The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
|The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Loralei Haylock|
|Summary: A twisted take on class fairytales that I'm sure will enchant young girls and boys alike. A solid, but flawed fantasy to be enjoyed, but perhaps borrowed, not bought.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 496||Date: June 2013|
|Publisher: Harper Collins|
|External links: Author's website|
Shortlisted for Waterstone's Best Fiction for 5-12s 2014
Sophie has waited her whole life for this night - the night that two children will be taken from her village of Gavaldon to the School for Good and Evil. Sophie has been doing Good Deeds and practising her beauty regime especially. Unlike the other children in the village - who cut their hair and try to be rude if they're good, or hastily says some prayers and do kind things if they're bad in an effort to avoid being chosen - Sophie just knows she's going to be taken for Good, and she can't wait.
Sophie's best friend Agatha doesn't believe that anyone will be kidnapped, nor does she understand why Sophie would want to be. Agatha is quite content living a quiet life in her graveyard house with her cat, wearing black clothes and enjoying being alone.
When both girls are taken, Agatha is surprised to find out that everything they've read in their story books is true. But her biggest surprise is when Agatha is deposited outside the gates of Good, leaving Sophie at the school for Evil.
This one seems to be receiving a lot of praise - comparison to JK Rowling and Roald Dahl in the book trailer, and even word of a film version on the way. So I was disappointed to be a little bit... underwhelmed.
There was lots I liked about it - the concept is great, the eternal battle of Good and Evil, along with plenty of exploration of what makes Good and Evil, at times getting quite philosophical for a Middle Grade book. There were good characters, particularly Sophie and Agatha, though some of the background characters were just as colourful. The illustrations peppered throughout were fabulously gothic and characterful, adeptly bringing little bits of the universe to life.
It was the story that left me wanting mostly. For a start it was a bit long - a lot of the same territory was gone over and over. Sophie tries to prove she's good, but ends up doing something unspeakably evil in order to do so. Agatha has to help her out of a bind, therefore proving she's the good one. Repeat a few times. It was funny, and creative, but a part of me did want things to hurry up a bit at times.
And then the end did hurry, a little bit too much. The final chapter finished on such an abrupt note I wondered if it wasn't a mistake. After discovering it was the first in a trilogy, I felt a little less cheated, but it wasn't even really a cliffhanger surprise or shock ending. It just felt like an end to a chapter.
There's enough here to warrant some interest, and I'm sure it will enchant young girls and boys alike with its twisted take on the classic fairytales. But JK Rowling and Roald Dahl it is not. A solid, but flawed fantasy to be enjoyed, but perhaps borrowed, not bought.
My thanks to the publisher for sending a copy.
For other great takes on popular fairy tales, check out Bookbag's Top Ten Retellings of Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales.
You can read more book reviews or buy The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani at Amazon.com.
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