Cover Image: A Deadly Education

A Deadly Education

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DNF at 30%. This book just didn't hold my attention--aside from having problematic undertones, I didn't enjoy the character arcs or the plot. There was a great deal of info-dumping and little action that actually propelled the plot and my interest.

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I really loved the book. It was so easy get through, despite my lingering reading slump. I loved the characters. El is such a great main character, i feel like we don't get grumpy prideful female main characters very often so that was nice. I love El and Orion's dynamic, grumpy/sunshine characters are great. Also, Orion is a himbo and I love it.
There were a few moments of info dumps, especially in the first chapter but I don't mind it too much.

There have been some critiques about how race was dealt in the books. This article outlines the critiques and defends the book in certain places.

I would have given the book 5 stars due to my personal enjoyment but after reading the critiques, I've decided to lower the star rating.

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Usually when I rate a book 3 stars it's either because I liked it but didn't think it was anything special, or I'm super ambivalent about it. Neither of these are the case for A Deadly Education.

I adored and despised this book in equal measure.

I loved the character of El. She's snarky, defensive and downright hostile and I swear I've never related to a character more. The way she is just so done with The Scholomance and all of the obstacles it throws in her path were hilarious to read.
Orion is the floppy eared, dumb af puppy you can't help but love, and I also enjoyed the supporting cast in this book.
The writing came through at points, making me laugh out loud "Reader, I ran the fuck away." being one of my favourite quotes.

I hated the endless amounts of exposition. They were distracting and unnecessarily complex. While I love me some world-building and don't mind an info dump, I found the frequency at which random chunks of information was given to the reader to be very distracting, and so often that I wasn't actually getting the points Naomi Novik was trying to make as it was all just a bit too much. The lengthy nature of these info dumps often meant that I was distracted from the story and couldn't remember what was going on by the time we actually got back to the main narrative. They were also told in a conversational manner, like El was halting the story to impart information to the reader and as a personal preference, I'm not a big fan of that kind of storytelling.

That being said, this book ended on a massive "Oh Shit" moment so I can't wait to continue the series.

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I HAVE NO WORDS FOR THIS BOOK!! I am in love and cannot wait to read more by Naomi Novik Such a good book that I have the audiobook, Hardback and ebook

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<b>Short review: </b> It’s a fun read, in a morbid setting, I liked El and her sassy attitude and found the magic system to be cool. It is however infodumpy, slow and has some cultural issues discussed below. If I were to edit this book, I would have cut it in half. Or just had different adventures instead of witnessing El & co trying to get edible breakfast and not become breakfast themselves 15 chapters in a row.
Also people need to put their pitchforks away, this isn’t as problematic as people say. By no means is if perfect, but there is context for all the gripes. (apart from the hair thing – yikes!)

<b>My advice: </b> Go in with low expectations and armed with patience.
<b>Long review, no spoilers: </b>


- Funny and cheeky
- Cool main character -a twist on the Mary Sue thing
- No love triangles omg!!
- Very few tropes
- Interesting setting
- Magic that needs hard work


- Infodumps
- Cliff-hanger ending
- Seems culturally inclusive, but actually is superficial, throwing languages and cultures in there just…for…fluff.
- Repetitive
- Confusing worldbuilding (still not sure of some things mana mala maleficient etc)
- Super slow slog pacing
- Didn’t notice and lgbtq+ rep

<b> Plot: </b>
The synopsis pretty much covers it all. El goes to a magical school where there are monsters around every corner and will kill most student before graduating. Usually I adore school settings, but this felt a bit drab.
This had VERY strong Nevernight vibes, with the weird school, creepy magic and sassy MC. But there is no plot. Just our miserable protagonist, El, describing her every days, one might ASSUME the climax might be the graduation ceremony which has been mentioned 17 million times, but this is very much "a slice of life" story, albeit a short and violent life for most students.
The best parts where when El was learning / practicing magic and interacting with other kids, trying to keep her dark impulses at bay. Also when she was fighting with Orion. Yea that was hilarious.

There are many explanations of what students did daily in certain areas or classes or rooms and it was a bit tedious, lots of telling.... I sort of lost focus for a while because I didn't care that every Thursday at 11 am the pudding on the left hand side was probably poisoned except when there was a tripple full moon bla bla bla...

