Genres: Young Adult, Mystery, Adventure, Fantasy
Series Name: The School for Good and Evil
Previous Review: The School for Good and Evil #1
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Publishing House: HarperCollins
Number of pages: 400
Source: ARC from Edelweiss
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Pre-order on AMAZON | THE BOOK DEPOSITORY
In the epic sequel to the New York Times bestselling novel, The School for Good and Evil, Sophie and Agatha are home, living out their Ever After. But life isn’t quite the fairy tale they expected.
When Agatha secretly wishes she’d chosen a different happy ending, she reopens the gates to the School for Good and Evil. But the world she and Sophie once knew has changed.
Witches and princesses, warlocks and princes are no longer enemies. New bonds are forming; old bonds are being shattered. But underneath this uneasy arrangement, a war is brewing and a dangerous enemy rises. As Agatha and Sophie battle to restore peace, an unexpected threat could destroy everything, and everyone, they love—and this time, it comes from within.
Disclaimer: There may be minor spoilers of book 1 in this review. Consider yourselves warned if you haven’t read the first book.
And Sophie and Agatha lived happily ever after, for girls don’t need princes for love to call.
No, they don’t princes in their fairy tales at all.
When I first read The School for Good and Evil sometime last year, I appreciated so much how it portrayed very dark themes in a seemingly light, humorous, and fluffy tone. I enjoyed how it mocked the many tropes and worn-out clichés that are present in many of the stories we read in our childhood ( like princesses having to learn how to communicate with animals, princes having classes on heroism, the “evil ones” needing some uglification, etc. etc). And most of all, I loved how on the surface, it IS about fairy tales and it IS about fairy tale characters, but underneath it all are deep, dark and real issues that we tackle even in our day-to-day lives.
In short, The School for Good and Evil was intense. Yeah, it seemed fluffy and light-hearted, but seriously? Don’t let that silly and vibrant cover fool you. I was a raging, emotional wreck when I finished it. It was so intense that I doubted the succeeding books would be able to topple it.
Obviously, I was being naive. I was not only a raging, emotional wreck – I was a raging and ugly emotional wreck. I didn’t think it would get any more darker and complex after the first book, but I was proven wrong, and if I had it my way, I’d just write “intense” over and over in this review so you guys can get the idea (if you haven’t already).
First, a recap. When we think of fairy tales, we oftentimes expect a world of happily-ever-afters, of rainbows and butterflies and fairies, of witches and wizards and ogres getting their asses whooped by a Prince Charming. Apparently, that is also true in the world Chainani created, but before these characters live out their stories, they go to a special school and learn how to act like their characters first. Princess and princes versus ogres, witches, and hunchbacks. Good versus Evil. Beautification versus Uglification. Every four years, this school kidnaps two girls from our realm to become characters in their own fairy tales, and that’s how two girls, Sophie and Agatha, found themselves whisked away to this mysterious place. This has always been Sophie’s dream, so she was ecstatic, but Agatha wanted nothing more than to go back to their normal lives. Unfortunately, the blonde and lively Sophie found herself placed in the Evil school, and the pessimistic brunette, Agatha, in Good’s. Thinking it was a bad misunderstanding and a mistake, the former was determined to make things “right”. And that’s where things get really… chaotic.
In A World Without Princes, Agatha and Sophie continue their normal lives outside the magical realm, a happily-ever-after they thought they wanted, but alas, doubts and regrets abound. Having experienced acceptance aside from her best friend, Agatha starts to question if this life with Sophie really was the ending she wanted, if she really made the right choice in choosing her best friend. Sophie, on the other hand, couldn’t be any happier. She had thought she needed other people to feel special, but she realized she only needed to be the best for that one person who mattered the most to her: Agatha. And that’s why when they find themselves back in the magical realm because of Agatha’s yearning to be with Tedros, Sophie becomes determined to not let anyone else get her best friend. To her, they only needed each other.
In the first book, I loathed Sophie. She was hateful, selfish, and conceited. She only thought of herself and would do dangerous things at the expense of other people. But despite this apparent greed and selfishness, underneath was a complex individual who simply wanted to be loved and admired. Not exactly a bad thing to wish for – all of us have felt this at least once or twice in our lives. Sophie’s mistake was her narrow-minded thinking that there was only one way of achieving what she wanted. That’s why despite her being an infuriating little nitwit, I thought she was the most complex character in the first book. Her development from bad to worse and then to her gradual awareness and realization may have been a wild ride, but it was one that shook me to the very core.
