Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

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Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 488
Series: The School for Good and Evil #1
Release Date: May 14, 2013

3 Stars

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I was so confused while reading this book. Some of my confusion was due to the prose being not-great, some of it because the pacing was all over the place, and some because I couldn’t figure out whether I was liking the book or not.

But one thing I did figure out, even though this read was an, overall, good-ish experience (lots of highs and lows), I never ever want to read it again. Which is why I’m not reading the sequel.

In this novel, there’s a village from which, every four years, two children are kidnapped. One of them is pretty and good while the other is ugly and doesn’t fit in. They’re taken to The School for Good and Evil where one learns to be a hero on the Good side, while the other learns to be a villain on the Evil side. This time, the two kids taken are Sophie and Agatha. The problem is that the two girls seem to have been put in the wrong schools. Or have they… DUN DUN DUN!

It’s dramatic, it’s fairytale-esque, it’s interesting and it’s supposed to be awesome. And it is… for the first 20 pages. Then there’s a huge drop during which I almost contemplated quitting because I still had 350 pages to go and I wasn’t sure if I could do it. But then things slowly pick back up, then drop a little, then up again… Here’s a little graph for how things went.

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This is in no way accurate (I mean, I made it on Paint in two minutes), but it’s a rough idea. Now for what happened during the ups and downs.

The initial good was the idea of the book. I really liked it, and the author’s take on the fairy tales. Things started to fall when too many things were happening really quickly but I didn’t care because the author hadn’t given us the time to get to know the characters properly. And the events were repetitive and half of them didn’t even have a point. Things were so rushed but still slow; it was a whirlwind of activity with no clear picture. And a large part of that was due to the prose.

Even though I got used to it, I never really liked it. The imagery was weak and it didn’t have the elegance that’s needed for fairy tales, even if you’re taking a cynical approach. I really hope that changes in the future books of the series.

After this big drop, things started getting better. The pace settled a bit, I got to know Agatha and Sophie, and found out more about the school as well. There was a story and a definite path. Things were going good. At one point, I was super happy. But then Agatha just wouldn’t get it! I can’t tell what she wouldn’t get though.

The things (an I using the words ‘things’ too much?) picked back up again and were really good near the end. And then the ending happened and I decided that, since I had no plans to read the sequel, I would change it in my mind and things would be good. In my head, this is a standalone.

Overall, a great concept but with a not-so-great execution. Kind of a mess but still worth checking out if you’re interested. Just be patient and prepared for at least three more books. And if you want to know my ending (didn’t have to change much at all), then it’s at the end of my Goodreads review under the spoiler tag. If you’ve read the book, tell me what you think about it.

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