Cover Image: A Deadly Education

A Deadly Education

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Member Reviews

I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange of a review. All opinions my own. 

This is going to be a long review, mainly because I also want to address the racist complains about the book. First of all, English is my third language, so I am not as native and fluent on it as I would like to. Even though I try to be as educated as I can, I am a white person, so I will try my best researching the matter from various point of view and quoting all relevant information. 

Novik’s magical system relies heavily on languages. While reading the book, it came to my attention how she referred to groups of students as “the Mandarin students”. Since everyone can pick up languages that are not their own to expand the number of spells they can read, and therefore perform, I understand that an easy way to refer to those students, but while you are doing that you are also de-personalizing the language itself. There are also languages who get written on the text while other are just described. Some characters are called upon action, when they have not appeared previously on the story, just because of their language was needed. 

There is a paragraph, which I won’t quote because my book was an ARC and not the definitive version of it, about dreadlocks. Several people have criticised this paragraph as racist and Novik has issued the following apology:

http://www.naominovik.com/apology/

I would also like to quote this review https://nusantaranaga.wordpress.com/2020/10/11/the-intersectionality-of-magical-academia-a-review-of-naomi-noviks-a-deadly-education/ by a Chinese reviewer that I think can be much more insightful on this matter and comes from a culture heavily involved in the book. 


And now, to the book!

The first thing that caught my attention was the Scholomance itself. A magic school where the students had very little contact whit the exterior, and only once a year, there were no teachers but monsters pretty much everywhere trying to get at you if you were not cautious or skilled enough. And as a form of graduation, you have to cross the hall of the school towards the exit in a path full of starved monsters due to the fact they get a meal once a year: on graduation day. 

Galadriel “El” Higgins -she/her- is the main character and yes, I do have to confess that I cringed a bit with the name at the beginning, but it kinda makes sense in the story and they mostly refer to her as El. She is not the best student, nor the worst but she is terrible at socialising which means she has no friends and this is something that plays against her odds of actually making it out alive. I did like El’s character, mostly due her sense of humour and personality, and her growth in the book. It is one of those few times where it doesn’t look like we are going to follow the path of the hero of the story because that is Orion’s path. There is more to this but I want to stay away of spoilery paths. Due to Orion personal crusade to save everybody and try to prevent as much deaths as possible, this makes the monsters of the school specially vicious and hungry as they don’t get as many food as before. 

For me it was a bit difficult to get into the story at the very beginning due to the huge amount of information of world building. It felt like they wanted to get it out of the way as quickly as possible to then get to the action. And in a way, it kinda did, because from my point of view, the pace picked up and I found myself immersed in the story, the task of surviving and gaining alliances. Firsts books in series are usually very heavy in world building and that isn’t something that bothers me or made it boring to read as I enjoyed the idea of the school. However, I do understand it may put some people off.

Novik’s writing is gorgeous. I have read some of her other books and she always impresses me with her style. She tends to be very descriptive and detailed on her prose but, in this book with the teen characters, she has added some suitable witty dialogues and a very personal way of thinking. This is more noticeable in the main characters, giving us a very unreliable version of the events at times, but also very enjoyable due to their prespective. 

I can also feel Novik’s effort in order to make a diverse book, which again, leaves room for improvement but it is undeniably there. I would like to take it in a positive way thinking that she has made the effort, seen a diverse feedback and set her path to improve in the future. Just because something is not as perfect as we would wish for it doesn’t mean that is bad. The book tackles on how the most socially privileged students have higher odds of surviving due to the fact that they belong to enclaves, big groups of magicians, and those less wealthy and underprivileged have to try their hardest to find a way to survive. It also applies to magic users who are born in families of wizards and those who haven’t as they will be summoned at the school with no preparation or knowledge. This is something that really has a main focus on the book and you can see their very deadly consequences. 

Nonetheless, I do have to say for me this book has a very big YA vibe. More similar to the latest HP books or The Maze Runner due to the fact that takes place in a version of a high school where a lot of people die in a very horrible way. It isn’t something that bothers me, as I have enjoyed the story, but if you go into it thinking is going to be a grimdark or high fantasy setting, it is not. 

So I’m actually excited to see where the story is going and what are we going to find in the next books. I think there are a lot of engaging seeds planted for further development that would be very interesting to read about. And if the publisher maintains the work and details of the editions, with illustrations and designs of the Scholomance, well, it only adds on to it.
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An unusual school that will never bore its students or the readers.

