gist of the story I think.

Marshmallow is reading The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton.
Marshmallow is reading The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton.

S: So you began reading this book because your class is reading it at school, right?

M: Yep. We are still reading and discussing it in class.

S: We read it at school, too, I think, but it was many many years ago. I do not remember the story very well. I also did not remember the author’s name.

M: Well, she is using only initials. It is because she was very young when she wrote the book, and they thought a book by a young woman who is a total unknown would not sell. There is an interview with the author at the back of the copy of the book I read where she says this.

S: I did not remember that at all, but the Wikipedia article about the book says that she was only 15 when she started writing the story and was 18 when it was published. That is pretty young!

M: Yes, it is impressive.

S: And maybe that really was the right thing to do, because the book did get really famous and they made a movie of it, too.

M: I know! In fact we are going to watch it at school. Can we put the trailer of the movie here?

S: Sure. Here it is:

The Outsiders (1983) Official Trailer, from YouTube.

S: I remember that we did watch this movie in class too, and it was all very exciting. A lot of the actors became really famous after this.

M: I’m excited to watch it too.

S: So maybe we should slowly wrap this up. Before that, would you mind telling me what you thought of the characters?

M: I thought they were good. Ponyboy narrates the story, and you get to really empathize with him. He does smoke a lot though. Still he is very thoughtful and cares about people.

S: Anything else?

M: I thought the book did a good job of pointing towards social economic inequalities. The rich kids all also have problems with their families and such, but when the poor kids get into trouble, their lives get so much more difficult. And these kinds of differences make it harder for people to empathize with others. Ponyboy thinks that he and the greasers are all outsiders and nobody else, none of the Socs, can ever understand their lives. And he does have a point, I think.

S: But after some of the events of the book, he realizes that Socs are also human, according to the book description in one of the versions of the book.

M: Yes, I guess so. But the class differences still remain, and that is also there till the end. The consequences are so much tougher for the greasers.

S: Thank you for this review Marshmallow. I think I might want to revisit this book, or at least the movie! You always rate the books you review. So what would you rate this one?

M: I’d rate it 100%.

S: Sounds like it! Okay, and to wrap up, what do you want to tell our readers?

M: Stay tuned for more amazing book reviews from the book bunnies!

Marshmallow rates The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton 100%.
Marshmallow rates The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton 100%.

Marshmallow reviews Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan

Marshmallow has reviewed several book series by Rick Riordan for the book bunnies blog. Today she talks about a stand-alone book by Riordan, Daughter of the Deep, published first in 2021. Sprinkles was curious about the book, too, so she is asking questions and taking notes.

Marshmallow reviews Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan.
Marshmallow reviews Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan.

Sprinkles: So Marshmallow let us start with your one-to-two sentences overview of the book.

Marshmallow: If you like to read books about family, friends, and ocean life, or if you have enjoyed books by Rick Riordan before, then this might be the book for you.

S: Well, that is a good start. Tell me a bit about the story.

M: There is this girl named Ana Dakkar, and she is wrapping up her second year at a special high school intended for young people who want to go into professions involving the ocean. The school is named Harding-Pencroft Academy, and honestly it sounds like an awesome place to be.

S: How so?

M: It is a fancy private school, but more importantly, the classes are all oriented towards the ocean. The students are split into four houses, a bit like the four houses in Hogwarts

S: Well, I can see how that sounds similar, but a lot of boarding schools have such things.

M: In any case, the school is not like Hogwarts at all in any other way. For example, it is in Southern California. And they have climbing walls and cinnamon rolls and other fancy things, like a lot of exciting classes about the sea. And they also study things like cryptography, and navigation, and communication, and defense.

S: So okay, I see. HP is kind of like a naval academy, but at the high-school level. Let us get back to the story now. What is going on in the book?

M: On the last Friday of her second year at her school, Ana and her classmates go on a field trip, and they are supposed to face a challenge or something. But then the school blows up!

S: Wait, what??

M: Yes, everyone else in the school is gone, all at once. And Ana’s brother, who was a senior at Harding-Pencroft, was there, too. So Ana is understandably heartbroken. And Ana does not have her parents anymore, so she feels totally lost. Their teacher, who was coming along to the field trip with them, tells the class that their school was attacked by a rival school.

S: Wow, that is some serious rivalry.

M: Yes. It is called the Land Institute, and they are pretty serious. They are also a marine biology oriented school. But HP is more research-oriented, and the Land Institute is more militaristic. Anyways, from here on, it is open war with the Land Institute, and it turns out that along the way Ana learns a bit about her own family history.

S: Hmm. That is kind of cryptic.

M: I don’t want to spoil it too much. Okay, but if the readers have read Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and some of his other books, then they have a lot of fun revelations to look forward to.

S: Hmm. I’m getting quite curious. And I have some ideas…

M: Maybe you should read the book then.

S: I think I will.

Marshmallow is reading Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan.
Marshmallow is reading Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan.

S: Okay, so how did it feel like reading another book by Rick Riordan?

M: I thought it would be about mythology again, and I was kind of surprised that it was not. It was a pleasant surprise. It is a really well-written book.

S: Tell me more about how it is written.

M: Well, the story is all told in first person through the voice of Ana herself. And as you might recall from my reviews of the Percy Jackson books, Riordan is really great at channeling the thoughts and voice of his characters.

S: Is Ana funny?

M: Not as funny as Percy, but she felt like a real person, and I really liked her. Though I was kind of confused about how she could be so empathetic towards the sentient submarine that killed–

S: Wait, don’t you think that is kind of a big spoiler??? And a sentient submarine! Wow!

