The School For Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani, was a cute book. Two girls, a blonde fairy tale princess and her best friend who has dark hair and is the daughter of a witch, are magically abducted to the Schools for Good and Evil. Only when they get there, Agatha, the witch’s daughter, is put in the School for Good, and Sophie, the beautiful princess-wannabe, ends up in the School for Evil. While Sophie desperately tries to get to the School for Good through any means necessary, Agatha just wants to get both of them home.
I felt that the book was way longer than it needed to be, and there were definitely parts that dragged. Overall, I liked the theme of “friendships can triumph” and “true love don’t require no man.”
I liked this book enough that I picked up the next one. And I regret that decision immensely.
A World Without Princes, book 2 in the series, basically undoes everything the first book did. (Expect some spoilers from this point on.) This book picks up with the girls back in their magic-free town, and neither one is happy. Somehow, they’re able to get back to school, but things are COMPLETELY different. The Schools for Good and Evil have become the Schools for Boys and Girls. The School for Boys is run by a heartbroken prince whose only goal is to kill Sophie. It turns out that when Agatha and Sophie chose each other over a prince, it showed everyone in this fairy tale world that princesses don’t need a prince to reach their Happily Ever After. All the princesses and queens booted their princes and kings out, and they’ve taken up residence outside the School for Girls to also try to kill Sophie. The School for Girls is run by a mysterious new headmistress with her own unknown goals, but somehow they involve manipulating Agatha and Sophie.
There is SO MUCH wrong with this book. First: the main theme is “feminism going overboard” and the book is written by a man. Yes, men can be feminists. Yes, men can advocate equality for women. However, we’re not in a place yet where a man can determine what a world with feminism going overboard would look like, and then market it to impressionable adolescent girls. Right now we need the exact opposite of that. Book 1 did that beautifully, I don’t understand what Chainani was thinking with this theme.
Second: how is it that every single woman in every fairy tale who had “true love’s kiss” suddenly felt she could live without the love of her life because two teenage girls chose friendship? There is so much more wrong with this world than what surfaces in the book. Tedros, King Arthur’s son, even mentions in this book that true love is forever, and that once a prince or princess finds their true love, separating will cause permanent heartbreak. WHY WOULD A QUEEN KICK HER TRUE LOVE OUT ON HIS BUTT?!?!? The entire world is made up of two dimensional characters, which is bad writing, bad world building, and makes no sense.
Lastly, the antagonist’s motives are extremely backwards. The mysterious evil headmistress who spends the entire book telling the girls to kill all men or enslave them is actually setting all of these plots in motion so she can bring an evil man back from the dead. An evil man who she loved. Who never loved her back.
The plot of this book is so convoluted and two dimensional. Agatha is given two choices: her best friend or her prince. Rather than get mad at her prince for forcing her to choose, she picks him. Then her prince, who supposedly can’t have feelings for anyone else in the universe, falls for someone else. And then Agatha, who catches him kissing someone else, takes him back, no questions asked. I know Chainani has a 3rd book coming out in July, and that he likes to leave loose ends, but I cannot read it after this hot mess of a book.
The one theme this book did handle positively was gender and sexuality. It is suggested that if humans could experience gender fluidity, we’d all be a lot happier. There’s a race that can experience this fluidity, and they do not get involved in wars, or start their own. Later in the book, a supposedly straight character realizes that he feels enough of an emotional connection to another boy that he kisses him, saying he doesn’t care what gender the boy is because he loves him.
I can not say enough how disappointed I was with A World Without Princes. The first book was cute and had some really interesting things to say about fairy tales, feminism, and friendship. This middle book was so backwards. The characters felt flat, the plot dragged and felt incredibly convoluted, and the present themes were shockingly anti-feminist. A very small part of me wonders how Chainani is going to fix this in the third book, but not enough of me to actually go out and get a copy and read it. Do not get invested in this series. It is not worth your time.