My Rating: 2 Stars

This book wasn't my cup of tea. I didn't enjoy it as I thought I would. I felt that the last few chapters of the book were the most vital part of this book. I partial towards El's character. She was independent, wanted to have genuine friends, and never went after names. She was an enigma till the end. This book ends with a slight cliffhanger if you could count one line from El's mum that. This book wasn't for me, but you might try reading it and find for yourself if you like it or not.

Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for this eARC.
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El is a student at Scholomance, where failure cannot be considered. Unable to trust the students around her and with a deeply prickly, anti sociable nature, she retreats into herself. Brilliantly dark and with power-the-world-knows-not, she is wonderfully un-likable. 

The humour with which Novik writes, mixed with the joyfully descriptive world building made this a joy to read.
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I have to be honest, I love Naomi Novik's book, so I might not be fully objective here.

Without a surprise, I have really enjoyed this book, I got a bit annoyed at some of the characters (Orion was one of them at the begining of the novel, but I grew out of that a bit). I felt that the main character did, a times, falls a bit into some of the stereotypical caracteristics of a YA heroin (beautiful and overpowered, but hey, I love that kind of YA, so it did not put me off that much), but Novik managed to balance it a bit and I quite enjoyed that.

The rythm of the book was weirdly unsettling, it felt like a slow paced introduction to the universe Novik is creating, but at the same time there some really tense moments, and I definitely rushed through that book as I really wanted to see what was going to happen next. Also, I really don't know how I did not see coming the "twist" at the end of the book ! I am looking forward for the next book.


I am reading my NetGalley copy after the contreversy surrounding the book, my copy did contained a really offending passage on dreadlocks, it is my understanding that both the publisher and the author have removed it on reprint and e-book file. This definitely was one of the issue surrounding the book, and it made me cringe quite a lot. I'm white and don't know a lot about Indian and Chinese culture, so while reading in context of the book (and with my own privileg and ignorance), I did not find it offensive, however, reading other review about it made realised why people did find the book offensive. I really hope Naomi Novik will follow up on her official apology and work of thie issue raised for her future books.
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'A Deadly Education' is a dark tale full of magic and monsters, alliances and enemies. I wasn't keen at the beginning and the first few chapters were a slog through a lot of internal monologue. The world building is excellent and I was intrigued by the whole setup of the magical school so I kept going and am very glad I did. I came to really enjoy the prickly and contrary main character and her interactions with the other characters. The society and situation of the school is very compelling and I want to read more. Bring on book two.
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A Deadly Education reeled me from the very first line. The premise and allure of dark academia really set my expectations, and the book did deliver to an extent. 

Novik's writing is excellent, as are her characters. The problem for me lay in the world building and the explanation of the magic system. It took me multiple tries to understand correctly, which affected my pacing of the book.  Additionally, some descriptive choices used by the author did make me uncomfortable, but it didn't tarnish my overall experience of the book. I look forward to so much more from the author!
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I’ve been wanting to find an alternative to the Harry Potter books, since JKR started writing particularly hateful screeds against the trans* community earlier this year. I’ve also been meaning to read more Naomi Novik for a lot longer, so this new series looked like it might fill both reading gaps rather neatly, being the author’s first foray into Young Adult fantasy. I was also rather taken by the blurb, which seemed to promise us a snarky anti-heroic protagonist and a suitably heroic ally-cum-antagonist. Add in a semi-sentient school and hoards of monsters just desperate to eat all the students, and it all looked like being tremendous fun.

Galadriel (El) Higgins is the daughter of a Welsh hippie mother and a well-to-do Indian father, who died saving his wife and unborn child from a rampaging magical beast. Initially welcomed by her father’s family, El’s propensities to draw on darker magics herself led to their subsequently wanting nothing to do with either El or her mother. El’s mother is something of a celebrity in both the magical world and amongst the new age set in the non-magical population, something El tries hard to live down – almost as hard as she tries to only use magics of which her mother would approve, in spite of her school’s tendency to supply her with spells suited to her potential, rather than to those skills she would like to develop. El is also something of a loner, both as a result of her upbringing and because her fellow students sense that she has a dark side and tend to avoid her because of it.

