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review 2017-05-20 11:49
The Last Ever After (The School for Good and Evil #3)
The School for Good and Evil #3: The Last Ever After - Soman Chainani

This was an entertaining end to an entertaining series. I know that’s kind of lukewarm praise, but this kitten squisher clocks in at 655 pages and roughly 400 of those are mostly filled with Agatha bickering with Tedros and constantly battling her self-doubt while Sophie, being monstrously selfish (as usual), obstinately reinstates the old love triangle that wasn’t nearly as annoying in the first two books. I could’ve done with at least 100 fewer pages of that. Maybe 200. Since I was bored with the angst my inner pedant had plenty of time to focus on the little issues that have slightly irritated me throughout the trilogy.

 

Authors. There is nothing wrong with using ‘said’ as a dialog tag. It doesn’t matter if it gets repeated umpteen times in the book. It’s one of those words readers don’t even really notice. If you try to avoid it and replace it with alternative dialog tags, they stick out like a sore thumb.

 

Also, what’s the deal with Hester? She’s the daughter of the witch that Hansel and Gretel shoved in the oven and baked to death when they were kids. Hansel and Gretel are now wheelchair-bound relics. Hester is a teenager. How does that work?

 

And why does this book seem to forget the fact that Sophie straight up murdered multiple people in the first book? I mean, book two seemed to forget all but one murder most of the time, but at least it made a point of that one murder haunting Sophie. I can’t remember if it got more than a passing mention in this book.

 

TL;DR: This series is a fun romp through slightly twisted fairy tales with lots of true love and killing and maiming and stuff. I usually see it marketed as Middle Grade, but I'd say it's more upper MG or lower YA (what with the killing and maiming and stuff).

 

And one last thing: I want Merlin’s hat.

 

The End

 

...Or is it?*

 

*No, no it isn’t. The author is writing another series featuring the same characters.

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review 2017-05-11 09:32
A World Without Princes (The School for Good and Evil #2)
The School for Good and Evil #2: A World without Princes - Soman Chainani

The fairy tale world is messed up, people. Seriously. The combination of dark grit and silly fluff is starting to do my head in. What with all the killing and torture and life-or-death struggles, I keep forgetting these characters are barely pubescent children. It’s disturbing and entertaining at the same time. I’m still enjoying the series overall, but this book drags a bit and it took me about 200 pages to really get into the story.

 

On to book three!

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review 2017-05-02 09:08
The School for Good and Evil
The School for Good and Evil - Soman Chainani

So. This book.

 

It’s sort of an alternative fairy tale . . . ish. More Brothers Grimm than Disney.

 

It’s dark and violent. Kids are tortured and unfairly punished and people are straight-up murdered.

 

It’s light and funny. It pokes unmerciful fun at fairy tale tropes while at the same time embracing them, often to hilarious effect.

 

It’s got powerful messages about friendship, love, loyalty, and self-worth, but it doesn’t seem to take them all that seriously and doesn’t mind contradicting them on occasion.

 

In short, I’m not entirely sure what I just read, but gosh! it was fun, and I’m diving straight into the sequel.

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review 2017-02-02 00:00
The School for Good and Evil
The School for Good and Evil - Soman Chainani

1/2 stars. Doesn't even deserve that.

I seriously considered not adding this book, it was that bad, but I guess that people deserve to see the bad reviews so that they can decide if they want to read it.

The premise for this book was very good, but the execution was a fail.

I kept thinking of the characters as being sixteen at least, Sophie is obsessed with looks and frequently wears what is described to be extremely immodest clothing--not something that I think is particularly appropriate in a middle grade novel, especially since the characters are somewhere between the ages of eleven and fourteen. And all of the girls in the 'good' side are obsessed with boys. Not just normal middle school crushes, but ready-to-get-married-and-have-sex obsessed. This review by Becky, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/826608690?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1 has a lot of good points to it that I didn't notice, or didn't quite catch as serious as they were, especially at the problems Becky points out at the end of her review.

Here are a few other problems I had.

