Friday, 24 May 2013
Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Released: June 6th, 2013
Every four years, two girls are kidnapped from the village of Gavaldon. Legend has it these lost children are sent to the School for Good and Evil, the fabled institution where they become fairytale heroes or villains. Sophie, the most beautiful girl in town, has always dreamed of her place at the School for Good while her friend Agatha, with her dark disposition seems destined for the School for Evil. But when the two are kidnapped they find their fortunes reversed…
The School for Good and Evil is the start of a new series for tweens and teens, and is also Soman Chainani's debut novel. I wanted to read it because I love fantasy and anything that includes fantastical creatures, of which this has plenty. It's honestly the closest thing I've read to Harry Potter since the series ended (sob!), in terms of story and characters. It's laced with humour and magic, takes place at a school and has a wealth of history to go with it. It's absolutely *not* Harry Potter, but it's not too far removed. I think that's why I enjoyed it so much!
Sophie and Agatha are kidnapped from their village, as every four years two children are taken and sent to the School for Good and Evil, where one will learn to be good and one will learn to be evil. But what if the wrong girl goes to the wrong side of the school? What would happen then? That's exactly how the story starts once the girls reach the school, and it's amusing reading. All sorts of things go wrong, neither girl believes they're in the right place and the juxtaposition between Good and Evil is very, very funny. Well, it is if you have a dark sense of humour, anyway!
My favourite part of The School for Good and Evil is the plethora of fantasy creatures who live at the school - fairies, nymphs, gargoyles to name a few - and the many parallels to our fairytales. In Sophie and Agatha's world, the Legend of King Arthur isn't a myth and Cinderalla really exists. It's a nice twist making fictional works real, and in this instance it really works, because of the setting and the fantasy element throughout.
Although I really enjoyed this book, I thought it was slightly too long and drawn out. I could have done with a shorter read - it took me quite a while to get through, and at some points I didn't feel like I was making any progress at all. Still, I was never bored, so that's always a good sign. Also I need to mention the lovely illustrations included, which add to the fairytale feel of the book. I particularly like the design of Sophie and Agatha and the school itself, not to mention Grimm the Cupid. I loved him, even though he doesn't have a large role in the story and only appears every now and then. He's a scene stealer, though!
I can see The School for Good and Evil being a huge hit with the children's fiction market, as it will easily appeal to both the 9+ and YA audiences. It's dark and sharp, but at the same time light and fun. It's very much in the vein of recent fantasy TV shows and films that have been released, like Once Upon a Time and Grimm. Obviously fairytales are all the rage at the moment, and I for one hope this particular trend continues. These stories are timeless for a reason, and will always lend themselves to modern updates and re-imaginings. Count me in for the next book in this series, due in 2014. And if you're a fan of stories like Harry Potter, do check this out!