Into the mess that is El’s life and her continued determination to survive a school that kills a large proportion of its students – though not as many as would die if left out in the wider world for the monsters to prey on before the youngsters have learned to defend themselves – steps – or rather launches himself – Orion Lake. One of the popular students, due to his connections as well as due to his habit of saving his classmates from imminent death and devouring, Orion has rescued El twice by their fourth year at the school. El, cynic that she is, is convinced that both situations were Orion’s fault in the first place, of course.

When El and Orion discover that more monsters than usual are invading the upper levels of the school – which may also be partly Orion’s fault – they have to gather together a team to fix the problem before the current senior year undergo their potentially fatal graduation night. The seniors, however, are not entirely keen on having younger students interfering, setting circumstances in motion for an even grander showdown.

I liked this book a lot, in spite of some of its glaring flaws, which have been pointed out by other reviewers. While the author has tried to be more diverse in the race, ethnicity and nationalities of her cast of characters, mistakes have been made. Personally, I could have put a lot of that down to El’s general cluelessness, and I suspect the next book will make attempts to correct any glaring errors. I did also feel that there was a lack of LGBT+ representation, which I found quite surprising. Again, there’s more to come from this universe, so I’m hoping that was also just a case of El failing to notice and/or comment on the activities and identities of her fellow students.
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I was really excited to pick up A Deadly Education. A school where you might die at any moment and you're not allowed to leave until graduation. I didn't really know anything more than that before I went into it and I didn't need anything else either. It sounded like it got dark academia vibes and I'm all for that. 

I love magical schools in my books but this is one school I'm happy I never had to attend haha. Kids with magical abilities go here because they will be attacked outside of school by maleficaria, nightmarish creatures that take all kinds of shapes. There is actually a lot of world building in this book and I've seen it as one of the things people didn't like about it. I never felt like there was an info dump at all. Whenever we needed to know more, the author gave us the information. Maybe it's because I thought it was super interesting, but I loved learning more about the school and the world. I'm sure there is a ton more to learn and I can't wait to do so in the sequel. 

Galadriel, or El as she prefers, is our main character and I adored her.  She tries to survive in this killing environment where allies are super important for that survival. And she wants to do it without compromising who she is. I have a lot of respect for her! She wasn't super likeable all the time but that made me like her all the more. And I enjoyed seeing her develop relationships with other students. Another important character is Orion. He was so cute! I loved his protectiveness towards basically everyone. And it was wonderful getting to know the boy behind the 'hero'. 

The plot in this first book is basically about El surviving this school year. And while that might sound like not much of a plot, I was super invested and loved it a lot. It was high stakes because definitely not everyone makes it to the end of the book. With the world building, character development and plot there was a lot going on in this story. And it wasn't even that big of a book. We left the character with a big cliffhanger and I think I actually yelped out loud when I realised that was the ending haha. I can't wait for the sequel and I hate that I have to wait so long haha.
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I enjoyed this and I like how Naomi Novik has tried to revamp the magic school setting with darkness, monsters and unique worldbuilding featuring a diverse cast of characters. As a fan of Novik’s other novels I really enjoyed her style of writing, my only complaint would maybe be that the inner monologue of the main character and the behaviour of other characters seemed juvenile at times, however this may just be down to my expectations of this book being catered to an older audience, which I was wrong about. I would also say to read reviews by BIPOC readers who highlight points to be aware of which may come across as having racist undertones.
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I've been in a reading slump for the last few months and this was an excellent antidote to that. It had me reading in the middle of the night (despite knowing better given that my 2 month old is limiting my chances for sleep), because I had to know what happened next.

El certainly isn't the most likeable of characters, but I like her bluntness and uncompromising approach to the restrictions of her society and particularly the scholomance. I'm really looking forward to the next 2 installments of the series.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for this ARC.
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I really enjoyed this book, its been a while since I've had a book I couldn't put down and I read this to 1am last night so it clearly ticked a lot of boxes for me!

I found the characters narrative to be really interesting. This book has a lot of made up magic in format of spells and names (monsters) and I was never once left confused about what was going on.

It set up a lot of information to lead into the next book all whilst being a super interesting first book. Cant wait for the next one! 