Here, we still see a bit of her selfish side. That can’t be helped, of course; Sophie is still Sophie, after all. She craves for attention, she wants people to adore her, but these are all secondary now as long as she has Agatha by her side. In the end, her only wish is the same – to not be alone. And it is because of this wish that things become haywire again, and it’s like the first book all over again where she does things for the name of love, but she does them misguidedly. But at the same time, while she did do and say things that were highly questionable, you’ll find yourself not having the heart to blame her for it. It’s like, you can really see and understand how desperate she truly was. She’s so scared of being alone that it pushes her to think and act irrationally. She doesn’t do them for the heck of it, but because for her it made sense and she thought they were the only ways of keeping what was important to her. That doesn’t mean I don’t think they were selfish at all – they were. They really, really were. They were done because she was scared for her own well-being. But if our desperation clouds our judgement, can we really say we think straight?
On the topic of villains…
That’s why I see her as more of an anti-heroine than an antagonist. She’s absolutely complex and three-dimensional, that I hate her and love her at the same time. She’s the kind of “villain” (not the quote, unquote) I prefer to see in literature – the kind who don’t see the world in a simple black and white, the type of people who have deeper reasons for doing the things they do. She reminds me of many people in society today who aren’t inherently evil or malicious, but because of desperation, they resort to doing bad things. Examples are the kind who’d steal from a food stall to feed their children who haven’t eaten anything for 3 days straight; who’d rob a rich person to pay for their parents’ medical bills, and; who’d sell their bodies against their own wills just to send their children to school. I’m not saying these should be tolerated just because the person doing it has a sad backstory… in the end, it’s the action that matters, not the intention; however, the point I’m trying to make here is as a reader, we have more awareness than the characters in a book, and it is this “knowing” that there is a deeper reason in the actions they do that other characters don’t see/know that makes individuals like Sophie highly interesting to read.
How about Agatha?
I liked Agatha in the first book. She was a really cool person who was sarcastic and witty, who discreetly mocked the frilly things fairy tale princesses were known for. She may have been belittled for her allegedly sad appearance, but she was highly intelligent and she wasn’t afraid to show it. She questioned the school, she questioned the authorities, and she did everything she could to get her and Sophie back to the real world. That’s why I was a bit disappointed to see her kind of lifeless and dull here. While I was reading the book, I kept on wondering what the heck happened to the Agatha I loved in A School for Good and Evil? There were times she was so out of character that I was left wondering if her love for Tedros changed her personality altogether. I also didn’t like the flip-flopping she would sometimes do. Tedros or Sophie? Sophie or Tedros? It was kind of infuriating to see her become a little wishy-washy…in addition to that some of her intelligence that was very apparent in the first book slowly ebbed away, so it was like adding insult to injury.
As for Tedros…
He was kinda a pathetic prince in the first book (even though I shipped him and Agatha so hard), but he kinda grew balls of steel here. There were times I got really frustrated with him, though. For such a supposedly high-profile prince, he was easily manipulated by other forces, and because of this I questioned his love for our brunette princess. If you really do love her, then why do you distrust her so much to the point of wanting to do bodily harm? His resolve in the middle of the book seemed so far-fetched to me that it was just undoubtedly ridiculous and silly. Still, he was given more exposure and substance here, and he’s cool overall. We get more of his backstory here regarding his and his parents’ past (King Arthur and Queen Guinevere!), so that was cool.
Nevertheless, the issues I had in this book were very minor in comparison to the intense feels it gave me. Despite Agatha’s, erm, character devolvement, and Tedros’ exaggerated resolve, Sophie’s complexity made this book awesome for me. She’s really the star of the series here, and all the frustration, anger, and sadness one undergoes with regards to her are all worth it. She’s outstanding in a sense her character opens a lot of discussion and discourse. Just be wary that this is darker than it seems. If you’re looking for a light read, this ain’t your book unfortunately. But please don’t let that stop you! This one is truly a great book and should not be missed.
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