This level of creepiness does not belong in the kid's section. I liked a lot of the super creepy points like that if they failed the characters would be turned into objects or animals, but that is beyond creepy for kids ages 9-12.

The stereotypes could have been played for further. Some of the best villains are the most beautiful. That is something that I thought the author could have played very well with Sophie, but he chose not to. Either the characters are chosen purely by look or purely by personality. If it was by look than Sophie would have been put in the school for good with all of the catty annoying girls, and Agatha would have gone into the school for evil with the people endeavoring to be the worst people they could be. If it was based on personality only, than the girls were put in the right schools (Sophie is vain and selfish, and perfectly poised to become an evil queen, while Agatha is humble and kind, and always sees the best in others, even her dreadful friend and a gargoyle that tried to kill her,) while all (or almost all) of the other characters were put in the wrong schools. Either way there was a big plot hole in this regard. I also felt that, with the schools the way they were, Snow White and Beauty and the Beast (both tales were mentioned) would have had to have been stories of failure, and here's why. The Evil Queen is beautiful, so with the way that this book as organized, she should have been good, which means that she could have gone through the school for good, but then become evil, so, because she didn't do what she was supposed to do, the Snow White fairy tale should have been hidden from the students at the school. The same goes for Beauty and the Beast. The beast is ugly, hideous, which means, by the rules that this book set up, he should have been evil. But I imagined that when he and Beauty fell in love, what ever mogrifying enchantment that the school put on him would have come off, showing that he was good all along, and therefore putting shame on the school. Honestly, I think that the story of Beauty and the Beast from this perspective could have been far more interesting than what the author gave us. Can someone please write that? I'd enjoy a book like that if they also didn't include the inappropriate stuff that Becky's review discussed.

The ending was a huge mess. I'm willing to buy that either the birds put Sophie and Agatha in the wrong schools and then didn't want to admit to making a mistake, or that the story dude decided to give a beautiful villain a try to try and even the odds, but even so, the ending was a mess. We were fed this idea that Sophie was going to become evil, and that was what I wanted, but the whole idea that the good must be physically beautiful did not work at all. If evil is physically ugly, that how could Sophie be so evil? (Which she appears to have been, since she killed a wolf and destroyed a magic goose because the goose didn't want to grant her selfish wish to force Agatha into the evil school, though that really should have been better explained.) Then Sophie became physically ugly, and felt a desire to return to good, that didn't make any sense. What I wanted was for Sophie to give into her bad intentions and her jealousy, and to embrace evil in the end. What I wanted was for Agatha to become good, and become a strong leader so that Tedros fell in love with her strength, and her ability to see good in everyone and everything, and the fact that she didn't fall at his feet because he was handsome. What we got was this weird waffling from Sophie, and Tedros and Agatha falling in love for literally no reason. And Sophie and Agatha apparently becoming lovers? I know there are a lot of people who will celebrate this book just because it had an apparent homosexual pairing, but while I enjoyed their friendship (or rather, Agatha's being a friend to Sophie while Sophie takes advantage of Agatha in every way) I honestly didn't buy them being 'in love.' And because the premise appears to be good, I feel that Christians deserve some warning for that ending. I honestly didn't know what was going on from the moment Sophie turned ugly and Agatha was seen as beautiful. Suddenly Agatha and Tedros were in love, when they hated each other before, and yes, Agatha's exposing her cheating with Sophie to save his life could have helped to warm him to her, but she suddenly found herself inarticulate in his presence, and he suddenly decided that he loved her, with absolutely no middle ground, and all of a sudden, Agatha stopped wanting to go home. The whole point of the book was that Agatha didn't want to be there, as Sophie should have grown more evil, Agatha should have grown (slowly) more enigmatic so that people were willing to follow her. And what had previously been a very simple, fairly well-built world came crashing down. Suddenly there were no rules and the action didn't make sense.

The other thing that didn't make sense was that, the wolves were supposed to be failed good students and the fairies were supposed to be failed evil students, but, while I could buy the fairies, the only one that did anything of any importance was the one that was from Sophie and Agatha's village and bit pretty girls, the wolves are another matter. As Becky's review pointed out, one forced Sophie into the uniform, implying that he stripped her and put on the proper outfit. That is sick and evil. One was the torturer who took pleasure in hurting people in the most unimaginable ways. That is sick and evil. But while those two things can be argued away as that the wolves, being properly good, would enjoy hurting those who were in training to become properly bad, the one thing that cannot be explained away was that, when Agatha came to the evil school to try to get Sophie so that they could escape, she was chased by a wolf, and climbed onto the roof to escape it. The wolf then told her that there were worse things than wolves and left her to be, he assumed, eaten by the gargoyles. If the wolves were really good, then you'd think it would have helped Agatha back into the castle and then forced her back to the school for good. I just don't buy what the author was trying to sell. Plus, there is one male fairy and a bunch of female ones, but there only appear to be male wolves, and I find the uneven gender fail-rate to be rather unbelievable, and sort of sexist against men, because it implies that a lot more men cannot control their propensity for bad. Given that more men then women are in jail for serious crimes, I would find an imbalance believable if it were not so extreme.

My final complaint, and I'm sure I have missed things that I initially had a problem with because I waited so long to write this review, is that the book, through it's characters repeatedly tells us that all children are either good or bad, and ignores the fact that all children have both good and bad in them, but usually learn to do evil as they get older, from the adults in their lives. I actually was okay with the characters saying this, because I thought that the first book would be about Sophie becoming evil and Agatha becoming more confident, the second book would be about Agatha and Sophie fighting until Agatha managed to win Sophie and the other 'evil' children's love and respect, and bring them back to good, and I thought the third book would be about them trying to defeat the school master and end the school. But the ending of this book was so jumbled and confusing that it didn't really have an end, and the premise of the next book honestly sounds boring, and I have no intention of continuing with the series. And while my idea for the layout of the series may have been predictable, I honestly would have really enjoyed seeing it happen, but this book was an utter failure with the ending, and I don't see why the ending that we got needed to have a sequel.

So, in conclusion, the premise was a very good one, and Agatha was a wonderful character, but the plot from just about the half-way point is awful and confusing, and the book has some extremely creepy/disgusting implications (as pointed out in the review that I linked above,) and I find myself wondering why the heck the publishers would publish this as a kids book. Heck, why would they publish this at all? I would love to see someone with a better sense of plot, morality, and the knowledge that sometimes making characters be naked is inappropriate and can become creepy and sick, redo this book, preferably with the predictable plot-line that I laid out, but any attempt to fix this mess of a book would probably infringe on copyright, so I guess we're stuck with this terrible garbage where a wonderful story could have been.

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review 2016-06-21 02:40
The School for Good and Evil #3: The Last Ever After
The School for Good and Evil #3: The Last Ever After - Soman Chainani

Rereading my previous reviews of the first two books in this YA fantasy trilogy, my issues remain unchanged in terms of execution: pacing, dramatic moments that don't make a big enough impact, and murky worldbuilding. However, this book is my least favorite of the series because, unlike the first two, it doesn't subvert fairytale tropes in as interesting a way. Although the final message--that one doesn't need a love interest to be happy--is solid and probably still unique for such a story, I miss the play with gender and sexuality present in the first couple books. In the end, it's also still unclear to me what this world's view of Evil actually is.

 

Does it sound like I'm being too serious and picky for a YA novel? Really it's just difficult to discuss a book that does question some major storytelling dichotomies without getting heavy. But there are also so many amazing YA novels and worlds out there that we know what the genre can do.

 

The book still surprised me, as they all have, and Agatha in particular is a complex heroine, with many admirable and relatable moments. She has an inner strength that it's part of Sophie's journey to discover in herself. However, I struggled with a key sequence where Sophie and Agatha feel very suddenly to have changed course. It was also a pain to read Agatha and Tedros's parts in the beginning; they're annoying as hell as they bicker. A lot of the comedy falls flat for me.

 

I see this book is highly rated on amazon, with many saying it's their favorite of the trilogy. I can't agree, but when the movie comes out, I'll look forward to the adaptation as these books have felt more like movies from the start.

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