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Next Top Villain is the first book of the Ever After High book series, written by Suzanne Selfors. It was released on January 06, 2015.

Summary

Chapter 1: Swan Song

It is morning at Ever After High and as usual Duchess Swan is awoken by the honking of her pet swan Pirouette. As usual, this also wakes up Duchess's roommate, Lizzie Hearts, who is not a morning person and grumblingly goes back to snoring. Because Pirouette needs her morning flight, Duchess lets her out of the window before she gets dressed herself. It's only a moment after becoming presentable when Apple White and Ashlynn Ella barge in to complain about Duchess's choice of alarm clock that wakes up the entire dormitory every morning. Duchess is deeply insulted and hurt, not to mention angry that the two girls in front of her have a Happily Ever After and nothing bigger to complain about than a swan honking, while her family curse will one day condemn her into the body of a swan forever. She forces herself to stay pleasant about the confrontation and is saved from further irritation by Lizzie, who momentarily wakes up and orders the girls out. As everything becomes quiet again, Pirouette returns. Duchess feeds her and uses the moment to write her diary entry for the day. Caught by her desire for a Happily Ever After, she does not get far, because she knows she is duty-bound to uphold the family name.

Chapter 2: Ugly Duckling

On her eighth birthday, Duchess awoke to find her feet changed into those of a swan. It terrified her, but her grandmother assured her they'd change back and that over time she'd learn to control the transformation. They did not return to normal before school, however, and though Duchess didn't want to go, her grandmother forced her to. Duchess was made fun of the entire day, calling her an "ugly duck", but by the end of the school day she was just glad to have her own feet back finally. For the rest of the year, Duchess experienced a plethora of changes, some she could keep private, others she couldn't. For a while, Duchess lived between fear and ridicule, until walking home from school one day she spotted a trail of feathers that looked just like the ones she'd often shed. She followed it and found the feathers to belong to the swans that migrated to the lake behind her home very winter. Observing them, she spotted many similarities between her and them and regained a sense of belonging. From that day, she worked on mastering the transformation and gained control by the age of ten. She saved the reveal for Swim Class, when the students had to perform a swan dive. Most failed miserably, but Duchess, the last to go, performed a perfect dive highlighted by a transformation halfway. She was never called an ugly duck again.

Chapter 3: Royal Roomies

As always, while Duchess is well in time to attend classes, Lizzie is running around the room frantically looking for an outfit to wear. Being a Wonderlandian, she doesn't do "organized", and being royalty in exhile, she's still getting accustomed to taking care of herself. Duchess takes the time to read the just-delivered mail, the first of which is from her grandmother who says she misses her but knows she's away to protect the family honor. The second scroll is the list of classes assigned to her this semester. It's the usual fare but for one: General Villainy. With not a drop of evil blood in her lineage, Duchess does not understand why she's made to attend the class. It turns out Lizzie is placed in the same class, but for her it's a fit was the future Queen of Hearts. The two grab their bags and head for General Villainy. Duchess appreciates the company, if only because Lizzie easily orders a clear path through the hallways and that gets them quicker to class to argue for a transfer. With a limited time to live as a human, Duchess does not intend to waste time on a subject that she has no affinity for. Their walk is paused, however, when Shuffle, Lizzie's pet hedgehog, escapes her bag and runs off. Lizzie orders her returned and the one doing so is none other than Daring Charming.

Chapter 4: A Charming Crush

Duchess has had a crush on Daring for a very long time, just like most girls at Ever After High. He never so much as bothered to remember her face even when they shared classes, but that has not done a thing to taint Duchess's opinion of him as 100% perfect. Lizzie is not one of most girls, but she appreciates Daring bringing Shuffle back to her. What she does not appreciate is Daring getting in her way when she wants to resume her walk to class, nor does she appreciate the arrogant and invasive way in which he asks her for a date. She turns him down in no uncertain terms, leaving both Daring and Duchess flabbergasted. Suppressing envy for her friend, Duchess runs with her when the five-minute warning bell chimes.

