In real life, you don't often get a happy ending -- because, you know, your life continues to go on and change and evolve until you (hopefully) reach a ripe old age and die. I mean, you wouldn't want to bite it RIGHT after you kiss your crush, right?
Anyway -- the same is true in the world of Soman Chainani’s "The School For Good And Evil." In this fairytale world, kids either attend the school for, well, good or evil. This determines how the fairytale that is their life progresses. The book centers around Sophie, who totally wants to be good -- and get her “happily ever…” -- and Agatha, who thinks she’s headed for evil. Both are pretty shocked when the inverse is true.
The final book, “The School for Good and Evil #3: The Last Ever After,” takes place AFTER the two girls get their separate "The Ends" -- or, so they think. While you mull over what, exactly, that means, check out an exclusive excerpt from the book before its July 21 release date!
As her fever deepened, Sophie’s nightmares grew clearer. Tonight she’d been dreaming of a pitch-black tunnel with a halo of light at its end. Floating in the dark tunnel was a giant gold ring, lined with razor-sharp teeth, spinning in midair and blocking her path. As she moved towards it, the ring spun faster, until she could see her reflection in the mirrored blur of teeth. Only, as she drew toward the ring, Sophie realized the reflection wasn’t hers at all. It was a face she’d never seen before -- a strange man’s, with wild brown hair, dark, leathery skin, and a fat, hooked nose. Confused, Sophie leaned in to see him... closer... closer... until the man lifted black, bloodshot eyes, with a dangerous grin.
Then he stabbed out his hands and slammed Sophie into the guillotine of teeth.
Sophie gasped awake, scared out of her wits.
She froze dead still. Someone was in the chamber. Scratching and rustling, like a black cat sharpening its nails. Chest hammering, she squinted into the early morning. No one there. Slowly she turned her head and to her relief, saw it wasn’t a person making the sounds, but a whirring gleam of steel. Still half-asleep, she first thought it a spindle, before she remembered spindles were for Sleeping Beauty, the lamest princess of all time and surely dead by now since she was old and old people die and Sophie wasn’t old or dead... and well, that finally got her out of bed.
She had to blink a few times to make sure what she was seeing was indeed there: the Storian itself doing all that scratching and rustling -- the pen that had dimmed the Endless Woods by refusing to write, now... writing.
But how? she thought. The Storian had been stalled over the last page of her and Agatha’s storybook for weeks. It hadn’t moved an inch when she took the School Master’s ring. Which meant it wasn’t her ending the pen had been doubting, but rather...
Sophie’s heart skittered. Impossible...
Pulling her blankets around her, she tiptoed forward in her saggy black nightdress, afraid the slightest sound might disrupt it. But as Sophie grew closer, she saw the pen wasn’t writing at all, but chipping at her storybook like a bricklayer removing bricks, scraping off the last line, letter by letter, until “THE END” was fully gone.
With a red-hot glow, the Storian twirled into the air, like a butterfly freed from its cocoon, and dove back down to the book, continuing the story right where it left off. The steel nib spilled ink onto brand-new pages, filled by dozens of flurried paintings Sophie could hardly follow: walls of emerald flames... guards in black masks... swan-marked tombs... a cadaverous wolf and giant.. until swirls of forest green streaked across a blank sheet.
Two lean bodies came into view, framed by the high, twisting trees of the Woods. Sophie watched the pen fill in the blankness of their faces... a boy’s slate-blue eyes and juicy lips... a girl’s flat brows and sunken cheeks... It can’t be, she thought, waiting for the Storian to slash an errant line. But every stroke made the scene more and more real, as if birthed from her own memory, until Sophie was sure this was all still a dream, for the pen was drawing two people in the Woods -- two people who couldn’t be in the Woods, because they’d found a happy ending somewhere else. She pinched her arm hard, expecting to wake up in bed, but they only grew clearer: Agatha and Tedros, alive on the page, gazing at her with wide eyes, inviting her in.
They’re... back? Sophie gasped, heart swelling. Jealousy and betrayal and pain broke away like a soft eggshell and a warm wave of hope flooded through her before she could keep it down. She caressed her two best friends, looking out of her storybook, and let herself feel what she’d been ashamed of all this time.
I miss you, Aggie.
I miss you, Teddy.
Tears rising, she imagined herself in the empty space on the page between them.
Until the Storian drew Agatha and Tedros’ hands intertwined across the gap, the two Evers following a shadow into the darkness of the Woods.
Sophie studied their clasped fingers, no longer any room for her.
“They’re coming for you,” said a voice behind her.