This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good and Evil, where 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 — and they’ll quickly find that the only way out of a fairy tale … is to live through it.
From the village of Gavaldon, two children — one good and one evil — are kidnapped every year and taken to a school where they will learn the skills necessary to become the heroes and villains of fairy tales. Sophie, the most beautiful girl of the village, has reached the minimum kidnapping age. She dreams of being kidnapped by the fabled School Master of the School for Good and Evil. Sophie and her gloomy friend, Agatha, are taken. The girls, appearing to belong clearly to one school or the other, are placed in opposites. Sophie wants her happily ever after, while Agatha just wants to go home. But beware: the only way out of this school is through a fairy tale.
I loved this tale from page one. A beautiful black and white illustration starts each chapter. Soman Chainani’s The School for Good and Evil reminds me of leaving “chapter books” for the longer, picture-less novels, which makes me wish more novels included illustrations. There are wonderful twists and turns in the plot, and the novel has considerable meat to the story. I saw it at my university’s bookstore, immediately attracted to the cover and title. Seeing the book is centered in fairy tales, sealed it as a necessary read. After reading it, I want to get my hands on the sequel.
The two main characters are, of course, developed well. I was glad to see some development with Tedros, son of King Arthur and leader of the first year princes. There were some minor developments with Sophie’s cohorts. Most of the other characters are flat, but there are flashes. where their thoughts are shown.
The world is built at the right pace. I love his incorporation of known and obscure fairy tales to create one all his own. The construction of the school and its rules is well thought out and to some degree funny.
There were some errors that bothered me. I found a grammatical error that made me pause in my reading. A few times, large errors show up in the story. One of them differs on the length of time one of the students is punished with dish washing. In one paragraph, the time is two weeks. Three paragraphs later, it becomes one week when referenced. These errors disappointed me, and I’m surprised a publisher or editor haven’t caught them yet since the copy I read is paperback.
Themes of good versus evil, beauty as something skin deep and not a good indicator of whether someone is good or evil, the power friendship are a few themes covered in this book.
I recommend this beautiful tale as a wonderful read for middle grade and teenagers. Adults would also find this interesting and would still be kept guessing. If you love fairy tales, this is the story for you.
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Rating: 4 of 5