Chapter 5: The Cauldron Room

General Villainy is taught in the dungeon, a place located deep underground that can only be reached by going down two steep and narrow stairwells. Neither girl likes it or finds it appropriate to deny villains the comfort of an elevator, but they manage to get to their classroom safely. They are invited by Ginger Breadhouse to sit on the two stools next to her and Lizzie runs over, but Duchess prefers to stay at the door to await the teacher. Mr. Badwolf comes in soon enough, but he harshly rejects Duchess request to be transferred. Outraged, Duchess concedes to sit down for now. On Badwolf's sarcastic challenge for the class to voice any other complaints, Lizzie tries her luck with the elevator and a few other gestures of comfort, but Badwolf turns her down too. With no one else speaking up, Badwolf finally begins class. He welcomes the students to General Villainy, which he assures them to be one of the most demanding classes at Ever After High. This piques Duchess's interest, because she's got nothing but A's on her transcript and is determined to keep it that way. Badwolf's next words frighten her though: every student present is hand-selected by Headmaster Grimm either because they are from an evil bloodline or because they have capacity to be the first in their family to go bad.

Chapter 6: Rebel Roll Call

After the introduction speech, Badwolf proceeds with a roll call. The first on the list is Faybelle Thorn, who is thrilled to be in General Villainy. Badwolf tells her giddiness is not fitting for a villain and she promptly switches to a cheer for evilness. Next is Ginger Breadhouse, who has baked cinnamon trolls for the entire class. The teacher stuffs his mouth with several of them, but rebukes that villains don't go around handing out treats and gives her a DG for her first day. DG stands for "do-gooder" and is the worst grade in General Villainy. Lizzie is the third to be roll called and she fakes a temper tantrum to please the teacher. Fourth is Sparrow Hood, who makes it clear he's not interested in putting any effort in his classes. The fifth student is Raven Queen, a student whom Duchess despises. As a Royal, Duchess believes that it is okay to question your destiny, but only if you do so privately and not abandon your duties. Raven has openly defied the traditions of the Fairytale World and many others have followed her example. Upon Faybelle's insistence Raven does not belong in General Villainy, Raven sarcastically asks for a transfer, but is denied as well. The last student on the list is Duchess herself.

Chapter 7: Duchess's Dilemma

Unlike the other students, Duchess is denied the time to introduce herself. Badwolf hands out the textbooks and wheels a chalkboard to the front of the class. He crudely draws a pig inside a house made of straw and asks his students what they'd do to get to the pig if they wanted to eat it. Faybelle says she'll order takeout instead, Ginger insists she wouldn't eat it because she knows a few pigs and they are nice, Sparrow is at most willing to write a song about it, and Lizzie details that she'd order the pig to come out but not eat it because she agrees with Ginger. When Duchess is tasked to answer, she refuses on account of not being a villain. Raven, finally, answers that the solution looked for is for them to blow down the pig's house. Badwolf compliments her, which worries Duchess. If she is to take General Villainy she will not be anything less than the best of the class. She demands a chance for a better answer, but can't think of one. Raven saves her from humiliation by changing her answer too: the pig has worked hard on its house and deserves to be left to live in peace. Realizing that he's facing the worst class of villains ever brought together, Badwolf concocts a special homework assignment. Each student is to perform one evil act by the end of Friday and there is a catch. Only one student can get an A; everyone else will get a Fairy-Fail. Badwolf also offers the winner a prize they can pick personally from his personal treasure stash, ensuring that even Sparrow will put in some effort. Raven is the only one unconvinced, earning more of Duchess's ire when she learns from Faybelle that the Evil Queen is the richest woman alive anyway.

