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Ambitious, absorbing, and, at times, mouthwatering.

An 8-year-old urchin, “one-fourth street dirt and three-fourths stolen food scraps,” finds herself caught up in an agonizing struggle to reconcile conflicting loyalties.

The Crowns, a ragged band of waifs, is the only family Duck has ever known—so when its sneering, verbally abusive leader proposes planting her in a bakery as an apprentice to steal food and money, she is eager to prove herself. However, Master Griselde Baker is not only sharp as a tack, but possessed of a heart and capacity for love as outsized as her exceptionally tall and sturdy body. So it isn’t long before Duck’s walls of fear and silence begin to crack, along with her resolve. In interleaved chapters Eagar lays down another, tragicomic, storyline narrated by a gloomy gargoyle that has been overlooking the town for more than a century from atop an abandoned, partly built cathedral and feeling useless while railing at pesky pigeons and insulting its fellow grotesques. The author does make these lines converge at the end in a (literally) miraculous climax, but more impressive are the ways she not only wields atmospheric language to make both her vaguely medieval, vaguely French setting and the art and craft of bread making vivid, but kneads her protagonist (the two-legged one) into a resilient, responsible soul who can stay true to everyone she loves no matter how difficult or disagreeable. The main human cast is White presenting; two supporting characters have brown skin.

Ambitious, absorbing, and, at times, mouthwatering. (Historical fantasy. 11-15)

Pub Date: May 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0468-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 3

Ultimately more than a little full of itself, but well-stocked with big themes, inventively spun fairy-tale tropes, and...

Good has won every fairy-tale contest with Evil for centuries, but a dark sorcerer’s scheme to turn the tables comes to fruition in this ponderous closer.

Broadening conflict swirls around frenemies Agatha and Sophie as the latter joins rejuvenated School Master Rafal, who has dispatched an army of villains from Capt. Hook to various evil stepmothers to take stabs (literally) at changing the ends of their stories. Meanwhile, amid a general slaughter of dwarves and billy goats, Agatha and her rigid but educable true love, Tedros, flee for protection to the League of Thirteen. This turns out to be a company of geriatric versions of characters, from Hansel and Gretel (in wheelchairs) to fat and shrewish Cinderella, led by an enigmatic Merlin. As the tale moves slowly toward climactic battles and choices, Chainani further lightens the load by stuffing it with memes ranging from a magic ring that must be destroyed and a “maleficent” gown for Sophie to this oddly familiar line: “Of all the tales in all the kingdoms in all the Woods, you had to walk into mine.” Rafal’s plan turns out to be an attempt to prove that love can be twisted into an instrument of Evil. Though the proposition eventually founders on the twin rocks of true friendship and family ties, talk of “balance” in the aftermath at least promises to give Evil a fighting chance in future fairy tales. Bruno’s polished vignettes at each chapter’s head and elsewhere add sophisticated visual notes.

Ultimately more than a little full of itself, but well-stocked with big themes, inventively spun fairy-tale tropes, and flashes of hilarity. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: July 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-210495-3

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2015

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