{A Twist in the Tail} Revisiting and Reviewing THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL by Soman Chainani

Love fairy tales and mythology?
Fans of mermaids, dragons, unicorns, and other mythical creatures?
Enjoy when a beloved classic tale is retold?
A Twist in the Tail Thursdays features all this and more!

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Ever since first reading it when it debuted, THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL by Woman Chainani pierced my heart with an arrow and quickly became an all-time favorite fantasy middle-grade series. When it ended, I was distraught to say goodbye, but so happy with the series. When I found out there would be three more books? It was a full-on celebration! Now, I'm preparing once more to say goodbye to this amazing series as the final book, ONE TRUE KING, prepares to be released on June 2nd, 2020. (And yes, I already have it pre-ordered! I went with the Barnes and Noble Exclusive Signed Edition, which also includes special artwork!)

I've recommended this series a lot over the years, and with the final book on the horizon, have been talking about it again a lot lately. I thought that today for A Twist in the Tail Thursday, I'd repost my original review of the first book below for new fans to discover, and also tell you a little about why I love the series as a whole so much, because I really love how Chainani takes so many traditional elements, not just of fairy tales, but of children's books in general, and turns conceptions upside down. Why SHOULD things always be tied up pretty and neatly with a bow? Why can't friendship be as enduring and satisfying as romance? What are the bounds of how far we'll go for our loved ones? The series goes so far beyond a fairy tale and explores themes that make up our very core as human beings.

I'm also consistently impressed with how Chainani changed his world completely with each new book and yet kept everything very thematically similar in a way that never felt disconnected. Main characters Agatha and Sophie twist every ideal and standard that their school and the rules of Storybooks have in place and cause the School for Good and the School for Evil to change and become new with every turn of their story. His imagination is vast, and I have loved seeing how every new book changes the world we've been embracing. Each book gets darker and more terrifying, but also delves deeper into the themes that hold us together as people and explores how we interact with and perceive one another.

I cannot say enough good things about this series. The emotional payoff is huge, the books are engaging, and I can't put them down once I start. Upon finishing the grand finale, I realized that The School for Good and Evil is one of my all-time favorite children's series. I've made such a connection to it and so many characters--both main and secondary--have wormed their way permanently into my heart. I highly recommend this series, no matter your age. It has enough depth and emotion to capture older readers as well as enough action, adventure, and enchantment to hook the hearts of its intended younger readers.

Keep reading to see my original review of Book One, THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL!


(The following review was previously posted on A Backwards Story, but has been edited and updated to re-share today.)

This is seriously one of the best book trailers I've ever seen, don't you agree?

Just watching it makes you wish a movie was in the works. And since life can truly be a fairy tale, our fairy godmother has made our wish come true! According to an old press releaseOz the Great and Powerful producer Joe Roth and Universal Pictures have acquired movie rights and book author Soman Chainani will write the screenplay adaptation of his novel. Roth has previously produced Snow White and the Huntsman and is also working on a movie version of Laini Taylor's novel DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE. There's also some information on Chainani's website. The movie is reported to be live-action, and I think I heard last year (2019) that they were starting to talk about casting? Fingers crossed it's still on!

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

But tonight, all the other children of Gavaldon writhed in their beds. If the School Master took them, they'd never return. Never lead a full life. Never see their family again. Tonight these children dreamt of a red-eyed thief with the body of a beast, come to rip them from their sheets and stifle their screams.
Sophie dreamt of princes instead.
(pg. 1, US hardcover edition)

Read a sample online now for FREE!

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL by Soman Chainani is one of  my favorite middle-grade novels. It's  book I wish existed when I was a child, because I would have the fondest memories of it and have loved it so intensely. I am glad I can still love it now and that it transcends age barriers and appeals to all ages. There are a lot of current middle-grade novels I enjoy, but very few I love so fiercely as this series. TSFGAE is deeper, darker, and more complex than I thought it would be when first hearing about it. At first, it sounds like the book will be a cute, sweet story about two friends who mistakenly wind up in the wrong classes at the School for Good and Evil. The truth has never been so wrong.

Sophie and Agatha are "best friends" from Gavaldon swept away from everyone they know and love one night and brought to the legendary School for Good and Evil. At first, everyone thinks their presence is a mistake.  Blonde-haired Sophie knows she was meant to be a princess and have her perfectly Happily Ever After alongside Prince Charming, but she somehow wound up assigned a Never, taking classes on how to be a villain. Agatha, on the other hand, doesn't care about beauty or princes. She lives in a cemetery and always wears black. Everyone in Gavaldon already thinks she's a witch, so why did she wind up an Ever, taking classes on how to be a princess and live Happily Ever After? Everyone is sure that the girls were mixed up when being brought to the school.
...But were they? Sophie will do anything to be a princess. She's been practicing her entire life. She made sure to do good deeds all over Gavaldon...good deeds that included befriending Agatha, who'd she'd otherwise choose not to associate with. She's also willing to do anything to become an Ever, even if it means bringing down her best friend.

What impresses me the most about THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL is the way Soman Chainani turns fairy tales and stereotypes upside down. While the classes involving villains (Nevers) and heroes (Evers) are fairly black and white in expected ways, main characters Agatha and Sophie are not. They are both so much more than they initially seem. I love books where characters become something...bigger. Sophie has a huge destiny in front of her that she can't see properly. It's thrilling to watch her journey and see the truth lurking behind why she was designated a Never as the story unfurls. This book is more Sophie's story than Agatha's, though it's seen through the eyes of both girls. Agatha evolves much later in the novel, following the path of a girl who doesn't know what she wants in life. She's confused and can't see clearly. She's often bullied and put-down. There's so much more to her than what meets the eye, however, but Agatha needs to learn to love herself before anyone else can.

There's a lot of danger and darkness lurking around the corridors of THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL. The book has a lot more gritty rawness than I expected, reading more for older kids than younger ones. There's also a little romance involved (after all, it is a fairy tale!). I would say the series is age-appropriate to the later Harry Potter books rather than the earlier ones. The ending is highly satisfying, as any fairy tale inspired book should be, and also unique in an unexpected way that makes sense, but everyone won't see coming. Even better? There are two more books in the series. (ETA: And a sequel series with three MORE books!) The books just get better and better, and once you start reading, you won't ever want to say goodbye.

C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I was a fan of this cover from the first moment I saw it! Then again, it was designed by Iacopo Bruno, a favorite children's cover illustrator of mine. 

I really like the dynamics of the cover, the contrast between light and dark. It takes you by surprise if you don't know what the book is about because the "dark" side has glittering castles and rainbow while the "light" side features a looming black tower overrun with lightning. It represents so much of what this book is about!

There isn't anything about this cover I don't like. It's so interesting to look at in so many ways!

Each chapter starts off with an illustration by Iacopo Bruno, continuing my love of him, and the book opens with a gorgeous map outlining the School for Good and Evil:


I'm also a huge fan of the weathered deckled edging on the pages. This always gives books an old-fashioned feel for me. This is one book I want a physical copy of, not an e-book!

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Soman Chainani
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins
Received: For Review / Purchased

“The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.” 

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil. 

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they 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 amongst 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.