This is book one in a series I liked the dichotomy of the plot It certainly had a lot of action I m not certain that this is truly a book for children The moral ambivalence may be too much for them Although the first book was entertaining, I m not going to pursue the series.
This is a great story BUT and it s a big but, it has really bad messages for girls which concerns me for girls reading independently The story centers on two girls who find themselves taken from their small village and put in a magical school The Good school trains students to become the heroes of the story or their helpers and the Evil school trains villains or their henchmen In their village Sophie is a pretty girl, and she knows it, so she believes she s destined to be a fairy tale princess and belongs in the Good school Agatha is looked down upon and Sophie is equally sure that Agatha will be a witch and belongs in the Evil school Of course we learn Sophie is not meant for the Good school and does not handle that gracefully Agatha has never been sure of herself and doubts her outer appearance so she is just as confused to find herself in the Good school The girls and their fellow students wonder about the girls seemingly being in the wrong schools Plus how can a princess be friends with a witch This is where the story excels by going against stereotypes We learn that beauty is really what s inside and not about outer appearances Agatha learned she really is beautiful as she is and that she does not need to be a conventional blonde princess Unfortunately in the process of getting there the author chooses to say really inappropriate things in a books aimed at a young audience There are multiple references to girls only having value if they are thin One character says you should never eat breakfast so you don t get fat which is the kind of messages that are sent repeatedly throughout this book Obviously this is a dangerous message to be sending to girls There is too much risk today of girls taking this kind of messaging to heart and adding to problems of insecurity or encouraging dangerous dieting or eating disorders When I was considering this book for my daughter I saw no warning anywhere about this Thankfully I read it aloud to my kids do I could edit as I was reading the many times something inappropriate was written.
This makes it a problematic book to review I would strongly recommend against having a girl read this book independently If you read it aloud you could edit or stop and discuss the problematic messages I think the author intends to point out that beauty is what is on the inside but too often had characters only obsessed with their looks, particularly their weight As this story is a journey it may not be clear to a reader that the characters are wrong as they are never corrected.
As a story overall it was fun I enjoyed reading it and found myself reading extra chapters to my kids because I wanted to know what happened next There was an interesting cast of characters, like the inclusion of King Arthur s son and not just conventional story characters I bought this story for my fairy tale loving daughter but her older brother, who hates all things princess, got hooked too He liked the darker aspects and the evil school and requested I not read it aloud without him My daughter was not a big fan of the darker parts but they balanced out enough that it didn t bother her too much Luckily the story usually goes back and forth between the two girls and their schools in each chapter so the darker parts don t last too long Again a fun story but a big concern about the messages that are sent.
This is a story of good and evil, but really, what is evil Is it just the same as good, but with excuses Other than the main characters, the others are poorly developed The male characters sound like they were written by an angry militant feminist the men are weak, unreliable, dishonorable, fickle and altogether not what men should strive to be, both the good and the evil male characters The women are generally shallow and mean, again from both schools, but they are strong I have no problem with strong female characters all women in real life should be strong and self reliant, but I emphatically disagree that denigrating men makes women strong if only by comparison And spoiler alert two 14 year old girls kissing each other on the mouth at the end and saying I love you So what did I learn from this book The author is a committed social justice warrior who thinks men are a waste of space and that good and evil are pretty much the same Mostly I m pleased that I bought only one book On the plus side, the cover art is quite nice.