Official book description:
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 and 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…?
There was a lot of potential here, and some very clever playing with traditional fairy tale tropes. Unfortunately, there was also quite a lot of things that didn’t work for me – the chief one being Sophie, one of our two protagonists. I’m all for female characters getting to be as complex and potentially anti-heroic as male ones, but I don’t think the author manages what he sets out to do with Sophie. She just comes across as a controlling, manipulative, prejudiced and narrow-minded b*tch for most of the book. She doesn’t seem to care about anyone but herself and her own ambitions, completely unfazed by whom she hurts or takes advantage of to achieve her goals. She seemed like a very natural fit for the School of Evil.
On the flip side, Agatha, who is supposed to be the more palatable protagonist, is a little bit too timid and her lack of confidence grated on me after a while. Maya Angelou said “If someone shows you who they are, believe them” – well, Sophie time and time again shows herself to be an utterly awful “friend”, a self-centred egomaniac with no real affection for Agatha. Our little emo Goth should have told Sophie to sod off, instead of spending most of the book risking herself to help her.
There’s also a very contrived love triangle in this book, with Prince Whatshisface (I can’t bother to look up his name – he’s the son of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere – now that’s a fun legacy) initially falling for Sophie based entirely on her looks, but unwillingly finding himself drawn towards Agatha again and again (he’s a shallow jock, you can do way better, girl!).
Full review on my blog.