M: Yes, it is a really interesting book! You just have to read it Sprinkles.

S: I am starting to think that Caramel might like it, too, with his love of robots…

M: We did watch the movie version of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea together. So I agree, he might like this book, too.

S: Okay, then, but I will have to read it first.

M: Sure.

S: So let us wrap up this review then. What would be your rating, Marshmallow?

M: I’d rate it 100%.

S: Sounds good. And what do you want to tell our readers?

M: Stay tuned for more amazing book reviews from the book bunnies!

Marshmallow rates Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan 100%.
Marshmallow rates Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan 100%.

Marshmallow reviews Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

Today Marshmallow reviews Our Missing Hearts, a novel by Celeste Ng, first published in 2022. Sprinkles has also read the book and is asking her questions, while also taking notes.

Marshmallow reviews Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng.
Marshmallow reviews Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng.

Sprinkles: So Marshmallow let us start at the beginning. In your reviews, you always start by telling us who this book would be good for. So go ahead.

Marshmallow: This book would be a good choice for readers who enjoy realistic fiction. Or if you are interested in possible near-futures in the United States, especially dystopian ones, this might be the book for you.

S: Okay, I think that is a good start. Can you give us a brief summary of the plot?

M: Sure. So there is this kid whose mother ran away after her poem was used in controversial protests about this law called PACT.

S: Okay, so maybe let us stop there a bit. Tell us about the setting, and of course, PACT.

M: PACT stands for Protecting American Culture and Traditions Act. This law was, in the book, passed about ten years before the story starts. And it essentially allows the government to do things that are supposedly in the interest of preserving American culture. In reality, it is used to take children away from their families, if the families are not “American” enough. In this world, the law specifically targets Asian Americans, due to a fear of China.

S: The author may have been somewhat inspired by the USA PATRIOT Act that was passed after 9/11, and it was very controversial too, because many argue that it cut into people’s civil liberties. This PACT Act was passed after a different but very impactful crisis, right?

M: Yes, and in fact, in the book that crisis was called The Crisis. That left everyone very susceptible to xenophobia, and some people blamed China for all that went wrong, and then of course that distrust of China translated into a distrust of Chinese Americans and then spread all over to a distrust of all Asian Americans. So when the government began to remove children from the homes of some Asian American families, most of the other people remained quiet, believing that there should be a reason for the removal. And most people did not even know how many children were being taken away. The numbers and the full impact of the removals were downplayed by the media, and the families who dared to speak out were demonized.

S: But still there were some protests against the law and these removals, right?

M: Yes, and those are my favorite part of the book actually.

S: So tell us about them.

M: I liked the protests because they were so creative. For example, one involved a bunch of trees which were wrapped up with red yarn and small dolls representing the stolen children. And they were mainly emotional and only subtly political, so people would be more intrigued by them rather than immediately dismiss the message.

S: And that is where the title of the book comes in, right?

M: Yes. The poem that the main character’s mom wrote is called “Our Missing Hearts,” and the protestors took that as their motto, that they wanted their missing hearts to be brought back.

S: Okay, so let us get back to the main character and the plot then.

M: Yes, the main character is a twelve-year-old boy named Bird. Actually his legal name is Noah Gardner, but his mom Margaret Miu always called him Bird, but since she left, people are calling him Noah again. And she left because her poem became too visible with the protests, and Bird’s parents were worried that the government would take Bird away. The mother left so that Bird would at least be able to continue to live with his dad.

S: So the book starts with Bird getting a message which he believes is from his mom.

M: And it is full of cat drawings. And it triggers some memories, Bird is not sure why he knows it is from his mom, but he is sure it is from her. And that part is also very neat. but I cannot say more without spoilers.

S: I guess that is fair. Let us stop with the plot then.

Marshmallow is reading Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng.
Marshmallow is reading Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng.

S: Tell us a bit about the characters.

M: Well, there is Bird, who is the boy who is looking for his mom. And there is Sadie, a half-black girl who was removed from her family because they spoke out against PACT. The law is mainly targeting Asian Americans, but anyone who speaks up against it is also in danger. So Bird meets her at school, where she is sort of an outcast. Sadie is braver than Bird, and she becomes his friend. And then we also meet Bird’s parents. Margaret plays a big role in a large part of the book; she tells her story and we learn about the Crisis a bit more from her. But anyways, Margaret is maybe more timid than Sadie and her parents, and she ran away instead of fighting, but then again, running away meant that maybe her child would be able to stay with his dad, and it could also be seen as a brave sacrifice.

S: Agreed. So did you feel like you connected with these characters? Did you like any of them a lot? Did any of them make you angry or feel something strongly? Did they feel like real people?

M: I think they were all pretty well developed. I thought reading Bird’s perspective felt like I was seeing the world through his eyes, it was a pretty bad place, but anyways, very realistic. And when Margaret told her story, you could also hear her voice very clearly. So I think the author was very successful in creating very compelling and very realistic characters.

S: I agree with you, again. Okay, so I am guessing you liked this book? I certainly did, and that is why I suggested you read it, too.

M: Yea. I really liked it. I’d rate it 100%.

S: That is high praise coming from you, Marshmallow.

M: Yes, I think Our Missing Hearts is a really good book.

S: Okay, so how do we finish this review? What would you like to tell our readers?

M: Stay tuned for more amazing book reviews from the book bunnies!

Marshmallow rates Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng 100%.
Marshmallow rates Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng 100%.