A World Without Princes by Soman Chainani
The School for Good & Evil #2
Expected Publication: April 15th 2014 by HarperCollins
In the epic sequel to the New York Times bestselling novel, The School for Good and Evil, Sophie and Agatha are home, living out their Ever After. But life isn't quite the fairy tale they expected.
When Agatha secretly wishes she'd chosen a different happy ending, she reopens the gates to the School for Good and Evil. But the world she and Sophie once knew has changed.
Witches and princesses, warlocks and princes are no longer enemies. New bonds are forming; old bonds are being shattered. But underneath this uneasy arrangement, a war is brewing and a dangerous enemy rises. As Agatha and Sophie battle to restore peace, an unexpected threat could destroy everything, and everyone, they love—and this time, it comes from within.
*An ARC was provided by HarperCollins in exchange for a honest review*
A World Without Princes is the follow-up to The School for Good and Evil, which was a debut full of promise for me. I was very eager to see how the story would develop in the sequel, how the characters would evolve and how also they would actually end up back at the School for Good and Evil - especially considering the ending of book 1. As I mentioned when I read the first book, this is a series that has it's basis in 'classic fairy tales'which means it follows in the tradition of a prince seeking his princess and/or a princess seeking her prince. In my first visit to The School for Good and Evil I found myself wishing the plot had shaken things up a bit more when it came to usual fairy tale tropes but this time, I was prepared for the style...and that might be why I found myself enjoying A World Without Princes even more than it's predecessor!
Now I'll admit that I'm probably biased : give me a story about a magical school and I am a happy girl on principal. It should come as no surprise then that the idea of returning to the School for Good and Evil was appealing to me. I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by how author Soman Chainani went about bringing both his main characters Agatha & Sophie back there in a totally new and exciting way. In fact, I found that whole return-sequence to be riveting; a real thrill-ride that unravelled in my mind like a beautifully animated cartoon! Once the girls arrive at the school, they find that some alarming changes have taken place. Instead of having dual schools with one dedicated to good and one dedicated to evil (like their first year there), the two girls discover a new kind of fairytale: one with a school for girls and a school for boys! And now both sides consider the other one to be the enemy... all because of Sophie and Agatha's fairytale from the previous year.
I was hooked on the premise for A World Without Princes from the start, in equal parts out of curiosity about the change in schools and because I want to know how the girls' fairy tale will eventually end up. In the first book, I had mentioned that I thought the story focused a lot more on Sophie's character while my favorite, Agatha had been a little left out. I was pleased that this time around Agatha was a lot more front and center. We got to see how being the princess in her fairytale has changed her from the goth-witch girl she once was. On the other hand, Sophie continues to inevitably have the more compelling story arc, because of her constant battle with the villain inside her, so I revelled in getting her side of the story as well. And while I wasn't necessarily a huge fan of the idea that Agatha must choose between her Prince and her best friend, remembering that this is a place young people are taken to learn how to be fairy tale princes, witches and princesses helped me put aside my concerns and just enjoy the ride.
Much like the first book, A World Without Princes had a lot of humor and a little more gender-bending hints at forbidden romances. I love the tongue-in-cheek quality it's written in, just enough to raise questions and discussions with younger readers without being too alarming for the more conservative folks out there ;-) Again part of me does wish it might have pushed the envelope a little more, but that fact never really dampened the fun I was having while reading this. There is some really cool and exciting magic here...as well as some more familiar tropes, reminiscent of that other series set magical school...but all in all, it had a fresh, well rounded blend of fantasy. In fact, there was a bit less magical training per-say this year - likely due to the plot-twist - but there were some new magical elements to their classes and day-to-day activities so it all balanced out in the end.
More than anything though, I think what kept me on the edge of my seat was that this time around, it wasn't always clear who was good and who was evil. Sure one of two of them were obviously baddies but their motives were anything but obvious. There's nothing like a good mystery to keep me compulsively reading until I know ALL THE ANSWERS! The ending was a major twist for me - I did not see that one coming - which of course brought on major anticipation for the third book! If you enjoyed The School for Good and Evil, you should definitely check out A World Without Princes!