The School for Good and Evil

The School for Good and Evil

By: Soman Chainani

HarperCollins 2014

A young adult fantasy fairy tale

SchoolforGood-pb-c

Agatha never believed the stories that the two children who go missing from her village every four years were kidnapped to attend the schools for fairy tale characters.  She certainly doesn’t think she belongs in some school for witches and villains, as everyone else in Gavaldon says.  Sophie not only believes, she yearns to reach the School for Good and emerge as the princess she was born to embody.  Plus, she will be lucky enough to have her best friend Agatha with her, only in the School for Evil.  When Agatha lands at the School for Good and Sophie is delivered to the side of Evil, fate, fairy tales, and friendship are thrown into consternation.  Will the girls realize their true fairy tale?  Will they live through it?  More importantly, will they end up still together or will their opposing roles drive them apart?

Chainani’s setting and characters usher readers into his fairy tale world with an intrigue mixed with an unusual directness and defiance.  Switching perspectives between the desperately seeking Sophie and the focused, loyal Agatha keeps the world and its questions spinning, the action has more urgency and the plot more suspense when balanced so well between two characters instead of centering on one focal point.  Thematically, this novel gets off to a slow start, but just when I despaired that the only theme would be appearances, the dark undercurrents of deeper chills and issues emerged.  These deeper subjects grow fast, and Chainani’s world of shifting-perspectives show them off brilliantly.  What starts as a stroll past a sunlit river, discussing the fallacy of looks quickly melds into a twisting chasm roaring with rapids that push Agatha and Sophie towards love, home, betrayal, riddles, success, hopes, and friendship, all while questioning which paths are truly good and which lead towards evil.  The fast pace of the action, the ever-building stakes, and the constant determination of both heroines kept me hooked and, by the end, reeling.  The School for Good and Evil climaxes in a wave that crashes down rather abruptly, but the fullness of that wave is beautiful and satisfying and, while sudden, the ending left me feeling splashed and wishing for more.

The School for Good and Evil reads like a true fairy tale, where each link in the chain feels inevitably bound to the others until the ending feels like a truth.  As a fairy tale enthusiast, that is the highest recommendation I can give to a new fairy tale work.  I will also say that the setting was vivid, all the characters continued to grow on me, as well as in the tale, and I loved the themes-they were fantastically done.  If you like fairy tales, detailed fantasy worlds, complex heroines, Ever After High, or quick-paced action tales, this is a book for you.  Go read it.

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