Chapter 8: A Scoop of Snoop

Duchess sits alone during lunch again. She is fine with that, because the only person she tolerates to join her is Lizzie and Lizzie's having lunch with the other Wonderlandians. Her ponderings on what to do to get that A are disturbed by the sudden broadcast of Just Right, the news MirrorCast hosted by Blondie Lockes. Her topic of the day and the rest of the week is Next Top Villain, which is what she has named the General Villainy students' homework assignment. Faybelle is Blondie's guest for the first segment and she is convinced she will win. Once it's over, Lizzie joins Duchess to discuss their predicament: Lizzie wants to live up to her mother's reputation and Duchess doesn't want to be anything less than perfect. Their talk is cut short by the arrival of Daring, who attempts to pester another date out of Lizzie. Lizzie quickly leaves to escape him and Duchess attempt to get Daring to ask her instead are ignored. Duchess is only alone once more for a short time, because she is joined by Sparrow. Sparrow offers her to team up for the assignment, since they are the only once in class with no evil to them and need to form a front to stand a chance. Duchess counters that he's only out for a partner who'll do the work for him, but he explains that, while the grade is not worth the effort to him, he does want that prize. She can have the grade if she'll let him pick the prize. Duchess replies she will consider it.

Chapter 9: Madame's Message

Advanced Ballet is a class taught at the Red Shoes Studio, which is managed by the Twelve Madames of The Twelve Dancing Princesses fame. Advanced Ballet is Duchess's private afternoon class, so she hurries through the Village of Book End on foot. She'd fly, but her bag with the General Villainy book is too heavy for her swan form. As a talented dancer who's practiced from the day she could walk, the session is a breeze. It is there after that is hard for Duchess, because Madame noticed something was bothering her and as she also watches Just Right, she knows what that something is. She talks with Duchess, sharing that Next Top Villain is not about whether Duchess is good or evil, but whether she is willing to lose or not. As a ballerina, Duchess should be able to do anything she sets her mind to, reaping the reward of adoration as she does on stage at the cost of sacrifice and solitude as she does practicing alone until her legs give out. As Duchess recalls her childhood where neither pain nor isolation could stop her from dancing, she hears the laughter of Lizzie, Maddie, and Kitty outside, who are on their way to the Haberdashery & Tea Shoppe. Behind them walks Raven, who doesn't seem at all worried about the homework. Duchess gets angry again at Raven for rejecting her responsibilities when Madame points out that if a ballerina resigns from the leading role, another must fill her place.

Chapter 10: Swan Secrets

Duchess is disturbed during dinner by Blondie, who wants an interview for Just Right. She only gives her a few vague answers, which is enough for the enthusiastic journalist to report on and rush off to the next student. Tired, Duchess opts to go to the Ever After High pond as a swan and spend a few quiet moments with Pirouette and the others. Though these moments are precious to her, she is sourly aware she does not want this to be her permanent life one day. As a swan, Duchess is indistinguishable from the others and therefore no student or teacher passing by recognizes her. The same is true for Ginger, who comes over to feed the swans crumbs. Duchess is not interested, but she does swim closer when Ginger has a call with her mother and drops the word "homework". Through this, she discovers that Ginger plans to coat her cinnamon trolls with sandman powder and hand them out in the castleteria on Wednesday. All students present will fall asleep and miss their first classes for the day. It's not an impressive evil act, but more than Duchess can claim to have thought up. As Ginger leaves, Duchess remains just a little longer before deciding to return to her dorm room. That is, until she spots Badwolf and Grimm having a hushed conversation. She swims inconspicuously closer until she can catch their words. She learns that Ever After High is in trouble, because the rebellion has important families threatening to transfer their children to other schools. The only way to calm them and prevent the end of Ever After as it is is to get the education of the next Evil Queen back on track and if Raven refuses, then they need someone else. Badwolf voices his frustration about the current General Villainy class and asks why Ms. Swan is even in it. Warning him that is classified information, Headmaster Grimm shares that he and others believe that Duchess has a black swan side that makes her the perfect next Evil Queen. Furthermore, by putting her in General Villainy, Duchess will develop her black swan self naturally as she aims to be the best of the class. And once she aces General Villainy, she'll move on to Advanced Villainy and get access to powerful dark magic: magic that she'll soon enough realize can save her from her cursed destiny as the Swan Queen. By the time she'll have mastered that magic, she'll be a perfect fit for the role of Evil Queen. As the two teachers leave, done talking, Duchess remains behind in confusion. The chance to change her fate with the approval of the Headmaster is too good to pass up, but she is not a Rebel.

