A deadly education review
Do you want to be a mighty wizard?
Do you want to join a group of like minded sociopathic individuals to get on and join the elite of the wizarding world? Then:
Welcome to A Deadly Education!
(Or how to win friends and influence people, so that the nasty things don't eat you)
Right, let's get the obvious out of the way. This is a magic school for witches and wizards and this is not the sole property of he who shall not be named. Okay? Phew, glad we got that sorted.
What we have here is a tale of friendship against adversity. The old romantic mismatch. A kind of Harry met Sally situation in which the good guy is annoyingly good and the damsel is constantly distressed at being regularly rescued by the good guy, even though she is some mega evil witch that has a prophecy attached to her (whoa, stop it! We got those comparisons out of the way in the first sentence. Didn't you know that in quite a lot fantasy stories, there's a chosen one with a prophecy attached? Well, don't you? Jeez anyone would think that this is a HP reference. Well it's not! Okay?).
Glad we got that out of the way!
The story revolves around Galadriel (or El for short) who is a pupil at the Scholomance, a school for witches and wizards whose first lesson that they have to learn, is to get safely through breakfast before they become breakfast. The Scholomance is a magic school that is populated by magical teens that have been whisked away from their parents and have to board in a school that has a vast array of different ways to kill you in some horrible way. From flesh eating maggots in the porridge to demonic corridors that will strip the skin from your bones, there is an endless way to get yourself killed. Add to that psychopathic students who will happily kill you for no apparent reason, this makes my days at school seem positively balmy in comparison.
On top of that, you have to have political skills that are reminiscent of a medieval court. Where you have to form alliances or trade something of worth in order to fix your door, brush your teeth or even get a shower This place is tough beyond belief and our hero, El is always letting us know how dangerous, how tough and how many different ways to kill you there are. On every page. Okay, okay we get it.
This school is flippin dangerous!
And that is one of the intrinsic problems that I found with the book. It constantly tells you that this place is dangerous, and it also constantly tells you that El is so powerful that she could easily (and happily) destroy everyone who looks at her the wrong way.
Surprisingly, El does not have many friends. However, this changes when the handsomely, charming popular kid, Orion Lake, starts to take an interest in her and forces his friendship on her, whether she likes it or not. However, as the story progresses we see that even though they are at the opposite ends of the popularity spectrum, they both share similar experiences and are both equally isolated.
In a Deadly Education, Novak's wizarding school is not all jolly hockey sticks and full of quaint little traditions that hark back to a corner of England that is stuck in the innocence of yesteryears. It's filled with scary monsters and super creeps. It is the dog eat dog world of a capitalist society where the more power and influence you have, the more likely it is that you will survive. It juxtaposes the world outside, which again is not filled with a lovely, cutesy world that resides in the past. In Novak's world, being a wizard is a dangerous lifestyle which attracts the monsters that live under your bed so that they can kill you and eat you.
Once you get past the myriad ways in which you can die, be eaten or be killed and then eaten, you get to the heart of the story. Which is, survive. Simple as that. Everything is geared towards surviving the experience of school and hopefully get out of there. That is if you can get past a cornacopia of nightmarish beasts at the graduation ceremony that are hell bent on doing all the things mentioned earlier.
Why anyone would want to be a wizard in A Deadly Education is beyond me. I would use the same tactics that the mundanes (the non - magical community) use. Don't believe in magic. Simple as that. The mundanes do not believe in it and that saves them from the monsters. Otherwise, it looks like you are in for a life of looking over your shoulder and elevating yourself to the rank of paranoid sociopath.
On the whole, I enjoyed A Deadly Education and the story of the snarky main character and how she manages to get through everyday and how her world expands from a world of one to her development of 'friends'. However, at times the story is a little slow. It's just that it feels like this is a setup, it sets up the world, the characters and is just the start of the story. Will I be reading the next one? I think I will, I wouldn't mind seeing what happens to El and the gang.
