cover image Rise of the School for Good and Evil (School for Good and Evil)

Rise of the School for Good and Evil (School for Good and Evil)

Soman Chainani, illus. by RaidesArt. HarperCollins, $18.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-316152-8

In this provocative prequel to the School for Good and Evil series, Chainani expands on the world’s mythos by returning to the institution’s earliest days. Following golden-skinned Rhian and “milky-white” Rafal’s appointments as Masters at the School for Good and Evil, the school—and the twins’ relationship—maintains a precarious balance between the opposing ideologies as they recruit new students. But when the Storian, the magical sentient pen that chronicles fairy tales, unexpectedly selects petty thief and con artist Aladdin, who cues as Middle Eastern, for Good instead of Evil, that balance tips toward chaos. Rafal’s departure from the school necessitates a new Evil Master, and pirate James Hook’s sudden appearance sows bad blood between the brothers, culminating in a battle for the school’s very purpose as fairy tale purveyors. Lush and realistic illustrations are interspersed throughout. An attempted love spell gone awry is largely unexamined, which raises questions regarding consent, and queer themes are thinly explored. While this tale is enriched by previous series knowledge, and fans will enjoy watching the narrative foreshadow events to come, it is still accessible to newcomers. An episodic, adventurous fantasy offering. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. Agent: Peter Knapp, Park & Fine Literary and Media. (May)