Chapter 11: Duchess's Decision

Sitting in front of her diary on Tuesday morning, Duchess wonders what to do because never before relied her grades on doing anything that tarnishes her reputation as a good princess. Success means following the path of villainy, failure one FF on her otherwise impeccable grade list as well as loss of her one chance to not become a swan forever. At a loss, Duchess asks Lizzie if she'd be willing put both her own and her family's good name at stake if it meant she could return to Wonderland and be the queen she wants to be. Lizzie sits up and doesn't hesitate to say that she'd do anything to live happily in Wonderland again. Duchess takes this as a push for her to go with Grimm's plan and get her happiness. As Lizzie jumps out of bed to rush her outfit together again, Blondie barges in with her MirrorPad on record. The two roommates are angered, but that alone doesn't get Blondie out. She relays that her Next Top Villain broadcast is well-received and she wants more material. Duchess is collected enough to refuse to answer what her plan is, but Lizzie stumbles out of the closet with Shuffle on her head and admits she's got nothing still. That's all Blondie needs. By the time the roommates reach the castleteria, footage of a clumsily dressed Lizzie saying she doesn't know what to do is on the MirrorNet. This angers Lizzie, who proclaims that Blondie should be the one in General Villainy.

Chapter 12: Princess Practice

The first class that day is Princessology and the class heads outside for a special lesson. As princesses and future queens, all Princessology students have to become trained equestrians to be able to travel in style. Lizzie is one of the students who doesn't look forward to it, because horses aren't that easy to order around. The White Queen has no ear for the complaints and shows the students the obstacle course. She elaborates that they will practice during the week and that on Friday the test will follow. Lizzie and Duchess shoot up in shock and Blondie is instantly upon them to ask if the double homework is stressing them out. Lizzie angrily pushes the MirrorPad away from her, while Duchess looks over to see Raven huddled on her bench. Raven looks back at her, and while Duchess believes Raven has nothing to complain because her magic should allow her to win the General Villainy test, she does acknowledge they're both in an unpleasant situation.

Chapter 13: Horse Course

Duchess has only a few years less experience with horses than with ballet, so the Princessology test on its own doesn't have her worried. Lizzie is not as fortunate and she has trouble keeping steady on her horse, more so because the White Queen insists the students sit sidesaddle. The students follow the White Queen's lead through the obstacle course, past an adoring crowd to wave at, an angry crowd to keep their heads held high to, dragon dung to avoid, a moat to cross, and a witch to ignore. The big obstacle is a troll bridge, which is guarded by a troll. Lizzie hits him with her scepter, but the White Queen disapproves because a princess always gets a prince to help her out. Briar calls the Emergency prince patrol, but the prince on duty refuses to come because he's updating Dragon Conquest Sixteen. Furious, the White Queen grabs the phone and as she lectures the other side, the princesses dismount to take a break. Their peace lasts only shortly, because suddenly a loud screeching come from the forest nearby. The horses panic and stampede back to the stables. Raven realizes it is Sparrow's "music" coming from his tree house-dorm room and Duchess offers to go tell him to stop. Her true intent is to take him up on his offer to cooperate on the assignment, because she has thought up nothing on her own yet. She runs off and, when she is out of sight, transforms to fly the rest of the route.