This is the story of Galadriel, known as El. She is a student at the Scholomance, a wizarding school that is as far from Hogwarts as it is possible to get. The school is populated by students all looking to make alliances so that they have a better chance of getting out of the school alive, for the students graduate as seniors through a mal infested hall that means chances of survival are small. With no teachers to protect the students it's all about who has the power to help keep you alive and what you can for them in return. El has her life saved by Orion on several occasions but it is unclear what he wants from her in return.
Being honest I'd like to give this 3.5 stars but they don't allow half stars and it doesn't warrant going up to 4. The problems I had with this book is that too much time is spent setting a scene or describing an element of history for the school or mal that is being tackled. This is to the detriment of the story as it breaks up the action far too much and isn't even a short explanation but always really long winded and goes on for pages - by the time we return to the action you have forgotten what was happening. This is particularly noticeable in a scene where El takes on a Mawmouth - a vicious multi eyed, multi mouthed creature that only one person has successfully killed without dying themselves. Even as El walks towards the creature we are taken on a history of the Mawmouth, where it came from, how it has been tackled in the past, how many people have been killed by them including El's own father, how there are two big Mawmouths at the Scholomance etc etc etc. By the time we get back to El pages have passed. I understand the need to let the reader know this is an incredible thing she is tackling but we didn't need Voldemort's life history in the first book to know that he was a evil and difficult to challenge.
Having said all of this, the last 15% of the book is really good and when I finished I found myself hoping there will be more books in the series. Aimed at young adults, I found some of the language a bit too colourful for teens.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Welcome to the Scholomance where you either graduate, or die. The school is self-contained, there are no teachers or support staff, the school provides your classes, homework and food. All you have to do is avoid the creatures trying to eat you for your power, whether it's going to class or getting your meals.
Galadriel, or El, is our heroine, brave, independent, but also vulnerable, smart and sarcastic. She has spent most of her time at school alone, but she needs to find students to collaborate with if she is going to survive. The problem is the other students think she is evil, when the reality is more surprising.
An all-action story, with great dialogue, characters you genuinely like who find themselves in some truly terrifying life-threatening situations. Looking forward to El's final year.
"by the end of the day Orion was the only person in the school who didn't know we were now unquestionably an item."
This book succeeds in being dark, atmospheric, exciting and amusing all at the same time. I expected it to be similar to Hogwarts, but it was completely different and I loved it.
Galadriel is a junior at the Scholomance, a school for magical teenagers from around the world. However, there are no professors, no adults and the building is filled with hundreds of mals which want nothing more than to kill all the students. The only hope for surviving to graduation is by making alliances, something which is easier said than done for our resident outcast, El. Cold, rude and with an affinity for destruction, no one wants to risk their own chances by befriending her.
El is my new favourite MC. Strong, defensive and sarcastic. I loved her abruptness with the enclave kids and how she repeatedly stood up for herself. The blossoming friendship between her, Aadhya and Liu was incredibly heart-warming and I am definitely rooting for these three to graduate. Orion's character was completely unexpected. I was so used to YA heroes being cocky and overconfident, but Orion was a sweetheart and every time he blushed, my heart melted. The romance is a slow-burn but I can't wait to see what happens next.
The worldbuilding was phenomenal. The mals were all terrifying and I loved the how atmospheric the scholomance was. The rules regarding magic and the Void were all unique and I never knew what was going to happen in the next chapter. The first chapters are filled with a lot of information, but it is all required to understand the rest of the story. This meant it was a little slow to start, but once it did, the pacing never slowed. My slight nuance was that the year groups were called freshmen, sophomore etc, despite the fact that the school was in Wales and set up by the London enclave.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I love books about magic, and this one does not disappoint.
Set in a school of magic, but unlike any in any other story (I was a little worried in the opening few pages that this was going to be Harry Potter-ish, but it really isn't).
All the students must work under their own steam and look to make alliances between themselves in order to survive the monstrous terrors of graduation.
El is a student who comes with no other allegiances, no enclave on the outside to support her, and must create and harvest her own power. However, soon she finds she is drawn into connections with other students and her immense powers are gradually revealed.