Thanks NetGalley for the ARC.
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Sometimes, books are very easy to talk about, and reviews write themselves: things are great (or maybe not great, but still notable), and I am very excited to point them out! Other books are not easy to talk about, and when that happens it's usually a failure to connect: a book that was probably fine, but which left me without much that I'm desperate to convey about it, and looking for the right words to describe the experience is a more active challenge. And then... then you get books like A Deadly Education, Naomi Novik's latest offering. This book is hard to talk about because, wow, where do I start.
Well, let's start with the basics. A Deadly Education is set in a magic school with the horror dialled up to eleven: set in the Scholomance, a school which annually scoops up a mostly-preselected group of magical teens from around the world and dumps them in an educational facility mostly located in a void dimension (which, in turn, is located in the UK, because where else would a magic boarding school be??). There appears to be a fully fledged, functioning society beyond the walls of this magic school, but we only catch glimpses of it through flashback, because for four years the students of the scholomance are locked in without adults, holidays or even any school supplies that aren't either brought in through freshers or provided at the whims of the school's magical replenishment. This is because in this version of our world, magical kids are walking magnets for various magical monstrosities which view them as soft, tasty targets to devour. The school is supposed to protect them from this fate, but monsters are nothing if not persistent, and every year only a fraction of the top class gets the opportunity to graduate, and an even smaller percentage makes it through graduation, because graduation (you guessed it) involves even more monsters.
The reader is guided through this nightmare scenario - in a lot of descriptive first person prose - by El Higgins, a Junior year student (yes, this international magical boarding school in the UK has an internal structure based on the US high school system) who is fighting an uphill battle not just to stay alive against the monsters, but to do it alone, while trying to control a magical aptitude that wants to push her towards being mana-sucking evil sorceress with an arsenal of destructive spells. El hasn't made any friends during her stay at the Scholomance so far, but she's biding her time for a big magical gesture that will make everyone around her pay attention and ask her to join their team for graduation, maybe even getting her into a wealthy, protected magical enclave in the process. Complicating this plan for survival is Orion Lake, her year's big superstar, whose own affinity means that he's saved an impressive proportion of his own year from being snacked on by monsters before graduation. That's great news for everyone who hasn't been a monster snack, but bad news for the class about to graduate, who are facing an unusually busy and hungry graduation "ceremony" when they leave the school.
El is a rather dense and self-sabotaging protagonist, so when Orion starts showing an interest in her - first as a suspect in another student's murder, but then as, shock horror, an actual friend - she decides this is terrible, actually, and spends a lot of time trying to shake him off. But it's too late: Orion's interest in her gets El noticed by the wider student body (especially the students of the elite New York enclave to which Orion belongs) and also pushes her to start thinking about choosing her own friends, notably artificer Aadhya and dark-mage-gone-clean Liu. Readers who are wondering if maybe this is the book where Novik will push these interesting female relationships into the foreground over having the day saved by heterosexual attraction: sorry, nope. El's chosen friendships do play an important role, but they're ultimately second fiddle to her relationship with Orion and the plots surrounding that, and it's El and Orion - from among the main cast, at least - who end up saving the day.
This book has been strongly criticised for its handling of race, and particularly one thoughtless (by the author's own admission: http://www.naominovik.com/apology/) and racist passage involving Black hair. Beyond this, there's been a range of reactions, both positive and negative, from reviewers of colour reacting to the broader setting and how the international setting of the Scholomance is handled. As a white reviewer, it's not my place at all to pass judgement on the points raised, but there's no escaping the fact that El's world is a mix of the kind of diversity you get on Captain Planet or the Star Trek bridge, with students from every continent and culture apparently converging in this corner of Void!Britain and slotting into a mostly homogenised school culture. Language is a big part of spellcasting, and most students, El included, have a curriculum focused on learning as many languages as possible in order to cast spells in them. There's also a very obvious but unremarked upon prevalence of white characters in the key positions of power (the New York and London enclaves) that El finds herself butting heads with. El herself is mixed race, but was raised by a white British mother and rejected by her Indian relatives due to her magical affinity. There's nothing inherently problematic about that - characters of colour shouldn't have to justify themselves with some threshold of cultural performance to exist, and there are plenty of mixed race and diaspora people who grow up without strong cultural connections to some or all of their heritage. But it's impossible to ignore the fact that real world prejudices and inequalities do appear all around this worldbuilding, even if the setting is supposed to be divorced from that context. As a reader, my reaction to those prejudices being replicated in an ostensibly representative text is to look to whether I trust the author to be doing something intentional and therefore potentially worthwhile: is this book trying to say something, or am I just experiencing the author's dead angles replicated on the page? Passages like the description of locs, or another moment where El identifies a language worksheet as being "modern" Arabic because it has cartoon depictions of terrorist acts on it, make it really hard to interpret A Deadly Education as doing anything but the former. And, sure, there's a lot of books and authors out there doing worse things, and caring a lot less - and in many ways, it's A Deadly Education's commitment to trying to imagine a genuinely diverse, international magic school that makes its dead angles so obvious - but that doesn't make the failings here less disappointing, especially as this is a book that had resources for sensitivity reading.
Frankly, this kind of thing leaves me tired. The Scholomance is an interesting take on a trope that still has great potential, but I don't want to read about societies of international sorcerers, and their special magic schools in a story that expects white wizards of the US and UK to be the centre of power within that international system. It doesn't help that, despite enjoying her previous work, there are other elements in the kinds of stories Novik seems to want to write that are exhausting to me too: I am tired of having interesting relationships between women dangled in front of me and then pushed aside for heterosexual pairings that are at best "meh" and at worst super creepy, and I'm tired of stories that subvert their subgenres on the surface while still being tied to the same patriarchal nonsense as their predecessors. A Deadly Education is, in many ways, an enjoyable book: a bit grim, a little slow to start, and very invested in its explanations, but ultimately a lot of fun. But as a multiple award winner and nominee, I think Novik's work asks to be held to higher standards than that, and this is a book that falls short in a number of unfortunate ways.
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As a Naomi Novik fan, I was looking forward to reading A Deadly Education. Dark Academia is a much-wanted genre right now with the likes of Ninth House, The Secret History, become favourites, despite the latter being published nearly thirty years ago, and this is why A Deadly Education came out at the perfect time. It was a shame to see the controversy around some of the sensitivity issues which maybe could have been handled better but it was still a thoroughly enjoyable read.
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Last book of the year! I enjoyed this a lot, especially the practical magic system and the murderous school concept. It was a nice sideswipe at all those stories where the kid/teen protagonists are constantly in mortal danger but are not technically supposed to be and all the adults act like teenagers having to risk their lives to save the day is somehow normal. 