Chapter 14: Hood's House

Sparrow is so caught up in his own music that Duchess has to throw a pillow at him to get his attention. He arrogantly asks if she's here to buy his demo, but she cooly notifies him his music scared of the horses during Princessology. Sparrow doesn't care and asks if there's a reason she herself came to tell him to quit playing and Duchess replies she's also here to hear him out on the partnership. Because acing Next Top Villain is important to Duchess nowadays she takes the risk of sharing Grimm's reasons for putting her in General Villainy with Sparrow, hoping that him being a Rebel means he won't judge her choice like a Royal would. Duchess doesn't even have to say what she needs magic for; Sparrow guesses it in one go, which is why she decides to trust him. After getting her a fairycherry soda to calm her nerves, he asks what they've got so far. Duchess relays that Raven is their biggest competition, that all she herself can do is dance and turn into a swan, and that she knows what Ginger's plan is. Sparrow points out that turning into a swan and eavesdropping unnoticed is Duchess's strength, while his is being lazy. All Duchess has to do is learn the others' plans too and sabotage all her classmates as her own act of evil. All he has to do is do nothing, so Duchess will have one student less to worry about. Because he already gave her a plan, Duchess grudgingly accepts this as a partnership. Upon her worry if sabotage is evil enough, Sparrow ensures her it is, if only because she also has to betray a friend. Duchess hesitates for a moment at that notion, because Lizzie is all she has at Ever After High, but a future as human wins out.

Chapter 15: Sweet Sabotage

Early on Wednesday morning, Duchess sneaks out to the Cooking Class-ic classroom to sabotage Ginger's scheme. She finds a large collection of cinnamon trolls lined up and realizes Ginger must have baked late into the night to get them all done. Fortunately, the bottle of sandman powder stands untouched and Duchess quickly flushes it through the sink and refills the bottle with sugar. Before she can put the cork back, though, Ginger comes in. Duchess fears her plan foiled before it even started, but Ginger simply assumes Duchess followed the scent of the cinnamon trolls and offers her one, warning her not to take any of them once she's done icing them. She also asks if Duchess wants to help her carry them to the castleteria at breakfast, which Duchess agrees to, confused about how sweet Ginger is and still needing to put the cork back in the bottle. When Ginger turns around to get the cinnamon, Duchess acts quickly and the young witch becomes none the wiser. On their way to the castleteria, they stop by the teachers' lounge to ask Badwolf to come along and witness Ginger's act of evil. Badwolf is pleased Ginger uses her remarkable cooking skills for evil this time and proudly follows his two students to the castleteria. The cinnamon trolls are gone in no time and Ginger happily awaits the inevitable sleep to take out all her fellow students. But as time passes, nothing happens. Badwolf becomes irritated at Ginger's incompetence and gives her a FF, while Faybelle flies by and ensures she won't disappoint him. Ginger takes the FF in stride, taking joy out of knowing everyone liked her treats. As Duchess sits down for breakfast, Just Right comes on and Blondie reports on Ginger and Sparrow being out of the running. She wonders aloud who the next one out will be and proposes Lizzie as the most likely candidate what with the double trouble of Princessology on Friday too. Duchess just smiles to herself, finding being evil to be both easy and rewarding. At that moment, Faybelle flies by with a smirk on her face that prompts Duchess to mark her as her next target and follow her.

Chapter 16: Fairy Dust Feast

Overconfidence turns out to be Faybelle's weakness. The head cheerhexer can't resist trashtalking the other General Villainy students and announcing her plan to her teammates at the sports fields. Duchess hides among the flamingos used during games of Wonderlandian croquet. Even though her white feathers sharply contrast with the flamingos' pink plumage, the cheerhexers don't notice her because their attention is on Faybelle and Faybelle is caught up in her pre-victory joy. She slides a satchel with fairy dust, which is a powerful magic ingredient, from her sleeve and holds it up teasingly to the other cheerhexers, who all quickly fly off but for one. Unfazed, Faybelle's gaze falls on the pen with sleeping hedgehogs also used for Wonderlandian croquet and forms an idea. She explains to her one remaining teammate that she will turn the hedgehogs into actual hogs by feeding them the fairy dust. She wants Badwolf to see them transform, though, so she sprinkles it over their food and flies off to get Badwolf before they awake. Duchess knows she has to act quickly and rushes over to the pen to see the hedgehogs wake up. She hisses at them to scare them off and tries to separate the fairy dust from the food, but finds the two too much alike. With no other option, she pecks up all the kibble and makes her way to a garbage can to spit it out. The hedgehogs are grumpy she stole their food, but Duchess is elated that she thwarted a fairy. When Faybelle returns, along with Badwolf, Blondie, and a few other students, Duchess hides behind a shed and watches a scenario similar as with Ginger unfold. The only difference is that Faybelle realizes that because fairy dust never fails, someone must have ruined her effort.

