It has been so long since I last posted a review. I have been working through The School for Good and Evil series by Sonam Chainani and as it turns out…the series has six books in total. I didn’t expect that! I thought it was only three!
But it works out, because as I’ve gotten reading, I’ve realized that the series is split into two phases. I don’t want to wait for the last book in the series to finally filter down the library hold list to me before I post reviews, so I am also going to split my series review in half to cover the two major plot arcs of the series.
Sophie is a princess. Or, at least she will be once the mysterious School Master for the School for Good and Evil kidnaps her from her home town of Gavaldon and takes her to the School for Good. She has done everything right, from making sure she looks every part a princess to befriending the ugly, friendless girl named Agatha that lives in the nearby graveyard.
But on the night the School Master is to kidnap two children for the School for Good and Evil from Gavaldon, Agatha interferes with Sophie’s kidnapping, and they both find themselves hurtling towards the legendary school on skeletal birds. But at the moment Sophie believes she will be dropped into the School for Good, Agatha is dropped there instead, while Sophie plummets into the moat for the School for Evil.
Agatha, wanting nothing but to return to Gavaldon with Sophie where they can continue to be friends rather than separated by fate, and Sophie, feeling as though her assignment of school was a mistake, discover the only way they can escape their now begun fairytale is to find a way to survive it.
What I loved
The world of the Woods and the School for Good and Evil is so much fun! It is colorful and vibrant, with magic imbued in every aspect. I found it really interesting to see some of the normal fairytale tropes get turned into magic system rules, and the ways that the characters use it or, in my favorite cases, cheat the system were really witty and made sense.
The characters and the character’s choices were very complex. Each choice made by the characters was greeted by steep consequences and it had an incredibly interesting domino effect on the magic of the world and the side characters around them. I loved seeing the main characters being thrown into schools that seemed opposite to their natures. Chainani does a great job of showing how they really were assigned to the right schools at the beginning.
Another thing I loved was the history of the School of Good and Evil. It was super fun to see the author bring together so many icons from fairy tales and smash them all together in a Hogwarts-like school trained to help kids find/defeat their Nemesis and find their happily ever afters.
Lastly, I realize this isn’t story related, but the covers are totally bomb. I love the contrast in them and the design. They all look really nice together when they are stood together on the same shelf. The artist does a great job of showing the characters growth through the first part of the series through design and I absolutely love that.
What I didn’t like
I had one major complaint for the book series up to this point, and it was Chainani’s use of kisses. Two times in the books, characters of the same gender kiss, but not under the construct that they have romantic feelings towards one another. The text makes it explicitly clear that the characters involved in the kissing were 100% platonic and were not foreshadowed as LGBTQ+ characters. It left me with a conflicted message I wasn’t sure how to interpret, especially considering the target audience is listed as kids 8-12.
Now, I understand what the author was trying to do here. In the classic fairy tales, happily ever after ends with a kiss and Chainani was turning that into a “rule” for his magic system. But without the buildup of romantic interest or attraction in this instance, the first same gender kiss felt like a shoehorn to appease the magic system, when I felt like a tender kiss on the forehead or even tears of healing would have fit the moment better. The second same gender kiss came packaged as Shakespere’s Twelfth Night, but even that felt really poorly constructed.
The last thing that bothered me was how many times Agatha and Sophie’s “happily ever after” was rehashed. These characters decided on two separate occasions that their “happily ever after” wasn’t actually making them happy. I understand this could be viewed as a commentary on real life, but for this story it became exhausting and didn’t feel fresh.
The School for Good and Evil, Book 1
Romance: Mild, platonic same gender kiss
A World Without Princes, Book 2
Violence: Mild, some battles but nothing more than a few smears of blood
Romance: Mild, Twelfth Night style same gender kiss
The Last Ever After, Book 3
Violence: Mild, dismembered zombies, some blood smears
Romance: Mild, kissing
Series Rating (Books 1-3)
Entertaining, but I probably won’t buy them, even though the cover art for the series is stunning.
Have you read The School for Good and Evil books? What do you think of them? Let me know in the comments below!