A wealth of powerful characters, some great monsters, and a thrilling atmosphere throughout - a great read.
I love Naomi Novik's folklore-inspired fantasy novels. One of my all-time favourite books is Spinning Silver, which is a re-imagining of Rumpelstiltskin so I was thrilled to get my hands on an early copy of A Deadly Education. It wasn't quite what I was expecting but I really enjoyed it. Imagine a kind of Harry Potter where everything is out to get you, not just the bad guy!
El (short for Galadriel) has been born into a magical family and is now studying at the Scholomance - a school for magic that (unlike Hogwarts) seems to actively want to kill its students. All El wants to do is learn magic and survive the first year - without the help of popular rich boy Orion. Oh yes, and there's a prophecy that says one day El will bring death and destruction to all the magical enclaves in the world...
Naomi Novik has created an amazing, original and incredibly detailed world. Sometimes it's best to just go with the flow rather than try to understand everything. The story is fast-paced (with near-death experiences in practically every chapter) and completely thrilling. I truly had no idea what was going to happen next. Part of the fun is to see El slowly forced to make friends - she is so used to people assuming she's into dark magic, she has always kept her distance from everyone and prefers to work out things on her own. Her relationship with Orion (who is determined to save everyone, whether they want it or not) is also sweet and funny.
A Deadly Education is a school-of-magic story with a slightly darker edge that Naomi Novik's regular readers will love. It should also appeal to fans of authors such as Soman Chainani (The School for Good and Evil). I loved El and Orion, and was completely swept away by the novel's originality and exuberance. I can't wait for the next one!
Thank you to Naomi Novik and Del Ray/Cornerstone for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.
A Deadly Education will be released on 29th September 2020
I’m posting this review at 25%
I have been really enjoying this book but am finding it really difficult to read the ebook version. I think there is so much going on with the different characters and creatures etc that I need a physical copy to flip back for clirifcation if I need to. Saying that, it is very enjoyable and engaging. Will definitely be picking up a physical copy when it is released!
For the portion I have read it’s a five star read
At the Scholomance students are supposed to be safe, but the monsters the school was supposed to protect them from have invaded. Now, half the class is slated for death before graduation.
I started this book expected a more Harry Potteresque magic school, with the caveat of a serious chance of death. I wasn’t disappointed when the school turned out to be more of a dungeon, a half building, half mechanism which has extremely decayed.
We follow El, probably the most powerful Malia, the life force of other living things, user the world has ever seen. However she refuses to use this as she was raised by a pacifist. El has a chip on her shoulder, after always being shunned by the everyone except her mother. Slowly she opens up to Orion and Aadhya. Orion is the most popular boy in the school. Aadhya is someone who chooses not to shun anyone based on a feeling they give off.
This book gripped me immediately, and I was unable to put it down despite extreme tiredness. El, while she is stuck in her ways, is an interesting character when she discovers the world is not out to get her. This book is a great replacement for any Harry Potter fan who has an interest in dystopia.
I’m going to start by saying that I had really high expectations for ‘A Deadly Education’, as I’ve adored the previous books I have read by Novik (Spinning Silver and Uprooted) and it definitely didn’t disappoint! I loved every minute of this book and am already itching for the second one. Having seen a lot of Harry Potter caparisons, I would say if that’s what you’re expecting, look elsewhere. The Scholomance is dark and dangerous, and the protagonist El is a lot more bitter, sarcastic and isn’t trying to be a hero. There’s a prophecy and a magic school, but that’s where it ends in my opinion!