Chapter 17: A House of Cards

That evening, Duchess returns to her room exhausted and with a letter from her grandmother waiting for her. Her quiet time ends when Lizzie storms in, anger flowing from her as she ask Duchess if she is aware of what Blondie has been saying about her. The topic promptly changes when a wrong move leaves Lizzie pained and she shares she's been spending the past hours getting along better with her horse with little result. Duchess latches on to suggest that Lizzie gives up on her General Villainy homework so she can focus on Princessology. Lizzie almost takes the bait, but an announcement of Just Right comes in, again posing the question is Lizzie will quit under pressure. Lizzie becomes enraged and thinks up her project on the spot: she will use her magic pack of cards to build an undersized house around Blondie from which she can't escape until Lizzie lets her go. Duchess is impressed, but also saddened that this is an assignment she can't let go un-sabotaged. As soon as Lizzie falls asleep, she sneaks out to the dormitories' common room to get a pack of regular cards to replace Lizzie's with. They don't look alike at all, but with how disorganized Lizzie is, she won't notice until it's too late. On her way back, however, she trips over something. She is caught mid-fall by none other than Daring Charming.

Chapter 18: Broken Hearts

It turns out Duchess tripped over Daring's sword, which he had brought along from his dorm room as he sought to get a good night's rest in the common room, away from the serenading under his window. Even in pajamas, Duchess is mesmerized by his beauty. Daring asks her about the cards she's holding and she says they're for Lizzie because she loves cards. She regrets her answer the moment it leaves her mouth, because Daring starts asking questions about Lizzie, evidently having forgotten who Duchess is for the third time in three days. Gathering courage, Duchess tells him that Lizzie isn't interested, but she herself could go on a date with him. Daring, preoccupied with Lizzie's rejection, tells Duchess to add her name to the waiting list. Anger overtakes Duchess, though she doesn't know if it is aimed at Lizzie or Daring. As she stomps off, she promises that once she gets into Advanced Villainy, she will feed Daring a love potion and then tell him to add his name to a waiting list. Back in her dorm room, the Lizzie's cards are easily switched with the normal ones, though Shuffle does bite Duchess in an attempt to protect her mistress. While taking care of the wound, Duchess thinks of how Lizzie will be humiliated tomorrow, but that her destiny leads to happiness and perhaps that will allow her to forgive her friend's betrayal. Looking out of the window, Duchess sees light coming from Raven's room and decides it's time to take out the last of her competition.

Chapter 19: Raven's Room

In swan form, Duchess perches on the dormitory's stone ledge and spies through the window. As luck would have it, Apple is pestering Raven to win the Next Top Villain and asking her about her scheme. However, Raven never shows any sign of willingness to spill the beans. She does, however, look up suddenly and Duchess can hide behind the wall only just in time. Or so she assumes, because Raven does not come to the window. But when Apple goes to sleep, Raven steps over, opens the window, and greets Duchess. Duchess pretends to be a regular swan, so Raven points out that no regular swan would stand like a ballerina like she does. In panic, Duchess flies away.