El was a great protagonist. One of the things I absolutely love about Naomi Novik's young female characters is that they get to be angry - not a bit stroppy for character spice, not just quirkily sarcastic, but proper angry, for reasons. They don't take it on the chin or smile graciously or swallow bullshit so as not to upset some delicate status quo. They get to be inconvenient and furious and express their frustrations and it's wonderful. 

I loved the theme of trying to find your people and feeling you don't fit in; watching El try to navigate the pitfalls of alliances and rivalries while figuring out who she is and what her hard limits  are was so compelling, and I absolutely adored her negotiations with people who might turn out to be not just allies but friends. Friendship arcs ftw!

I couldn't help noticing some parallel themes and dynamics previously encountered in Sarah Rees Brennan's In Other Lands. They're clearly incidental and multiple stories can explore similar themes, obviously; also El can hold her own as a unique protagonist. It did mean though that I got very bored with Orion very quickly - Luke Sunborn he is not, and I couldn't help the comparisons, since both the Reluctant Golden Boy thing and the dynamics with El just felt very familiar. It's a minor issue mostly compounded by my shamelessly biased and unending love for In Other Lands. (Mostly I'm just waiting for Orion to grow a personality of his own.)

Very much looking forward to the second volume! Can't wait to see what these crazy kids get up to next.

PS: El, you absolute brat. Your mum is 34 AT MOST. How very dare you describe her as "going gently plump in middle age"?? Detention for a week! Teenagers.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Sometimes there is a book which comes along at the wrong time.

I had loved Spinning Silver and Uprooted by this author so thought this was a book I would love.

However the concept of a "wizarding" type school where students draw on  "good" or "bad" energy wasn't enough to keep me reading at this time.  The narrator's voice was wry and knowing which was an interesting feature.. Iy was well written.

Another time I will probably devour this book but sadly not now.
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An interesting take on the "magical school" setting, this follows El and her classmates as they try to refine and learn magic in an environment where everything is trying to kill you and alliances are key to survival. A fun read, though sometimes it is prone to lengthy exposition. I will be looking out for the sequel!
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Incredibly inventive and addictive, A Deadly Education gives Dark Academia' a run for its money with the Scholomance.
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Magic, monsters, and dark academia. Did I need further reasons to read this book? NOPE.

Who, What, Where?
In A Deadly Education, our lead is Galadriel ‘El’ Higgins, a teenage witch with a talent for destructive magic. El is currently in her penultimate year at Scholomance, an international school for young mages with a frightening survival rate. Dropping out isn’t an option so students have little choice but to push through their coursework whilst trying to avoid getting eaten by one of the many monsters lurking throughout the school’s corridors and crevices. And even then, they still have to make it through graduation.

