Book Review – Villains Academy by Ryan Hammond

books, reviews

Rating: 4 out of 5.

By now, you should know that I love a good piece of middle grade fiction. If it’s an exciting book that’s intended for kids then I’m probably going to read it. It helps that Waterstones email everyone about their books of the month so often. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t even know about the most recent releases. This is one of the books that I was introduced to through email marketing. Honestly, if all of our customers were as easy to market to as I am then my job would be so much easier. This book just sounded like so much fun and I’m always going to be up for a story set in a magical school. Especially

Everyone loves a bad boy, so who wouldn’t want to read about Villains Academy? A school that trains wannabe villains how to be bad. We are introduced to the school along with new student Bram Moon, a werewolf who doesn’t feel very villainous. A feeling that is shared by his teacher and fellow students. Bram is keen to do his best and make his parents proud. However, it’s tough going when everyone expects him to fail. Can he overcome his fears and prove that he has what it takes to be bad? Could he even end up being named Villain of the Week?

There are a lot of fantasy books set in schools but Villains Academy manages to make it seem fresh. Or at least it brings a fun twist to the same old concept. The villainous side to the story is a lot of fun and younger readers will no doubt delight in all of the ways it flips normal behaviours. Like students being afraid to get merits or being grateful to get a detention. There is a great deal of potential in this element and it allows for plenty of silliness. It’s not exactly spooky but there it certainly embraces the darker side. We meet a whole host of creepy characters and they’re all wonderful. Even the grumpy Master Mardybum.

A name that tells you everything about the humour level of this book. It’s got everything you need for a book for children. Silly names, toilet humour and terrible puns. It doesn’t get much better. However, this isn’t just about having fun. Villain Academy has plenty of heart to it. Bram is a great protagonist thanks to his feelings of self-doubt and fear. He questions himself and his ability to make his parents proud. All things that younger readers might see in themselves. There is a strong message here about accepting and loving yourself. About embracing the parts of yourself that are unique and special.

In terms of story, this isn’t exactly breaking new ground but that’s okay. It works really well and will definitely keep readers entertained. This is helped by the amazing illustrations throughout the book. It really helps bring the world to life and adds a new layer of humour. Also, I’m loving the continuing trend of putting drawing guides at the end of kids’ books. It’s such a great feature and I hope it continues. As an adult, it’s always difficult to say whether a children’s book is actually any good. I like to try and judge it on whether the younger me would have loved it or not. I reckon Villains Academy would have been as much of a hit with the younger me as it was with the current me.

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