A Deadly Education

- Naomi Novik


A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets.

There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere.

El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students.



I decided that Orion needed to die after the second time he saved my life.


solid, good read:
After a very slow start, A Deadly Education turned into an unputdownable adrenaline ride. There was so much worldbuilding required to situate yourself in the story that I felt like I was waiting for it to just start already. It does start to feel like one big information dump, all show-and-no-tell, and El’s stream of consciousness can be a bit much at times, but once things get moving, they don’t stop.

People seem to have no trouble convincing themselves that I’m dangerous and evil even when they aren’t actively looking for reasons. Of course, I could have killed him just by draining his mana, but I didn’t want to actually become a maleficer and then go bursting out of this place like some monstrous butterfly hatching from a gigantic chrysalis of doom to lay waste and sow sorrow across the world as per the prophecy.

Harry Potter on steroids, A Deadly Education is the certain death alternative. The fact that anyone survives their time in this school is impressive. I love the absence of adults, the school moving on its own, and all the little tricks the students have to do to make it through the day. I cannot comprehend the level of physical and emotional fatigue you would be in at the end of every day; not even safe to fully submit to sleep.

Novik did a great job of contrasting the positions of the independent students and those promised to enclaves. The hierarchy is real, and the odds are severely against anyone who has to go it alone. The level of privilege that Orion doesn’t even realise he has is insane compared to how El has been making it through each day. It feels at times that she’s fighting on all sides – against the school, against the call of her powers, and against the advantages everyone else around her has.

When the enclaves first built the Scholomance, the induction spell didn’t pull in kids from outside the enclaves. The enclavers made it sound like a grand act of generosity when they changed it to bring us all in, but of course it was never that. We’re cannon fodder, and human shields, and useful new blood, and minions, and janitors and maids, and thanks to all the work the losers in here do trying to get into an alliance and an enclave after, the enclave kids get extra sleep and extra food and extra help, more than if it was only them in here. And we all get the illusion of a chance. But the only chance they’re really giving us is the chance to be useful to them.

There are so many things to love about A Deadly Education:
-I love the diversity of the school and the advantage gained by speaking multiple languages.
-The fact that the library decides which books you can have and whether or not you deserve them is so cool.
-I could have enjoyed an entire book just learning about the different classes, specialities, and independent projects.
-I love the perfect balance of cynicism and hope that Novik strikes throughout the narrative, and I love El’s introspection and awkward social interactions.

Even that couldn’t wreck my mood, which had been whipsawing so aggressively lately that I was beginning to feel like a yo-yo. I’d got used to my ordinary level of low-grade bitterness and misery, to putting my head down and soldiering on. Being happy threw me off almost as much as being enraged.

There was some serious emotional growth throughout A Deadly Education, and El became a more complex character as her circle widened and her emotional relationships developed. All of these characters feel one-dimensional at first, but as El opens up and, grudgingly, learns more about them, they become much more interesting people.

I am very excited to see where this series goes next – that little nugget of surprise right at the end sets up the next book beautifully.

I love having existential crises at bedtime, it’s so restful.




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