‘A Deadly Education’ starts slowly, and requires you to pay attention, though that wasn’t an issue as I was drawn in from the first sentence. The worldbuilding was wonderful, and I was gripped by it, always wanting to learn the next new thing. I was so interested in both the Scholomance and also the ‘real’ world, the magic system and monsters. I don’t want to say too much, so that you can enjoy everything for the first time yourself, but I liked that the mals (monsters) are all disgusting and creepy, the mana system of magic and the workarounds for it’s abuse aren’t unique as such, but they are refreshing considering the amount of ‘innate magical power with no limits’ stuff I’ve read lately! There’s a lot of unsettling ideas in this book, and I love things being a little twisted and creepy, which at times this book definitely is. Saying that, there are a lot of moments where I laughed out loud, and there is a lot of wit, banter and humour mixed in with the shudder inducing mals.
Now onto the characters. Galadriel, better known as El, is brilliant, and I adored her. She’s kind of spiky, constantly on edge and full of anger and frustration. She’s a bit morally grey, which is my favourite kind of character. She could so easily turn to the dark side, but keeps trying to be a good person despite the effort that requires – and when your school keeps trying to kill you and is pushing you to be evil, that requires a lot of hard work. I liked her immediately but she may not be for everyone, and possibly requires a bit of warming up to. I’m a total sucker for a grumpy magic user though! I enjoyed watching her navigate relationships with other students, considering how much she’s an outcast. She’s always scheming (which is honestly necessary) which was interesting. She’s powerful, but not in a way she can be useful without blowing everything up. She was honestly so much fun to follow, and her snippy, sarcastic wit was an absolute joy. Next we have Orion, the golden boy of the Scholomance. He goes around saving other students (including El) and has a lot of fans, followers and general hangers-on. He’s too nice for his own good, a bit oblivious, exasperating and also loveable. I really enjoyed his character development, and all of his interations with El. He’s a lot more interesting than he appears at first, and I really enjoyed watching both he and El grow. There are a lot of excellent relationships to be found within the pages of this book, despite initial appearances, and I enjoyed that they all felt nuanced and realistic.
I really feel like I can’t say much more without spoiling anything but this book was absolutely brilliant, and I highly recommend it to fans of Novik’s other works, grumpy wizards, interesting magic systems, creepy monsters, magic schools, brilliant characters, excellent world building and fantastic writing. I’m counting down the days until book two already, I can’t wait to be back in the halls of the Scholomance and it’s definitely one of my top books of the year!
Content warnings: Violence including murder, injuries, gore, many gross ways to die, and minor character death (none of this terribly graphic); black magic including using life force of others mentioned; suicide mentioned in the abstract; parental death mentioned.
I should start with a disclaimer: I really don’t think this book is going to be for everyone. It’s a weird beast, somehow simultaneously slow and fast. It’s full of hugely detailed discussion of its own worldbuilding, and if you don’t immediately click with the main character, it’s probably not going to be your cup of tea. That being said, I adored every single second of it, so if you have similar taste to me, you’re going to be on cloud nine! I’d compare it to early seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – teen snark meets horrifying monsters via a little light romance – or possibly if someone handed black magic to all the characters of Heathers. Picture a school whose corners are full of monsters ready to eat up tasty little magical kids – no teachers in sight, of course, so classes are self-taught and survival of the fittest is in full swing. Amongst the Scholomance’s students is El, an extremely jaded young woman who just wants to survive to graduation without succumbing to her innate talent for evil, and who is plagued by the unwanted help of Orion, an adorkable cinnamon roll prone to heroics and not at all prone to noticing when someone really doesn’t want to be his friend. When your own school is trying to eat you, and some privileged wannabe hero won’t stop saving your life, things can’t get much worse, right? Wrong.
I adored El. She’s a fascinating set of contradictions that makes her feel really unique – she has a true affinity for city-levelling, world-dominating evil, but steadfastly refuses to acknowledge it. When the school offers her a new spell to learn, it’s usually lethal even if she asked for the most innocuous charm, but rather than diving headfirst into the darkest of magic and using her power to rule the school, she tries to keep herself on the straight and narrow. She’s so guarded that the other students find her intensely unlikeable – but I found her combination of self-awareness, smarts, and black humour completely winning. She starts off as someone who, rejected by her peers, has decided to reject them right back, and as someone who spent most of school using that as a coping mechanism, I connected with her instantly. Her voice is just so vivid and engaging – though she tries to pretend she doesn’t care about anything, she’s so interested in so many things that she drags you with her into long explanations that provide a huge amount of information about the magical world. I loved her so much, and it was definitely her voice that sucked me into the book so hard.