A Prickly Heroine & Bland Hero
El is far from your traditionally likeable heroine. She’s snarky, rude, foul-tempered, frequently annoying and has a doom-filled prophecy about her to boot. This, among other things, made the early parts of the book a struggle for me to get through, particularly as it’s told in first person. However, as the book went on, I got to learn more about El’s history and came to understand why she’s so bitter and angry at the world and acts the way she does. After a while, I found that she’d grown on me, like a stubborn mould, and I was genuinely happy to see her build up some genuine connections by the end of the novel with people who saw past her prickly exterior.

Aside from El, the other major character is Orion Blake, golden boy and protector of students everywhere. While I didn’t dislike Orion, I did find him somewhat bland and it massively frustrated me that there was no explanation for his apparent “specialness”. This aside, I did really like his and El’s bizarre friendship. It’s mainly El telling Orion what an idiot he’s being and him simultaneously being frustrated by it and liking it because nobody else treats him like a normal human being. I can get behind that.

The Supporting Cast
There are quite a few side characters in this book. Although they’re ethnically and linguistically diverse, for the first half I found them to be vague and flat. Much like with El though, a few of the more prominent ones did improve as the story progressed, namely Liu, Chloe and Aadhya, who each developed their own traits and minor side plots. By the end I had a much greater appreciation for these three and really enjoyed seeing their relationships with El evolve.

Tell, Not Show
Good news: the world is good. Bad News: We get told about it in ridiculous amounts of info-dumping. And we’re not talking easy to follow stuff, we’re talking complicated world-building necessary for understanding much of the events and dynamics between characters – magic sources, specialisations, languages and their relationship to magic, the structure of magical society, etc. It’s especially prominent in the first couple of chapters. After the opening hook I kept waiting around for an actual scene or conversation to take place for a good while.

Info-dumping aside, I just don’t think I’m much of a fan of Novik’s writing style. This is something I noticed while reading Uprooted a few years back. It’s dense and wordy (unnecessarily so), there’s a large amount of inner monologuing, and a tendency to spend time on things that aren’t important to the story or the reader’s enjoyment, e.g. the history of a spell El uses at a high-intensity moment. While I was interested in the general gist of the book, I found myself bored and skimming chunks of it from time to time.

Wanted: More Plot
Another thing I see people having problems with is the plot. Or the lack of one until about 70% of the way through. Most of A Deadly Education feels like a collection of small subplots happening as El goes through her day-to-day school life. These include El figuring out what to do after graduation, her relationship with Orion, the resulting antagonism with the New York kids, Liu’s struggles with malia (dark magic), etc. For the most part though, it’s just El and the other students trying to avoid being killed by a variety of determined and crafty creatures which Orion regularly saves them from. Once a larger plot became apparent it did provide some context to a few of the earlier events and I quite enjoyed where the story ended up climax and ending wise.

Racial Controversy
Over the last few months, there’s been discussion online about certain elements of this book being racially offensive (e.g. a problematic passage about locs). As a white, Australian reviewer, I don’t feel I’m the right person to comment on these, especially as others who are better qualified than myself have already done so at length. I should also mention that Naomi Novik has apologised for some of these inclusions and vowed to do better in future.

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A Deadly Education gets some things right and others, not so much. If you’re already a dedicated Novik fan, you’ll probably enjoy this latest offering. Despite the book not living up to its full potential in my eyes, with how things ended I’ll probably give the sequel a go when it releases in 2021.

3 STARS
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I’m a Potterhead (and I’m not ashamed of this, sorry not sorry) What this means? It means that when I hear about a book about magic school and wizards I jump headfirst into the book.

But I set my expectation way too high this time.

Scholomance is a school for magic. Just like Hogwarts it is based in England and has his stairs moving around the school. Here all the similarities end. Here, we don’t have teachers, we don’t have grades. But we do have a curfew and better be in your room before the ring, because if you are out and about it’s most likely to end as a maleficaria’s dinner feast. The possibility to end up in a maleficaria’s stomach at the end of your studies is much of possibility anyway.

Scholomance is a deadly school. There are maleficaria (kind of demons) that live there and feed with mana. What’s mana – this is their magical source if I can describe it this way. So to be able to do a spell they should drag from their mana sources. Mana can be collected using different methods. El’s favourite is to do exercises or to crochet.


