Wednesday, March 2, 2016

REVIEW | YA Fantasy | A World Without Princes by Soman Chainani

A World Without Princes by Soman Chainani
Publication Year: 2014
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Fairy Tales
Series: The School for Good and Evil, #2
Awards: NA
Format: Audio (from Library)
Narrator: Polly Lee

WHY?:  I really enjoyed the first book in the series and moreover it took me by surprise; seeming like a light confection but having a meatier center than was at first apparent.  

NOTE:  There will be spoilers for Book 1 so if you haven't read it, beware!

SYNOPSIS:  A World Without Princes picks up where The School for Good and Evil left us.  Agatha chose to save her friend Sophie over staying with her Prince, Tedros, and they are now back in their home village just as Agatha always wanted. And yet.... Agatha is not entirely happy and when her heart makes a secret wish, the girls find themselves back at the school.  It has changed though and instead of being split between Good and Evil, it is now split between boys and girls and all of Fairy Tale land is in chaos.  Can Sophie and Agatha's friendship survive the trials that are to come?

My emotions about this book are kind of all over the place which is perhaps to its credit but also makes it very hard to coherently review.  One of the things that was most appealing about book one is that it was mostly a fun and funny fairy-tale farce with a little bit of non-conventional umph at the end to make you (or really me) go hmmmm....  It had problems one of which was that it felt a bit disjointed and didn't always flow, character's actions didn't always make sense but it was relatively easy to overlook because it was otherwise pretty delightful and Agatha and Sophie were great characters.  Unfortunately this book suffers from the same disjointedness (admittedly this may have been exacerbated by listening rather than reading) and it was just so much more serious and grim than book one.  The angst was dialed up to the max and that took a lot of the joy out of reading it for me. 

I was also constantly teetering on the brink of discomfort over the boys vs. girls thing.   The message sometimes seemed to be that girls need boys and that true love is more important than friendship.  In the end I think the message, like the first book, was meant to be that looking at the world in black/white, either/or is a mistake that can have disastrous consequences.  I'd be interested to hear what other folks who've read the book took away from it?

The characters were also a little disappointing.  They are modeled on fairy tale characters so they are certainly going to have extremes to their personality but I found none of them terribly likeable in this book.  I kept wanting Agatha to kick both Sophie AND Tedros to the curb because they are both insanely, unbelievably selfish.  The story tries to give them motivations for their behavior but it just didn't work for me.  Sophie is a terrible and extremely annoying friend so it is no wonder she is not "enough" for Agatha.  Agatha's relationship with both Sophie and Tedros is unhealthy at best and she's lost a lot of the independent, courageous bad-assness she had in book one.  On the plus side, I like how Chainani framed this in the age -old conflict most of us experience as teens; moving away from friendships when romantic relationships start to intrude.  In fact by the end of the book that is the central conflict: friend love vs. romantic love and because this is fairy land it can only be one or the other and not both.

Towards the end, the book really picks up action and interest wise and it ends on a huge and very interesting cliff hanger.  There is also an interesting development during a mission Sophie undertakes and I'm not at all sure where Chainani is planning to go with that if anywhere.  Therefore, despite my complaints, I will not be able to stay away from the concluding book in the trilogy The Last Ever After.  I enjoyed the book well enough and it at least produced a lot of emotions even if many of them were negative.  It also says something that I have NO idea where Chainani will take the story in book 3 and that's exciting.

A last note on the audio which is adequate.  I don't love the narrator but she didn't irritate or interfere too strongly in my enjoyment of the book.  One negative which may be more of a production note is that there are no discernible pauses when the narrative takes its frequent jumps between perspectives and I often found that confusing.

FINAL VERDICT:   A roller coaster read and an intriguing sequel to The School for Good and Evil.  
3 out of 5 Stars.

Other Opinions are Available: The Book Smugglers | Dear Author

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