I can see people being turned off by the incessant flow of information that El provides, and I’ve read several reviews deriding this as infodumps, but for me, it was exactly what I’ve been longing for in a book since I was a kid. Here is a magical world hidden next to ours, and the main character is as interested in how it works as I am! She never stops feeding us tidbits of worldbuilding, and I found the whole thing enthralling. Yes, give me all the three-page digressions about the history of a particular grimoire or a painstakingly accurate description of how the language classes work – this is the stuff I live for. You get a real sense that though the world is completely everyday for El and her peers, she’s spent plenty of time considering how it works. There’s a great balance between these deep dives into things, and moments where she’ll say offhandedly ‘a yarnbogle skittered around the corner’ or something and you won’t even bat an eyelid even though a yarnbogle’s never been described before, you’re just like ‘yup, sounds about right’. The worldbuilding is so good that you start to feel like you just know what’s normal. I literally went to the bathroom last night and had a short panic that I hadn’t checked for any monsters. It’s that immersive.
There is so much of this book that I can’t talk about without giving huge spoilers, and I really think it’s one you should go into fairly cold so that you can get the full effect, so the next few sentences are going to be intentionally vague. I adored El’s character development – it’s far from a simple progression. I loved heroic idiot Orion Lake and his weird growing friendship with the school’s resident loser. I loved the wide array of students from all over the globe, and the way the classes ran to accommodate the many different languages needed, let alone the huge variety of skills and spells needed – I really got the sense that every student would have a wholly different experience according to their needs and affinities. I loved the ingenuity of all the different kinds of monsters, and, speaking as someone who usually hates action scenes, I loved all the monster fights! Basically, I loved this book from the first line to the last – and oh my god, what a last line it was.
I said on Twitter that if you’re someone like me who was always frustrated that Harry Potter never went to his damn classes or told us what he was learning, then A Deadly Education will scratch that itch so well it’ll be like it never existed. I just want to see behind the scenes of every magical school, and A Deadly Education offers the perfect kind of immersive, all-encompassing setting for me! If you are someone who dislikes description, this may not work for you (though there is plenty of action too!), but for me, this was a book I could luxuriate in, soaking up every detail.
Look, this was the most fun I’ve had reading a book in as long as I can remember. It managed to do something I didn’t even know I was waiting for, and give me a painstakingly well-described world to get lost in the detail of, a main character I could identify with incredibly strongly, and a story that snuck up while I was looking at those two things, grabbed me in its teeth, and refused to let go. I was grinning throughout. I will be astonished if this isn’t my best book of the year – it’s made me want to retroactively knock a star off everything else I’ve read so far. Simply stunning. Not even ten out of five – ELEVEN.
A clever, witty book that plays with the idea of a school for magic and doses it up with a real show of cynicism.
The book has a great pace, an engaging if not entirely likeable set of characters, and it sets the world of Scholomance up nicely for the next books in the series.
I did struggle with the amount of background information about the world - it's needed to set the scene, but is a bit heavy-handed in places and strains the narrative, but overall it's an enjoyable read.
A Deadly Education was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, but unfortunately, I don't think that this book was for me.
You can definitely tell that this book is written as an introduction to the world Naomi Novik created, and for the most part, I thought it was interesting: the concept of the Scholomance is enthralling, and the atmosphere quite vivid. I also loved that this magical school had people from all around the world, as it made for a diverse cast of characters! That being said, the book suffered from a lot of info-dumps: I almost gave up 20% in, because the world was explained by the main character through pages upon pages, making it all about telling and not showing, which isn't something I like.
In that sense, I didn't find A Deadly Education to be engaging: on top of all the exposition, I often found myself annoyed at El's voice, the protagonist who was also our narrator, as I quickly grew impatient with all her internal monologues, which felt quite long and disjointed. Her inner thoughts were either all about explaining the world, flashbacks to help get a sense of her (... and I didn't get her at all, so!), or her having yet another existential crisis. While the idea of El seemed interesting (I mean, a prophetized dark sorceress? Yes, please), I struggled to get a sense of her, and the way she acted was quite frustrating. I didn't like Orion either to be fair, so reading about them getting romantic at the end annoyed me to no end.
Other than that, this book suffered from too much exposition: while Novik's world was interesting and it seemed like she put a lot of thought into it, it almost felt like she added a plot two-thirds of the way in, but it was too late for me to care (sorry not sorry). Before that, this book had some random action moments that seemed to be the characters' routine, but I wasn't here for it. While that last third was huge improvement from the rest of the book, I had lost interest in the book, and literally snorted at the last line, which, I guess, is supposed to be a cliffhanger.
Overall, A Deadly Education had an interesting concept, but it suffered from too much exposition, which will probably be resolved in the next book, but I don't find myself eager to read the sequel. Neither the story nor the characters were engaging enough to keep my attention, which is a shame. I still hope it finds the right audience, though!
A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik is set in a school for those with magic, called Scholomance. Except there are things that are forever trying to kill you.
El is our protagonist, and is rude, grumpy and antagonistic, and on the first page, is planning to murder someone who has just saved her life.
I really enjoyed the twists and turns, and learning about Scholomance, how the students survive it, and about the world! As this is 'Lesson 1 of the Scholomance', I'm looking forward to the next book!
I'm a big Naomi Novik fan, and have been reading her books since the days of Temeraire, a dragon in the military during the Napoleonic War.
Her recent books, Uprooted and Spinning Silver have both been good plays on fairy tales, and so when I saw this book, I was excited!
A Deadly Education was published on 29th September 2020, and is available from Amazon, Waterstones and your local independent bookshop.
You can follow Naomi Novik on her website, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
I was given this book in return for an unbiased review, and so my thanks to NetGalley and to Random House.
Captivating, well-built and thrilling. Really, really enjoyed. Cared about the characters, and kept me on the hook for the next one. Another success from Novik.
“With our deepest sympathies and commiserations, we must inform you that you have been accepted into the Scholomance.”
This is the invitation I received from Random House UK via NetGalley to read a free arc of A Deadly Education. Thanks guys! How could I resist?
In this world, magical kids are prone to be attacked and killed by all manner of evil creatures as they grow into their powers, so the Scholomance was built to minimise the risk. Even so, student death is a regular occurrence. The school was built to protect the children of the world’s magical enclaves (powerful magic covens) and those kids have an easier life, though even they are not safe from the constant threat of being eaten by the wizard-eating ‘maleficaria’.
El isn’t from an enclave. El (short for Galadriel) was prophesied in early childhood to be some kind of world-destroying, evil sorceress. However, having been raised on a Welsh commune by a loving nurturing mother, she is not keen to fulfil that prophecy. El is conscious that to graduate, you need to fight your way out past the worst of the maleficaria. To do that you need friends and alliances. El has none.
The story begins with El being saved by the school hero, Orion Lake. However, El doesn’t need to be saved. She has plans to use her considerable powers to destroy a large maleficaria in front of everyone and attract alliance offers. She is, therefore, not happy to be characterised as a damsel in distress instead. When Orion suspects her of being an evil wizard and begins to follow her around, she gives people the impression they are dating, not realising that this will change the balance of power within the school and put her in more danger.
The first thing to say about this book is that you get a lot of information thrown at you. More really than you can take in at times, but don’t let this put you off. You pick up the world basics as you go, and trust that it will all make sense before very long. Which it does.
There are so many themes going on in this book: good magic versus bad magic, balance, power versus abuse of power, risk/safety/death, the effect of strong beliefs. I’ve also heard the word ‘feminist’ being bandied about but that is not really my impression. Although El can look after herself, it’s not about gender. El would likely approve of the concept of equality, but it is not high on her list of priorities. Staying alive is slightly more important.
