posted at Sunday, June 9th, 2013 at 4:00 PM | Audiobook Reviews, Middle Grade
I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
Narrator: Polly Lee
Length: 13 hrs, 46 mins
Series: The School for Good and Evil #1
Published by Harper Audio on May 14, 2013
Genres: Adventure, Fairy Tales, Fantasy
At the School for Good and Evil, failing your fairy tale is not an option.
Welcome to the School for Good and Evil, where best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.
With her glass slippers and devotion to good deeds, Sophie knows she'll earn top marks at the School for Good and join the ranks of past students like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White. Meanwhile, Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks and wicked black cat, seems a natural fit for the villains in the School for Evil.
The two girls soon find their fortunes reversed—Sophie's dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School for Good, thrust among handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.
But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are . . . ?
The School for Good and Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.
This is one of those times where I am super glad that I went for the audiobook rather than the print, because, though I bet this is fun in print too, I don’t think I could have loved it quite so much. Just saying.
Why Did I Read This Book?
First off, there are those two magic words: fairy tale. Put that on a book, and I will probably try to read it at some point. On top of that, the book trailer is astounding, and I don’t say that lightly, because most of them make me much less interested in the books.
What’s the Story Here?
Sophie and Agatha live in a town beyond the woods. Every four years, two children are taken, one good and one evil. Sophie believes in the rumors and wants desperately to go off and be a princess at the School for Good and Evil, where it is rumored that the two kids go. To prove her goodness, she has befriended Agatha, the witchiest, most evil-looking girl in town. Agatha, however, does not want to go. Of course, you can’t stop a fairy tale, and both girls are swept off to the school, as Sophie predicted. What Sophie did NOT predict was that Agatha would be put with the princesses, and that she would go to the school for evil.
How are the Characters?
OMG, Sophie is the worst. Seriously, I wanted to punch her in the face. She’s such a snob, and so convinced that prettiness is what makes someone a good person. Chainani has created one of the most selfish characters in fiction. The voice Lee uses for Sophie even sounds exactly like the blonde girl in Stardust, all snooty and self-involved and perfect for the character. For reasons I’ll explain later, I do think Sophie was probably the best-drawn character, though, because she has the most realistic character ARC.
Agatha I loved from the beginning, with her cynicism and snark and hatred of cocky princes. She’s my kind of heroine. Plus, she’s not gorgeous, and that was super satisfying, because heroines don’t need to be gorgeous all the time.
The rest of the cast is well-suited to the tale too, falling into their stereotypes of good and evil initially, but most developing depth as the tale continues. Actually, in the end, evil comes off much better in terms of personality, where the princesses remain pretty shallow and appearance-focused.
And the Romance?
So, the romance is pretty much all centered around this guy, Tedros, son of King Arthur. If that’s not how you spell his name, don’t criticize me, because it was an audiobook and it’s not written out ANYWHERE. Anyway, Tedros is a snobby princeling to start, but I was actually shipping him with Agatha pretty hard, though mostly just because I wanted Sophie’s nose rubbed in it because she’s the worst. Plus, you know my feelings for hate turning to love romance arcs. However, once that ship started coming about, I was less of a fan.
Throughout, I was also nurturing a hope this might go LGBT, with Sophie and Agatha being like “forget Tedros” and falling in love with each other. Alas and alack, there was one moment where I thought that was happening, but no.
What Are My Reservations with this Book?
Much as I loved listening to The School for Good and Evil, and thought much of it was hilarious and clever, I have some serious concerns. No, they’re not the similarities to Harry Potter, which do exist but that I didn’t find to be overpowering. What upsets me is the overall commentary on beauty and princesses. Agatha starts out as this incredibly talented, intelligent girl, where Sophie simpers and doesn’t study. The moment Agatha discovers that she is pretty if she’s confident and smiles, she becomes weak, blushing over Tedros constantly and suddenly unable to fight battles, fainting left and right. NO NO NO. Love should make you stronger, not weaker. Meanwhile, Sophie goes from an airhead to monstrously powerful villain in no time. I expected the final message to be more clearly that beauty does not equal good, but by the end apparently Agatha is gorgeous and princess-like, which also means she has to be less of a badass, I guess.
Am I Going to Continue with the Series?
Most definitely, and I will be sticking with the audiobooks. Though I’m not entirely comfortable with all of the moral messages, I really did love this. The fairy tale references, the humor, the action and the awesome narration made this a must listen for me, despite those issues.
How was the Narration?
Freaking AMAZING. Polly Lee is one of my favorite narrators hands down, and I will now make it my mission to listen to anything she’s narrated, even the romance novels, because her voice is so pretty. She’s British, and her accent is awesome. Plus, she does a ton of great voices, and handled the whole cast incredibly deftly. *bows to Polly Lee’s awesomeness*
Sum It Up with a GIF: