Author: Jen Calonita
Series: Fairy Tale Reform School #1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Source: Print ARC
A school meant to reform villains has got to be one of the best ideas ever! Aside from my love of reading retellings of fairy tales, it is what drew me to this book. I mean, who doesn’t want to read a book about the better known villains and possible up and coming villains going to school to learn how to reform their evil ways?
This story takes place in Enchantasia and is ruled by the four Princesses – Rose, Snow, Rapunzel, and Ella. Though their names may confuse you a bit they are better known as Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rapunzel (I guess Calonita didn’t feel like renaming her) and Cinderella. The four rule the kingdom of Enchantasia in harmony. However, not everyone is happy with how they do things. Especially those who are not of royal blood.
This brings us to our main character – Gillian Cobbler. Gilly is the daughter of the cobbler and lives in a worn down shoe with her parents and 5 brothers and sisters. There is little to no room in the shoe and there is definitely not enough food to go around, especially since the Princesses have decided that the Fairy Godmother can make all the glass slippers for the kingdom. With the lack of money and the desire to help her family at all costs Gilly steals so that she can help provide the things that her brother and sisters need to survive.
Unfortunately for Gilly, while she is off stealing food and a present to give her sister on her birthday, she gets caught. Being her third offense she is then sent to Fairy Tale Reform School (FTRS) and is to remain there until she can correct her evil ways and follow good.
The Fairy Tale Reform School was created by Flora, Ella’s evil Step Mother. Reportedly Flora saw the evil of her ways and wanted to help other villains find their way to good instead of evil. There are some well known faces amongst the teachers at FTRS. There is Professor Harlow (the Evil Queen), Professor Wolfington (the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood), and Madame Cleo (the Sea Siren/Witch from Little Mermaid). These ex villains have found it in their hearts help others find good in the world like they have.
Or have they? Some thing seems a little off at the school and Gilly plans to figure out what it is. She has to do this while keeping her head down and being on her best behavior, even if she doesn’t feel like it so that she can get out and get back to her thieving ways. Her family is counting on her after all.
This story was brilliantly crafted. Jen Calonita must have really stretched her imagination and creativity bone out to be able to come up with this world. There are so many different fairy tales and aspects of fairy tales throughout the story that it is impossible to name every one of them. It is quite a complex world when it comes to a middle grade book.
That is not to say that there weren’t some rough spots in the story. There were a few times I found myself wondering “how did that person get there?” or “who is that character again?”This is a problem which ultimately I had to lower my rating of the book for. The idea behind the story was top notch in my opinion, but sadly there were a few execution issues.
As far as character development goes, it is quite obvious that some characters got more attention than others in this installment. The teachers at FTRS got quite a bit, as did Gilly and Jax. However, other characters that were used quite a bit didn’t get very much at all. Kayla felt as she was half done. Ollie I didn’t really feel like he got any development and Maxine I felt only got a small bit. Ollie and Maxine, as far as characters go, felt as though they were just filler characters so that the group of friends was more than 2.5 people big (Kayla was actually rarely ever around). I have the deepest hope that all of the characters get rounded out much better as the story line progresses.
I think at times Calonita’s complex universe that is Enchantasia got in the way of the story flowing as smoothly as it could have. Also, trying to cram all the information to introduce use to this world was probably no easy task. I have high hopes that this issue will be taken care of in the next book in this series. We have already been introduced to so much in this world that I don’t think a lot of it will have to be rehashed in the same manner.
Overall, I do recommend this book to middle grade readers. I think that they will really enjoy it. However, I am not sure if it will appeal to adult reader that likes to read books from this age genre, as it can be pretty fluffy at times, more so than other very popular books in this age bracket.
3.5 out of 5 stars
This review is based off of an ARC provided by the publisher for a fair and honest review.