Who is El? Galadriel or El is our main character. It will be sweet of me to say that she is simply unlikable. Let say that even her grandparents wanted her dead. For her to survive graduation, she needs allies. But she has a bit of a problem – nobody likes her and nobody wants her as an ally.

Why she needs allies? Right, so the magic world is ‘separated’ on different enclaves. Enclaves are groups of witches and wizards who share mana between themselves. They have share mana between them with power-sharers. The enclaves kids are most likely to survive graduation. What’s so scary about graduation? Basically, you and all other graduates, are going to be thrown in a hall full with hungry maleficaria. You have to make it to the other end of the hall to get out of school. For the purpose, you will need a lot of mana plus some useful spells, and of course – somebody to look at your back. That’s why the enclave kids have the greatest chances – because of their endless mana sources, shared via power-sharer and because they, by default, have allies.

But this year will be different. All because of our hero – Orion Lake. He has a goal to kill every mal that crossed his path (and he even goes out of his way to persuade mals). As a result of this mals are hungrier than ever and threaten to break down to walls and make a feast out of them all. So they should come with a plan on how to save the school and its inhabitants.

I have a problem with engaging with the story. It took me a good amount of time to go into the story. The main reason is that it started out of nowhere. There are some details thrown here and there and you have to pick up the pieces and solve the puzzle.

There are so many questions that wanted for answers and postponing the answers irritated me instead of thrilled me and make me wanna read. The relationship between Orion and El is so foggy, I couldn’t even get it at the beginning. I may stupid, but I got so annoyed with the book because I couldn’t get what’s happening, which bored me so I left the book and end up reading it for a full two weeks.

Probably I may give it a second read through next year before the sequel comes out, but for now, the book isn’t something exceptional for me.
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A Deadly Education was one of my most anticipated reads for 2020, and Naomi Novik's first adult novel, which was very exciting for me, since I loved her previous books, which are both Young Adult, but have been less interested in reading YA lately. I was not really sure what to think of El's narration at first, it surely was really funny, but it felt a bit too funny, a bit too joke-y, bordering on the silly. I also felt that the narration style meant that we did not get a lot of world exposure or building, except for the info-dumping that El does when it suits the plot (something in the line of "And then a monster appears and it's terrifying! Oh by the way let me explain for the next two pages what this monster is and why it's terrifying at all"). So this felt like it cheapened the narrative, the plot and the world building. So for the first quarter or third of the book, I was entertained, but a bit skeptical. 

After you get used to it, though (and also you get more of El's background story which was so, so interesting and sad, plus I think she got less snarky as the story goes on), I found that it worked for this book, for a simple reason: this was basically Hogwarts on steroids. So, you don't really need a lot of background on the school or wizardry, because your knowledge of the Harry Potter series kind of fills the gaps that are missing. Naomi Novik spoke about how she based her book on the well-known series and basically imagined it darker, gorier and as an adult series. So you don't feel completely lost during the novel, but I did not like that when I was missing information, I just immediately thought of how it worked in Harry Potter and that was quite enough until the next info-dumping session. 

This is probably why this book is a bit over 300 pages long, instead of the 500 that I expected. I imagined this book to be different from how it really way, a more serious, epic kind of fantasy story, and took a bit of time to get used to El's voice. But I eventually did, and I had a lot of fun reading this. She's so snarky and her attempts to stop herself from becoming an overpowered Dark Lady are amazing, and I think ultimately this book conveys a message of: you are more than what people think, you can be better despite everything if you work really hard and privilege benefits a small minority and will always, always rely on the suffering of others.

I realized eventually that it reminded me a bit of the narration by Harrow from Harrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb #2), although I much preferred Harrow. El sounded to me like the YA version of Harrow, which is also maybe why it took me a while to warm to her, since she read so much like a YA character to me in the way she behaved.

I read about the controversy regarding the locks quote, and I agree it should be removed from the printed version - which I saw that Naomi Novik will do and I'm glad she took the criticism to heart. Otherwise, the diversity of the novel did feel artificial to me, it just looked like a white person adding a checklist of representation (I had similar feelings about The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab) but I think it was still nice to have a half-Indian main character and lots of supporting characters from different countries. Brilliantly executed? No. But that's okay. I hovered between 3 and 4 stars for this book, but in the end I had a lot of fun reading this and devoured it in a couple days (plus the ending has me !!!!).
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