Hi Biscuit Breakers,
Well, you’re in for a round up of not one, not two, but all six of the children’s fantasy series of ‘The School for Good and Evil’. (or SGE as I will refer because it takes too long to type…)
Written by Soman Chainani, these books follow two young girls from a seemingly ordinary ‘Reader’ village who are whisked off to the School by a mysterious School Master. This happens every four years, and this time it was Sophie and Agatha’s turn.
Sophie seemingly looks like the choice to go to the Good school: she loves pink, cares a great deal about her appearance and dreams of a prince who will come and rescue her. Agatha looks Evil: she hates people, lives on a graveyard with her mother who is accused of being a witch and couldn’t care less about her appearance. But this is not the case. Sophie is dumped in the rotten, decrepit School for Evil and Agatha in the prim and proper School for Good.
Throughout their first year, Agatha’s aim was to get back home to Gavaldon and reverse the mistake that they belonged in the wrong school. However, the longer the girls stay in their respective schools, the more they show that it wasn’t a mistake. Agatha is purely Good and Sophie is purely Evil.
But what’s a fairytale if there isn’t a prince? Tedros of Camelot, son of Arthur is the hot shot who Sophie has her heart set on. Tedros thinks Sophie is good, but ultimately always unconsciously picks Agatha in each trial at school. And here the love triangle and the inseparable three is born.
The first book sets the precedent to follow the six. Sophie is the glamorous Evil witch who constantly wants to prove that she is Good. Agatha is the unlikely princess who doesn’t feel like she deserves to belong in a fairytale with the handsomest boy in the school. Tedros is desperate to prove his name as the heir to Camelot’s throne and to one day be crowned King.
Lets not forget a plethora of class sub-characters. The Coven; made up of Hester, a witch with a badass demon tattoo which can be brought to life; Anadil, an albino witch who has some pretty cool pet rats; and Dot, the chocolate-loving and most wholesome character in the series. She has the biggest heart of them all. Hort is a weaselly man-wolf who obsesses over Sophie, constantly trying to prove his love. The Princesses; Beatrix, Reena and Kiko at first seem to be typical princesses but learn to embrace the warriors within them and turn out to be great characters.
The ‘Tale of Sophie and Agatha’ is a complicated story, where the natures of childhood fairytales that we all have grown up with are subverted. The end of the first book leads the schools to change into the ‘School for Girls and Boys’ and the third installment sees the ‘School for Old and New’. We are taken on a whirlwind journey of truth, lies, past present and even meet familiar faces. Cinderella, Merlin, Robin Hood, Peter Pan and more appear in the novels and are given complete makeovers.
The villains who fuel the books are pretty cool too, all hiding complicated backstories and nearly all vying for the affections of Sophie.
If you’re expecting a simple fairytale then you are deeply mistaken. Chainani’s series takes many twists and unexpected turns yet still manages to hold its core and characters. Also, if you do get easily attached to characters, I must warn you that there were more deaths than I expected…
Chainani also made it quite clear in the structuring of his series that the first three books take place in the School for Good and Evil and the final three books move away from the school and into Camelot. Aptly named ‘The Camelot Years’
I think my favourite books were definitely Book 1 (SGE), Book 5 (A Crystal in Time) and Book 6 (One True King)
As an ‘older’ reader (I can’t believe I’m actually writing this), the story was clearly aimed for young children around the ages of 10-14. There is some use of bad language, but nothing major. I thought that some parts of the book could have been different, they were sometimes too predictable or easy, rather than major plot twists. But I liked the easy reading nature of the book.
If you’re a younger reader who is moving from Children’s literature (such as Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood books) to Young Adult literature, this series is the perfect gap filler. It keeps you coming for more whilst appreciating a more complex story arc.
The ending was hugely satisfying. I loved how all the little plot holes were filled and most of my questions had been answered. Sophie, Agatha and Tedros make a compelling trio to read. Although I have to confess I didn’t cry. Normally I’m a huge crybaby, but there was definitely catharsis when I closed that final book.
So, just some ratings now:
- Recommended reading age: 10 – 14
- Swearing: Mild to Medium near the end
- Death: A lot…
- Action: Varies, a lot of action in Books 3 and 4
- Length: All are quite long books averaging at 450+ pages per book
- Would I recommend? Yes!!
- Overall rating: 4/5 stars.
If you got this far near the end and didn’t fall asleep, thank you. I’ll see you up in Merlin’s Celestium.