- Release Date: May 2013
- Hours: 13.75
- Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy
- Publisher: HarperCollins
Every four years the villagers of Gavaldon will stop at nothing to protect their children from a shadowy figure who whisks them away to a magical school, never to be seen again. Except maybe in the pages of your favorite storybook.
This magical school us where students are trained to become the villains and heroes in your favorite fairytales. When best friends Sophie and Agatha find themselves on different sides of the divide, they must fight to hold on to their friendship and who they truly are.
This book does so well what I think a lot of of villain origin stories just haven’t (I’m looking at you Heartless). Soman Chainani perfectly charts the development of our young heroines as they start off as misanthropic students and grow to embrace their inner good and evil. There are a lot of smart ideas in the world Chainani builds, for example the students with the highest merits become popular heroes; your Snow White or Cinderella, while lower ranking students become sidekicks.
With that said this book is. . . I’m going to say bonkers. It has a lot of funny and sophomoric humor , then it gets suddenly dark in tone. Like there is legit a mass murder and I was like WHAT?! The students are put in maybe not mortal danger, but they certainly get tortured and humiliated so warning if you are giving this to a younger reader.
The story also doesn’t seem to no where it’s”there there” is. It’s like first there is a big forest challenge, then there is a mysterious talent show, Then there is a ball ?All of which felt like a distraction from the big ending which left me both intrigued and scratching my head ?
Sporadicness aside there was something delightful about the absurdity of the book. Chainani has a handful of really touching and challenging moments in his book. As a (here we go) adult reader you pretty much know the lessons the characters are going to learn before they learn them but Chanini changes it up with a bit of humor or a unique idea. You just never know what tropes he’s playing straight and which one he isn’t.
Narrator Polly Lee had her work cut out for her on this audio having to voice a whole cast of teachers and students . She perfectly pitches the heroes to sound prim and proper then she seamlessly transitions to low and gravely for the assortment the villains. As our heroines get drawn into their good and evil surroundings Lee effortlessly transforms her narration right along with them.
I’m so glad I listened to this audiobook. It’s been on my TBR since I saw Soman Chainani at NYC Comic Con in 2015. I’m going to get a physical copy since I missed out on all the illustrations, there was some stuff I couldn’t quite visualize.