Chapter 20: A Rebel Revealed

On Thursday morning, Lizzie indeed takes along the wrong deck without noticing. She picks a table in the center of the castleteria for her and Duchess to await Lizzie. Sparrow joins them, and while Lizzie finds him bothersome, especially for asking if she's going to quit like Just Right has been suggesting for a while, she lets him sit. Lizzie is very nervous and Duchess wonders if guilt is part of being a villain. Blondie comes rushing in soon enough, aiming straight for Lizzie's table to ask her if she's finally giving up like she claims everyone thinks Lizzie should. Lizzie growls and climbs onto the table, dead set on revenge. All eyes are on her as she takes out her deck of cards and throws them at Blondie. Seconds tick by with nothing happening until Lizzie finally notices the cards she just threw aren't hers. Badwolf saunters up to the table and informs Lizzie that she gets an FF for the assignment. Sparrow smirks at Duchess, but Duchess ignores him as she tries to convince Lizzie to focus on Princessology instead. That's when Daring enters the scene and informs Lizzie that he saw the girl next to her take a deck of cards from the common room yesterday evening. Duchess freezes as Lizzie turns to her and asks if she ruined her assignment. She wants to deny it, but then she won't get the A for her own work. The choice is taken from her when Ginger and Faybelle join the group, the first with a story, the second with a white feather she found at the hedgehog pen. Finally, Badwolf points out that sabotaging her fellow students is impressive, unless she did it to protect the school from them. Therefore, he needs to know what her motives were. Duchess sees no other option than to admit she wanted to win. Lizzie runs out in tears, which earns Duchess another compliment from Badwolf. However, he can't give her her A until he has seen Raven's assignment. At those words, Raven climbs onto her table and announces she'll perform hers now.

Chapter 21: Raven's Ruse

A cloud of smoke forms atop the table and all present fear the worst until a distinct honking rises up from it. Before Raven appears a baby bird, which Raven claims not to be able to identify. Duchess recognizes it as a baby swan and runs over to catch it before it can waddle off the table in confusion. Raven shouts at her that she must've ruined her assignment too and grudgingly congratulates her. Badwolf is less quick too act, informing the students he will not pick the winner until the end of Friday. Duchess is confused, because she knows Raven is lying, and devastated, because she still doesn't have her A to work on her new destiny while simultaneously having sacrificed her one friendship for it. With no one else to turn to, she rushes after Raven and gets a chance to talk with her at the garbage disposal area where Blondie won't follow them. With the baby swan asleep in her arms, Duchess is startled when Raven reveals she knows she is not like the other Royals and that they share that they both don't want their destinies. She also acknowledges that she knows what possibilities the path of villainy opens to Duchess and wishes her well, warning her that effectively being a Rebel won't endear her to most people. Duchess asks why Raven doesn't want her own destiny and Raven explains that she does not want people to be afraid of her. Then she departs, leaving Duchess to find an adoptive mother for the baby swan. It takes her little effort to do that, but a lot to accept that, unlike the baby swan, no one will come to comfort her anymore.

Chapter 22: Horsing Around

After a bad night sleep for both Duchess and Lizzie, Friday brings the Princessology test. Lizzie refuses to walk there with Duchess and Duchess finds everyone in the hallways acting oddly around her. She does not know whether it's admiration or judgement, but she tells herself that all that matters is the power and change of destiny awaiting her. Reaching the stables, Duchess is in for an unpleasant surprise when she finds the test to attract a larger audience than usual, and all because Just Right is playing up the drama around her and Lizzie for more views. The other princesses take a protective stand around Lizzie, but Duchess is unimpressed. She is the first to take the course, acing it in record time. The others don't do worse, just slower, until Lizzie is the last student left to take the course. Duchess notes that Lizzie looks nervous, but she manages to get her horse moving. She turns to the forest, unwilling to look in case her former friend fails her second test that week. That's when she spots Sparrow at the edge of the field, camouflaged against the forest backdrop. He's preparing his sound equipment and as he looks up, he smirks in Duchess's direction, informing her he knows what he's doing. Before Duchess can act, his "music" flies over the field and the screaming and cry for help alerts Duchess that Lizzie's horse is panicking. It runs off towards the troll bridge with Lizzie frantically trying to hold on. Everyone present is either frozen on the spot or incapable of catching up with the horse. As it reaches the troll bridge, the troll jumps in front of it and Lizzie goes flying into the ravine. That's when Duchess acts, publically turning into a swan and flying after Lizzie at a speed unmatched. As Lizzie begins her descent, Duchess catches up to her and grabs the sash around her waist. Like a bag of books, Lizzie is too heavy for Duchess's swan form, but Duchess taps into the last reserves of strength her ballet lessons have taught her to possess. She manages to lower them both to the ground safely, but passes out from exhaustion.

Chapter 23: The End Is Just the Beginning

Duchess comes to with Lizzie smiling gently down at her. She realizes she has gone back to human form and that Lizzie is safe. Everyone else is present too, their anger from shortly ago gone. Lizzie kneels down at Duchess's side and Daring offers her his jacket to protect her knees. He offers Duchess nothing, though she's lying in the mud completely. Duchess wryly admits to herself that Daring may not be 100% perfect, but she's still in love. It matters little when Lizzie takes her into a hug. Raven kneels down at Duchess's other side, complimenting her and good-naturedly pointing out that the princes present aren't happy she out-rescued them. In the distance, Badwolf prepares to announce the Next Top Villain winner, so Lizzie and Raven help Duchess on her feet. Badwolf begins with the fact that Duchess has performed remarkably, but that all her efforts were erased when she rescued Lizzie, because no villain ever rescues a princess. In fact, this makes such a hero out of Duchess that she gets a DG, the worst of the entire class. The A, instead, goes to Sparrow, who ruined the Princessology test, formed an alliance with Duchess to get her to do all the work, and then double-crossed her so she'd lose her A. As Lizzie uses Daring's jacket to clean the mud of Duchess, the latter considers what happened. She is not surprised Sparrow double-crossed her, but she's surprised she fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Her fears that she's back to where she started are undone when a post-transformation feather falls from her hair: it is pitch black. Duchess sticks it back into her hair, next to the white feather of her headpiece. Being held up by both a Royal and a Rebel, Duchess realizes she is not alone and that whether she embraces her white swan or her black swan, her destiny is solely hers to shape.

Characters

Charlisticon1
  1. Duchess Swan
  2. Pirouette
  3. Lizzie Hearts
  4. Ashlynn Ella
  5. Apple White
  6. Ms. Watersprite
  7. Fairy-godmother-in-training
  8. Shuffle
  9. Daring Charming
  10. Ginger Breadhouse
  11. Mr. Badwolf
  12. Sparrow Hood
  13. Faybelle Thorn
  14. Raven Queen
  15. Hagatha
  16. Blondie Lockes
  17. Dark Fairy
  18. Madeline Hatter
  19. Kitty Cheshire
  20. Milton Grimm
  21. White Queen
  22. Briar Beauty
  23. Daring Charming
  24. Poppy O'Hair
  25. Holly O'Hair
  26. Poppa Bear
Charlisticon2

Notes

References

  • Spells Kitchen is a play on the 2004-launched television show Hell's Kitchen.

Milestones

  • The lunch lady receives a name in this book: Hagatha.

Errors

  • Roll calls usually are done alphabetically, but that's not the case for the General Villainy students.
  • In Chapter 2, Duchess's gain of control over her transformation at the age of ten is something she likes to show off. But the current-day Duchess makes clear from Chapter 10 that she does not want anyone to see her transform. It is not explained what caused this shift in attitude.
  • In Chapter 20, Badwolf drinks his coffee from a mug with "World's Baddest Dad" on it. He is a father, but no one is supposed to know that because his daughter is not supposed to exist. Why would he bring an incriminating mug like that to school? It could be a reference to his other daughter Ramona Badwolf.

Raven can barely control her powers, but she can produce a swan chick from thin air?

Other

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