The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
488 – 672 pages
Published by Harpercollins
Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars
Re-readability: This is absolutely a series that I would read again and again. Next time it’ll probably be with when nieces when they’re old enough.
Reviewed by Indiana
Sophie is blonde, beautiful, and knows she is destined for greatness. She plans to become the next Cinderella or Snow White (but of course, a smarter and more beautiful version of those princesses). Agatha on the other hand, lives in a cemetery, dislikes company, and would like nothing more than to just get by and get a few visits from Sophie.
The two live in Gavaldon, a town haunted by the Schoolmaster, who takes two children away from the town in the middle of the night every four years. No one in the town knows exactly where the children go, but Sophie and Agatha soon find out that the children are being taken to The School for Good and Evil. Upon arrival at the school, they’re dumped into their prospective schools and are both horrified by when Sophie is placed in Evil and Agatha in Good.
They’re taught all about the world of fairy tales, a world which Gavaldon exposed them to through books, only this time, they have they own tales to live out (and survive).
Throughout the series, good and evil and questioned and tested. Love is redefined again and again and the meaning of fulfillment is reexamined. In the midst of strife, Sophie and Agatha must find the hero of their story, search for their happy ending, and, most of all, find out who is writing their story.
“The only way out is through a fairy tale,” writes Chainani.
Indeed, Chainani masterfully blends original fairy tales with modern day ideals. Growing up, the author constantly watched Disney movies, but while Chainani’s characters are just as animated and memorable as any beloved disney character, his books turn the Disney formula on its head.
No one is guaranteed a happy ending and the characters are continually second-guessing themselves. The usual resolute decisions you find in children’s books (where an older and wiser character is giving helpful life advice that turns out to be completely true) just isn’t found in The School for Good and Evil. Nothing is set in stone.
Sophie, Agatha, Tedros, and a cast of other vibrant characters go on quests, try to save their schools, deal with torturous teachers (both physically and socially), and question what it means to be good and what it means to be evil.
Each book seems to come to a completely different ending than expected, but it’s never annoying or contrived. Chainani is a masterful planner and even after reading three of his other books, his fourth surprised me.
“The School for Good and Evil: Quests for Glory,” follows the same cast of characters (with a few additions) as the first three, but it takes the story outside of school grounds. Sophie is still her theatrical and fashionable self, Agatha is as kind and clever as ever, and Tedros is his usual valiant and good-intentioned self, but they’re all stretched in ways I would never have predicted.
Chainani’s books usually have a few truly dark scenes—there is one scene in the first one that I physically shivered as I read, even on the second go—and the fourth is no exception. If anything, it’s the darkest. Characters die gory deaths and the villains aren’t just evil, they’re insidious. They make the protagonists question the truth of their own stories.
This is the first time I’ve read one of these and had to wait until the next one came out and, of course, the fourth one ends on a cliffhanger. It’s a cliff I’ll be hanging on to for as long as it takes for Chainani to write the next book.