On finishing my first read of this book, I gave it 4.5 stars. I knocked off half a star because of the whole information overload issue. It never stood in the way of my enjoyment of the story though. I was hooked from the off. In fact, I became obsessed. Two days after finishing it, I hadn’t picked up another book. I was missing this one so much, I gave in and read it through a second time. I finished it (again) with tears in my eyes and upgraded the rating to 5 stars.
Now, though, I’m sitting with an arc of a book that hasn’t even been published yet, waiting desperately for book 2 like my life is incomplete until I find out what happens next. Once again, thanks guys. Seriously, I think this is my favourite book of the year so far.
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.
These are some of my favourite 300 pages.
I loved this whole damn book. What really set this book up so well was how brilliantly this author builds her characters. El Higgins is an awesome character and her growth in my opinion in this book is really well written and done so humanly. Around her are an incredibly diverse set of characters that are well developed and I can’t wait to know more about them as this series continues - I feel Novik generally writes incredible characters and ‘A Deadly Education’ is no exception to this.
Plot wise, I liked that so much happened that kept the plot moving and it had a really good pace - the plot coming together in the end to make a really great ending that certainly kept me glued to my screen throughout. The action moments really keep you hooked and make you keep reading, and with such great characters moving the story along it was hard to stop - I once begun reading and then it was 3am, this is a dangerous book!
This book is powerful, intense, funny, charming and I love how there is so much more to unpack too as we go on, and I can’t wait to see in future books how they will emerge to be important. Fantastic writing, Naomi Novik is definitely becoming one of my favourite authors.
Go read this book, you won’t regret it.
Let me start by saying I enjoyed this book. I read it in a few days and never got bored. The writing flowed nicely and the characters were realistic and interesting. All the usual things in a good book.
It felt like a prologue or a history book about the school. It set up a great location and told you all the backstory about the school in many info dumps but it never got around to having an actual plot. I was waiting for something more. Instead it just felt like a few normal - if chaotic and dangerous - weeks in the protagonist’s life and I began to wonder why the story had started here. What was so special about this moment that made it the beginning? Nothing bigger was happening.
As I said though, I did enjoy it and I’ll definitely check out the sequel. Hopefully the story will truly start then.
I really liked the concept of this book. Young Wizards of the world are admitted to a school where teachers are non existent and it’s crawling with monsters. Each year the building shift and the dorms move down. The seniors end up on the lower level and their graduation day is a fight for survival and escape. Why anyone would want to go to this school is beyond me. I found it difficult to relate, even like the main Character. She is hard work. They other characters are interesting, but I felt there wasn’t enough elaborations to them so it’s hard to relate to anyone. There was a lot of explaining throughout the story. But it was still hard to follow at times. It would have been nice to have had terms and meanings explained at the beginning as it would have made the story flow easier. The story kine stops and starts while the main character explains what terms, monsters etc mean/are through her thoughts. I found by the time I read the explanation I’d lost what was happening. for a moment. However despite all this It was still interesting and they way it ended left me wanted to know what happens next.
Ever since I heard about this book I’ve been both dying to read it AND actively bracing myself for disappointment. The thing is, Spinning Silver is one of my absolute favourite books and I honestly think it’s one of the best that fantasy has to offer. Since I read it last year, I’ve been waiting for Naomi Novik to announce her new book. Preferably following the same atmospheric, fairy tale-esque style of Spinning Silver and Uprooted. Hence, my anxiety over probable disappointment.
That said, I might be one of the few sane people on earth that doesn't loses her mind the moment magical school is mentioned. And yes, I’m one of those monsters who doesn’t have any soft spot for these stories. The things is, there are way too many tropes in these stories and it's kinda hard to avoid them if yours story is in magical school. So, as much as I was hyped for this book, and incredibly grateful for receiving an ARC, I honestly had no idea what to expect.
So let’s get some questions out of the way.
