Rating – 1 star
This is without doubt in my opinion the dumbest book I have ever read. Hands down it wins the trophy for the most stupidest thing I have read not just this year but over my lifetime.
Now the reason I even picked up this piece of pretentious atrocity that is camouflaging itself as a book was an article I had read about the author and the book in the weekly magazine that is a part of the Sunday Edition of the Hindustan Times, my newspaper. I am sure the person who wrote that write-up was perhaps trying to just fill a page and scratching his head and got the news that Universal pictures has acquired the movie rights to this trilogy in a 7 figure deal. Now Chainani’s Indian roots and not to mention his earlier association with Yashraj Studios gave the poor journo just the opportunity he had waited for.
I thought why not give it a shot, Goodreads in this instance was not much help to me because of the mixed reviews. So I decided to see it in which half I fall in since there are people who love this book and those who don’t. I am with those who don’t.
This ‘book‘ explores the idea, rather the question – what if all the fairy-tale heroes, heroines and villains, that we know of attended a school to hone their skills, perfect their arts and what if that school was the same?
Interesting thought – I can grant that – only the thought is interesting not the outcome.
When it starts of with a vain and incredibly beautiful Sophie in the village of Gavaldon, you get the idea in less than 5 minutes this gal lacks substance big time. Later we meet Agatha, Sophie’ best friend, who lives in a graveyard with her mother and is not a looker.
Agatha comes across as a snarky level-headed sarcastic counterpart to Sophie’ airheaded princess. Neglected by her mother and abandoned by her father, Agatha becomes a recluse, yet craves companionship and friendship. So when Sophie comes knocking, literally, she is more than happy in her heart of hearts and hence loyal to a fault to her friend whose truth she sees but refuses to accept.
In their world every 4 years two kids are taken away to a far-off place after which they graduate on to become fairytale characters. Whether as a hero, heroine, villain, sidekick, henchman or some animal depends upon their talent. There is not a hard and fast rule about who will be chosen. Only that it’s always a pair, could be two girls, two boys or one girl and a boy. They just have to be above the age of 12 and either evil or noble (good) in their hearts to be the chosen ones.
Sophie in her stupid idealistic fantasy is a wannabe princess, who believes the moment she is chosen she will begin her fairytale. And while Agatha thinks all this talk about a school of fairytale characters is a load of crap, Sophie is an ardent believer who is not only convinced about her own fate, but also that of Agatha’s as well, believing she is gonna be the witch to her princess.
Both these girls form a friendship when Sophie decides that the greatest proof of her goodness could be her befriending the village outcast Agatha. And so to land in the school of good she tries to act as nice as possible (for her) to others all the while as the reader sees how incredibly shallow, selfish, vain and cruel she is.
The year Agatha and Sophie turn 12, they are the ones selected from their village.
Sophie is placed in the school of evil and Agatha is picked to be a princess. And both the girls believe there has been an error in their placement, only there is none.
Sophie on landing in the school of evil finds herself as the only attractive looking girl, let me rephrase that, she is the only girl who you can afford to look at in the bunch. You see, being in evil, you have to be stinky, slimy and downright repulsive to look at.
Which if you think about is not exactly the kind of thing you need to read. After all there are people who due to no fault of their own can end up being deformed, owing to birth defects or accidents. But who cares, right? No need to be sensitive y’all.
Moving on, we see Agatha being treated not so nicely by most of the school for ‘good‘ since she isn’t princess material in their opinion. She is treated by these future Cinderellas, Snow-whites & Bellas as if she were a filthy thing here who will spread some sort of a disease if made a contact with.
How wonderful! Right?
Heck even Tedros, the hero of the tale is a shining example of a noble prince. Portrayed as the only son of Arthur & Guinevere, Tedros initially believes Sophie is good based just on her looks and feels her being placed in the school of evil is some sort of mistake. Only when an event takes place, where his life is on the line and he is saved by Agatha and not Sophie does he start questioning his belief and wonder could it be that it was him who had made the mistake and not the School Master – the one who picks these children and decides who should belong where.
And of course starts falling for her. The feeling is naturally mutual. Agatha too, finally turning into the princess that she is starts having feelings for Tedros just like that when initially she is shown to have a disgust for boys especially him. Only once she is a princess and ‘beautiful’ does her heart start speeding when he looks her way, she becomes flushed and nervous etc, etc. I rather would have preferred the old Agatha here, who would rather be constipated than blush.
So by this time if you are not nauseated with the buffoonery that happens with Sophie becoming the fashion guru to the evil-doers and exasperated with Agatha for being such a dimwit, you will be when Agatha starts behaving like a princess.
Not only does she have to faint at the sight of blood, but also she has to be the dumb moron who cannot stand up to her former friend who without her help could not even study things that are the syllabus of the villain’ course and yet transforms into the greatest villain the schools have seen to date.
Agatha who not only excelled at all things taught to be a princess but was Sophie’ tutor too in her studies becomes a helpless little damsel in distress. Why? because she is so pure at heart and good can only defend, forgive, love and give. Not attack, loathe, punish.
Also not to forget, evil cannot have love or is forbidden to love at all. Even if it wants too. And being in the school of good, if you don’t score the boy you are a loser meant to suffer for the rest of eternity.
So either way you can end up screwed over, even if you are beautiful, now isn’t that a cheerful little thought?
If by the end of this nuisance you don’t find a reason to see what absurd trash it is, you will in the end. Why? Because a witch and a princess cannot be friends and should they try to tamper with the balance of good and evil then there are severe consequences. Such as all the princes in the world end up being vanished; which is what happens here and hence serves as the title of the second book in this trilogy.
If Chainani was trying to depict beauty isn’t everything he falls flat. Since that is what exactly comes across at the end of the book. When Agatha transforms into the most beautiful princess the world has laid their eyes on, while Sophie rots on to become someone completely hideous and disgusting.
People realizing that a gorgeous Sophie is someone vile and despicable owing to her deeds and not her rotting body and that Agatha who is a plain Jane is so much more than her looks (And I don’t mean that in a teenybopper high school movie kinda way) would have been so much more preferable.
Sure Chainani tries to sell this as, your true self emerging, but really it isn’t appealing.
Someone can be good and yet be an average looker and someone can be hot as hell and yet be a scum. What you are on the inside doesn’t have anything to do with what you look as and vice-versa. I would have rather preferred it if he had shown, people repelling Sophie and embracing Agatha for who they are despite their looks and not because of them.
Now I must admit the concept in itself isn’t all that bad, what fails here is the execution. What this concept lacks is any iota of intelligence. Yes, I know this is being graded as a children’ book particularly for kids in the middle school, but I certainly won’t call it that. I believe the kids today are quite smart, so yep branding this thing as age appropriate for them would be an insult to the intelligence of these little guys.
Not at all looking forward to the sequel to this one or recommending it even.