Between the Pages: School of Good and Evil #2 by Soman Chainani

The School for Good and Evil:
A World Without Princes
After reading the first book, I felt obligated at first to read the second book of this series. It became less of an obligation the deeper I got into the story.

As usual, the art is beautiful. Not surprising since it was done by Iacopo Bruno, the same artist from the first book. The plot is also a lot more thrilling for me than the last book. In this book, Chainani is really tearing down the stereotypes.

This book, I think is not only a satire of fairy tales but also the feminism that takes things to the extremes. I never thought it would be something tackled in a book about fairy tales.

While I consider myself a feminist, I do understand that there are some that takes it to the extreme.

I still like pretty dresses, make up and high heels but most people believe that being a feminist is about doing without embracing one's femininity. I believe feminism is about being free to express themselves however they want whether it is in their masculinity or femininity. It is about equality and believing we can be heroes ourselves.

I love this book because it somehow managed to give a silhouette of real life issues without being obvious and deviating from the story. It made made things relatable to females and interesting to guys. I have a younger brother who enjoyed this series about as much as I do.



Summary


Agatha and Sophie returned to their world as heroes. They believed that with their return, it meant that the curse was over. Sophie was eating up the attention --- but like every fad it was inevitable for it to die and move on to something else.

Sophie wasn't ready to let go of the popularity and attention, so she organized a play in honor of the of the anniversary of their return,  Meanwhile, Agatha was beginning to question if she made the right choice not choosing to stay with her prince, Tedros. She would dream of him and little by little the dreams seeded her doubts.

On the day of Sophie's father's wedding to a woman  she greatly disliked, Agatha and the whole town went to witness what they believed would be the biggest event in town. As the bride and groom were about to say their vows, Agatha watched silently but the sight only reminded her of her own love that she left behind. Without knowing it, her heart began calling for Tedros.

All of a sudden, they were under attack by unseen people in the woods. Not only disrupting the wedding but slowly destroying the whole town with their fire and arrows.  Agatha did her best to protect Sophie, and asked their attackers what they wanted the response came quickly.

They wanted Sophie.

At first the townspeople were resilient and supported protecting Sophie. Unfortunately, when they began destroying the town they were the first to demand that Sophie be sacrificed. Even going so far as to beat up Sophie's father when they realized that it was only their house that remained untouched. The villagers became bitter and plotted to kill her. Not believing that the villagers who once adored her would hurt her, Sophie was willing to listen to any plan. Agatha knew better. She knew going along with their plan would mean Sophie's death.

The Elders from the village took Sophie who had been hiding in a church with Agatha and taken to the forest. Agatha went after them. In the forest, Sophie's father was there and he told her that someone took Sophie. Agatha promised him that she would bring her back.

She eventually found Sophie running away from people wearing red cloaks. They managed to escape, strangely enough with the help of blue butterflies. Following them eventually takes them to the School for Good and Evil.

However, they soon discover that things have changed. The two schools weren't divided by good and evil anymore. It had become a battlefield of Boys vs. Girls. Many of their classmates changed drastically. One example is Beatrix. If you read the first book, you might remember that Beatrix was everyone's bet to be the princess. She was the most beautiful girl among the Evers and grandaughter of the girl who outwitted Rumpelstiltskin. In this new era, she had shaved her head and stopped grooming herself.

It was strange also that the girls who had been so boy crazy in the last book were so against men now. For some reason, they all basically thought men were evil.

But one question plagued them. How did they return to this world? Their story was supposed to be finished. The Tale of Sophie and Agatha was supposed to have ended with Sophie and Agatha returning to their world.

There were more changes in the schools. The School for Girls's schoolmaster was a woman called Evelyn Sader and the boys' schoolmaster was now Tedros.

The walls were now decorated with paintings of distorted stories of the female characters, instead of their princes saving the day. Instead of being taught to groom themselves to be more appealing to princes, they were taught to be fight.

Agatha guiltily admitted that she might have began longing for her prince. Lady Lesso and Professor Dovey filled in the rest. They had erased their ending because of it.

This hurt Sophie's feelings, because to her it meant that she wasn't enough for Agatha anymore. They discover that their ending changed to one where Agatha ends up with Tedros.

Of course, this made Sophie very unhappy. Not even Agatha's assurance could help. However, Agatha didn't think they could really leave the world as it was. The girls were at the brink of war with the boys and they couldn't just let that happen, especially knowing that they were mostly to blame for it. To fix everything, they would still need the Storian, the magical pen that wrote their stories.

Agatha had the idea of talking to Tedros, but she would need to sneak into the school. Unfortunately, it didn't work. Tedros blamed both girls for his misery. Sophie for taking Agatha away and Agatha for choosing Sophie and taking away his happy ending. He still loved her but choosing him wouldn't be enough for him. To make sure she would stay, Sophie had to die. The two argued and it didn't help when someone shot at them. Since they didn't think anyone else was in the room. One was blaming the other, not knowing that they weren't alone. Sophie was there and heard their entire exchange. She couldn't stand the thought of Sophie finding her happy ending nor losing her again.

When Agatha returned to the School for Girls, she told Sophie that she would return with her after all. As they continued their odd new lessons in their new school, Agatha couldn't help thinking that there was something strange going on with Sophie. It all began when the always spotless Sophie, showed having a wart. It was a symptom of becoming a witch. Believing her friend was becoming evil again, she became more desperate to end this story.

During the time they were figuring out what to do, they discover one of the their teachers wasn't who she seemed. One of their professors, Helga was actually a male teacher from the School for Evil, Yuba the Gnome. He has the ability to change his gender. This gave the girls an idea, one of them had to steal the Storian by doing the same thing. One of them had to infiltrate the school by disguising themselves as a man.

After a lot of protests, Sophie agreed to be the one to do it. She was turned into Filip and as Filip she developed a close relationship with Tedros. By this time, Tedros had already sent a challenge to the School for Girls for a Trial by Tale. The plan was ruined because Sophie had fallen in love again with Tedros. Only this time as Filip.

When Filip and Tedros almost kissed during the trial, they were seen by Agatha. This lead to an argument between Agatha and Filip. If timing couldn't get any worse, Filip turned back into Sophie. This lead to Tedros feeling more betrayed. First, his princess left him and now the person he thought of as special was the very reason for his misery.

It was here that it is revealed that all the signs of Sophie turning into a witch throughout the book was the work of Evelyn Sader. It was part of the plan to bring back the Schoolmaster. When Tedros and Agatha kissed, Sader stopped the Storian from writing it. She gave time for the Schoolmaster to trick Sophie into kissing him by disguising as her mother.

That kiss brought the Schoolmaster back. He kills Sader and attempts to do the same to Tedros but Agatha saves him. She and Tedros were transported to the girls' world, leaving Sophie and the Schoolmaster to take over both schools.

Characters



Agatha
Agatha of Galvaldon - While Agatha wasn't my favorite character in the last book, I admit that I like her a lot more in this one. She still had the indecisiveness that I didn't like in the first book, but she clearly grew up a little since she seemed to have lost a lot of the prejudices she had before. Everything she learned from the first book, she managed to retain. I am grateful for that since I didn't want to read an entire book of learning those lessons --- again.

Even though she used to rebuke beauty before, now when her classmates were going against embracing the beauty she knew they were capable of for the new school she knew it was wrong.

She is also a lot more stronger as a female character. She was a lot more comfortable in her own skin, more brave about pursuing what she wanted and able to balance her outer and inner beauty. She was taking care of herself physically a lot better, but at the same time keeping up with her studies.

I have read some people being disappointed that in the end she wanted to go after a prince after all. I don't really see it that way and respect her for finally realizing what would make her happy and go for it. A weak character would have been someone who remained with the familiar without taking risks. If she finds happiness with Tedros, as much as I personally dislike him, I respect her for it. I also admire her loyalty to Sophie, even if Sophie doesn't always deserve it.

Maybe my change of heart despite the predictability is how we are eased into her motives gently and not just taken by surprise and simply told with just a vague explanation. I dislike predictability, but the delivery of it was well done.


Sophie
Sophie of Galvaldon - Sophie is ---- Sophie. Still selfish and lost. You dislike her for it, but at times also relate to her. She is selfish and petty and you can hate her for it. At the same time, I can't completely believe she is evil since her frienship with Agatha at this point definitely feels genuine. However, she really is growing up a lot slower than Agatha.

But her motives isn't something we can't understand. She basically wants to be happy, which she associates with a happily-ever-after. She wants someone to love her and be with her always.

I will stop here, because basically I will just be repeating what I said about her on my review of my last book. Basically, she hasn't changed despite really wanting to. She is still that girl who wants her happily-ever-after but has misguided ways of getting it.

Tedros
Tedros of Camelot - Remember when I said that he wasn't so bad in my last review? He makes me forget that many times in the course of this book. While I do feel his love for Agatha is genuine, I really can't stand this character most of the time. His motives are just as petty and immature as Sophie, sadly. I can't help but feel sorry for Agatha sometimes for unluckily have these two in her life. At the same time, she is also the luckiest to have people who love her so much that they want to be selfish when it comes to her.

The son of King Arthur is still as lost as ever. Most of the book, he really doesn't know what to do or what he wants. When he does do something, I can't seem to take it seriously because the choice is rather silly at best.

He wants to kill Sophie for taking Agatha away, but he hates Agatha as well for leaving him. There are even times I wonder if he wants Agatha back for pride more than love, and that was why he was adamant about Sophie needing to die rather than be happy what he was given. Agatha had clearly chosen him, but he still wanted Sophie's head on a platter still.

Art


As I mentioned earlier, just like the first book, the cover and the art found on the pages of the book was made by artist, Iacopo Bruno. I am so glad they kept him because he really kept the tone I loved from the first book.

I can't stress enough how perfect the choice was.

The art still looks like something out of a fairy tale, but it still has a grim tone to it, If you've read a bit of the original fairy tales, you'll understand why I think the grimness really fits the dark tones of the happily-ever afters.

Just by looking at the photo on your left, you might probably already have an idea at least of what to expect in this book. I loved that his art does that without words. It stimulates curiosity and excitement.

Yes, I kept this section even though I gushed about his art before simply so I can flaunt this page. This was a beautiful page. It would be a crime not to show it off.

Conclusion


And we all thought our highschool was a battlefield ...

... this book of School for Good and Evil is one in a more literal sense.  

From the first book, I did feel like it had a lot of potential. Was it perfect? I wouldn't say that, but it was interesting and enough so that it made me want to read the second book immediately. I think this book is actually better than the first one. The supporting cast had more important roles and weren't dismissed as extras. I absolutely love this book for that, if you can't already tell from how worn it now looks. I couldn't put it down or leave it at home while reading it.

This book also felt a lot more crammed than the first book with so many things going on. It is still a satire of the fairy tale genre but it deals with complex ideas. I found many things in this book incredibly clever though. While it took me a while to really get into the first book, this book got me hooked right away.

It doesn't treat its reader like he/she is stupid and doesn't serve everything for you; and as a reader you are free to interpret it as you like. For me, it really kept my mind busy as I associated themes to existing themes in real life. I mentioned earlier the extreme cases of feminism but I also noticed how much the distortion of stories are so much like how our own history changes depending on who tells the story. For example, how Guinevere was originally regarded as a Delilah and later regarded as a role model. Depending on who tells the story, someone like Hitler can be hero or murderer.

Some may stay for the characters because the characters are interesting. Some will stay for the world because that are interesting as well. I stayed for the themes, philosophies and the journey. This book was like someone slamming real life and a book of Grimm's fairy tales together and made that into a book, which is probably the idea.

Despite the supposed target on the book's cover, this is a fairy tale for all ages. Kids and adults. If you were expecting a fairy tale out of Disney, you might be a little disappointed but if you stay until the end you might change your mind.







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