Is this as good as Spinning Silver? Hell no
Did I have fun reading it? Hell yes.
I think the best way to enjoy this is to just forget about the masterpiece that is Spinning Silver. Instead, enjoy it for what it is. A fun, imaginative and diverse YA fantasy with a protagonist that is to die for. El is honestly the best thing about this book. That said, I do think that she’s going to be a deal-breaker for a lot of people. She has the kind of characterisation that always work for me but I'm not sure it would work for others. Personally, my favourite thing in characterisation is when authors don’t play it safe and when they’re not trying to create characters that everyone would like. My mantra in characterisation is that compelling always beats likeable. And I think that’s where the book really shines.
It’s just really fun to be in her mind. She’s sarcastic and funny but she can come off as mean. She’s got loads of bottled up anger and the way the book explores this is absolutely fantastic. From the outside, she might come of as a total bitch. But when you’re inside her head, you can see why she acts the way she acts. Her attitude is something of a chicken and egg problem. Basically, her magic is incredibly destructive and powerful, this somehow affects her ‘vibes’. So that when people see her, even when she’s not giving them any reason to, they avoid her and think the very worst of her. This in return pushes her to build up walls around herself and push everyone else away.
Also, remember I said about her magic being destructive? There’s also a prophesy about her that basically says she’s a potential Queen of Doom and Destruction. So yep, that might explain why I liked her so much. There is a scene when she’s really on the edge of losing control and going dark, and I was there cheering and saying ‘YASS QUEEN BURN THEM ALL’.
I also really loved magical elements and world building in general. The way books and even the school had consciousness was very cool. I do have a criticism on the whole info-dump though. I feel like several times the scenes were ruined because of the unnecessary info-dump. Like the main character was about to enter a dangerous scene and we were getting some unnecessary info about her past. If this book was a debut book I would’ve forgiven it, but I honestly don’t expect Novik to make mistakes like this.
There’s also a sweet romance there. Just like every other Novik book I read, I think the romance needed more page time to be believable. That said, I still shipped them. I mean, the love interest here doesn’t kidnap the heroine, so that makes him infinitely better than the love interests in Uprooted and Spinning Silver. Besides, it’s friends to lovers arc and I have a soft spot for those.
All in all, I think this was a solid start to what’s going to be a fantastic series. At the end of this book, I wished I could binge-read the whole series. Yes it’s THAT good. I know I said it had flaws, but it was so much <I>fun </I>. Also, I think if you haven’t read anything by Novik it’s a good place to start. And if you’re already a Novik fan, then you know you HAVE TO read this.
I was so looking forward to reading this, and so glad it lived up to my expectations and then some. It was very different in tone to Novik's last two novels (which I also love) and definitely more catered to the young adult market with it's crazy magic school setting and snarky first-person narrator El. I loved El, I smirked a lot at many of her thoughts and actions (and even though I usually dislike any kind of pop culture references in fiction I loved that El is named after Galadriel from 'Lord of the Rings' and I suspect Eleven from 'Stranger Things'- it felt very appropriate with their similar levels of power and potential for destruction..!)
It also had genuine moments of horror despite the humour, there were lots of monsters but one encounter with a particularly nasty one reminded me of the darker scenes set in the Wood from Novik's 'Uprooted.' I appreciated how there was only a little romance (realistic I felt given the student's constant exhaustion and fight for survival) and what romance there was felt very grounded initially in friendship and was given equal importance as the close female friendships that also developed. I liked how multinational it felt, there were lots of characters of various backgrounds and the detailed world building meant I could easily imagine sequels being set anywhere in the world. Plus the inclusion of themes of class privilege and social injustice were well done I thought, I loved how El didn't care who she insulted and almost inadvertently stood up for the little people (mostly just to be contrary but her heart was usually in the right place...)
If you want a short snappy book comparison I expect we'll see a few 'think darker Harry Potter by way of Hunger Games' tag lines in the coming weeks.
Exuberant, fun, scary and thrilling, I can't wait to read more Scholomance novels!
(ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley)