Despite having never read anything by Naomi Novik before, A Deadly Education was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. A super dark, female-led Harry Potter? Sign me up. Unlike Hogwarts, however, this school has no teachers and is infested with dark creatures crawling through the shadows. Not only that, but graduation will probably kill you. Would I like to study there? Hell no! But it made for an interesting read 😂
A Deadly Education (The Scholomance #1) by Naomi Novik
Pub. 2020 | Fantasy
Enter a school of magic unlike any you have ever encountered.
There are no teachers, no holidays, friendships are purely strategic, and the odds of survival are never equal.
Once you’re inside, there are only two ways out: you graduate or you die.
El Higgins is uniquely prepared for the school’s many dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out untold millions – never mind easily destroy the countless monsters that prowl the school.
Except, she might accidentally kill all the other students, too. So El is trying her hardest not to use it… that is, unless she has no other choice.
So. Let’s just talk about this school shall we? As I mentioned before, there are no teachers, and the place is infested with monsters. You might be wondering why anybody would choose to go there, right? Well, it turns out that being stuck in the outside world during puberty is about the worst thing a magically gifted teenager can face. So they seek shelter within the walls of the Scholomance where their chances at survival are higher, though in no way guaranteed. When graduation comes, the surviving seniors get dropped into a nest of hungry monsters, their only goal: to get out of the doors. It’s terrifying and unique, and honestly, the whole school system is fascinatingly dark.
That being said, I did struggle with sections of this book. There are huge swaths of information thrown at you, and sometimes it just feels a little irrelevant. And it’s not even just in the beginning. The trend continues throughout the whole book. It’s clear that Naomi Novik wanted the reader to learn as much as they could about this world she’s created, and that’s totally understandable. But sometimes I just wanted something to happen, y’know? Nevertheless, once I realised that this was going to continue throughout the story, I adjusted my expectations and managed to fall in love with the book.
Our main character, Galadriel – or El, for short – is a sassy sorceress with an affinity for dark, destructive magic. Even her minor spells can have catastrophic consequences. She’s an unlikable protagonist, abrasive and rude to basically everyone who crosses her path, and I just loved her for reasons even I can’t fathom. This girl has been through the ringer. She was disowned by the majority of her family due to a nasty prophecy that says she’s probably going to destroy the world. I think it’s safe to say she’s earned some bitterness 😂 As the end of her junior year approaches, however, she comes to the conclusion that she needs help. People who will watch her back. True friendship doesn’t exist within the walls of the Scholomance, but maybe she can find a group of allies. Watching her juggle the politics of the school whilst also trying to stay alive and prevent herself slaughtering hundreds of people in the process really makes you feel for this snarky, unlikable character.
My main issue with this book, aside from the major info-dumping that goes on, is the romance. Or rather, “romance”. Orion Lake is the school hero. For some reason, the monsters leave him alone, so he doesn’t understand why the other students get into so much trouble all the time. El never asked him to save her, he just sort of latches on to her for no apparent reason. The entire book is basically El trying to figure out if they’re dating. I mean, the rest of the school seems to think so. It’s kind of hilarious. It’s also kind of annoying. I don’t want hilarious “romance”. I want actual chemistry, actual character building, or nothing at all. I don’t know why it bugged me so much, but there you go 🙈
The magic school setting is something that’s been around forever, so naturally it can feel a little samey sometimes. However, Naomi Novik managed to make it feel brand new again. The worldbuilding is extremely clever, and the magic is unique. Despite my issues with certain aspects, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I have a feeling the rest of the series is going to be just as dark, just as thrilling, and just as intriguing. A huge thank you to NetGalley and Del Rey for giving me the chance to read this book early!