Hows about we do a bit of a book review today, sounds good? Yes, yes it does.
THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL
By Soman Chainani
with Illustrations by Iacopo Bruno.
Every four years, two children are kidnapped from the village of Gavaldon, and magically transported to the mysterious School For Good and Evil. One child is intended to go on to be the hero or heroine in a fairy-tale story, the other the villain.
This time round blonde, pretty princess-type Sophie and her friend, graveyard-dwelling, dark-goth-type Agatha are taken, but seemingly placed in the wrong schools. Sophie ends up in the nightmarish Evil School and Agatha is forced into the Good school, inhabited by shallow, beautiful people.
The girls’ attempts to swap to the ‘correct’ schools only end in disaster, and as their story unfolds, they discover that maybe they are in the right school after all, leaving the biggest mystery of all… who is writing all the stories?
At first glace, you might consider that this book, with it’s princess, witches, creatures and magic to be just a run-of-the-mill Harry Potter franchise wannabe, and there are many striking similarities between the two. Both revolve around mysterious schools where magic and fantasy is the norm, but this book is tonally somewhat darker, with the redemption of the evil character seemingly impossible, given her deeds.
As both Sophie and Agatha grow into their roles, they make friends, enemies, and the lines between good and evil end up blurring, despite both characters insisting on following each path to the letter, and obeying a set of rules, Evil Attacks, Good Defends and so on. The Evil secondary characters are fleshed out somewhat more than any of the Good ones, I think perhaps because they are just so much more interesting than the prissy, make-up obsessed princesses and the brash, bullish boys.
The inclusion of a Prince, Tedros, son of King Arthur, adds the required romantic element in any book of this type, but after initial introductions, we see the character has much more depth than just a hunky bit of token manhood. That said, a deep character doesn’t redeem his immense dickishness, even after his story arc reaches a resolution I still feel the urge to give him a good old slap across the face.
This being a school-based book, of course the characters have classes to attend, along with school events such as Trial By Tale (in which students are encouraged to defeat one another, until only one remains, Hunger Games stylee) as well as a talent contest, and a ball. It’s in these classes that we really see a similarity with Potter, although you can clearly see a maturity here that JK Rowling only managed to reach in her latter volumes.
As the story reaches it’s dramatic conclusion, we see murder, war and all sorts of nasty stuff happening. The love triangle is resolved and then dissolved, and the mysterious School Master is revealed in all his glory. By this point the writing has become almost cinematic, with the story leaping off the page, aided by the occasional fancy bit of artwork.
All in all, this is a cracking read, and deserves a ‘adult’ cover to encourage a wider audience to pick it up. The bittersweet ending leaves you wanting more, and fortunately enough the second volume The School For Good and Evil – A World Without Princes promises more of the same.
I’ll be reviewing that second book as soon as I’ve read it, so give me a week or so (I’m not a very fast reader, it seems my brain is more able to spit things out than swallow things up).
(oh, and seeing as this is my first book review, please leave me a bit of feedback in the comments, let me know how I did, cheers)