<b> Worldbuilding/ magic system: </b>

This is a tough world, kids die all the time, in this school and outside as well. It makes sense that almost everyone is desensitised to death, and nobody makes much effort to create genuine relationships.
The school itself is wicked cool, but so much time is spent in the cafeteria, it's ridiculous. but I honestly don't understand how this school works at all. There are no teachers, the school magically, diabolically decides what students study and when and why and how miserable and difficult it will be.... seems very vague in a very specific way. I wish we had more information about the history of the magical world or people's backstories.

<b> Characters/inclusivity: </b>

There were so many characters mentioned and yet we get to know so few. Mostly because EL is a loner and a bitch ( her words, not mine, tbh she’s not even that bad…), so she doesn't spend much time around people except Orion. I admit I liked her sass and her grit, her struggles with being good and not stepping into the darkness. She is a bitter thing shaped by the way society has viewed and treated her, has skewed perceptions and sees people as tools to be used. She is flawed, prejudiced and has little understanding of the people surrounding her and I appreciated following someone completely different from the usual “ oh I am special? But I thought I was normal and plain, but lookie I’m so good at everything, but oh no I must save everyone”.
One thing I disliked about El was her completely ignoring her Indian heritage. Apart from learning Hindi (for magical purposes), she’s made absolutely no effort to connect to the history, culture and traditions of her father’s. She does have some PTSD from a traumatic event related to the Indian side of the family, but she doesn’t reject / deny her roots which would at least make sense in this context, she just pretends them away.
Orion is a bit one-dimensional - I still don't know anything about him except his 3 main characteristics: heroic, powerful, wants to be treated like a normal person, wot a surprise.
Her mother is mentioned multiple times in flashbacks and she is basically a very good witch, the end.
There are a few recurring minor characters, Yi Liu is quite cool, trying to lowkey use dark magic to survive, Aadhya is a talented artificer and a haggler, hilarious character, Chloe is the face of the Evil Empire, chough cough, I mean the privileged NY Enclave.
There's lots of talk of alliances and of being recruited by enclaves and Dubai did this and New York is rude today and Beijing looked kinda funny at El... it's fairly impersonal and confusing. For a book that likes to emphasise the vast cultural and racial diversity within the school, there is zero time spent experiencing other cultures or exploring people’s traditions/ beliefs. This is a bit of a double-edged sword as on one hand, had the author attempted to plainly exclude all other cultures, it would have been flagged as xenophopic. On the other hand, the clumsy inclusion of cultural and racial diversity was poorly done and there is room for improvement.
One thing I highly appreciated was the fight against injustice and preferential treatment given to privileged people born into “good magical families”. It is a theme almost nobody has mentioned in reviews, yet it’s crucial to the plot.

<b> Writing style / pacing: </b>

Holy Moly this was such a slog. Is was only 330 pages but felt like 600.
SO MANY INFODUMPS! Right off the bat we have a very extensive and infodumpy chapter which, while I'm sure is relevant, is not at all interesting. We are being told about the magic, about the family and about the school rules. So far we are told, not shown and this trend will continue throughout the story. Pages and pages of chunks of history or magic rules, but our El not doing much.
It was also quite repetitive, constantly we are told about creeping or waiting mals, maintenance work, broken machinery and wards, alliances. It felt like rereading the same chapter over and over and no real progress was made either plot-wise or character-wise.

<b> Overall, </b> do not mistake this as being a feminist Harry Potter as is marketed – this is its own thing. Personally, I will continue because I found some parts to be fun and El to be my kind of cheeky, but I completely acknowledge that there are some representation issues, bad pacing and info dumps.
The author even addressed some of these issues on her twitter today:

<b>Rating: </b> 3.25 stars because I enjoyed the snarkiness

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Not what I expected at all. I adore Uprooted and liked Spinning Silver, but I don't even see how this book can be from the same author.
The writing wasn't to my liking and I really disliked El as main character. The reasoning on why she was this self-important, rude little know-it-all, didn't make any sense to me. The world holding and school was just meh and the whole language magic was a bit problematic.
This was a huge disappointment 😕

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A Deadly Education is a book i felt and read a lot of hype for- but when i read it for myself honestly I struggled but i think its down to my personal reading habits.

Plot summary:
El is in a deadly school where there are only two ways out- you graduate or you die. There are no teachers and the only way to survive is through an alliance or bartering favours to make sure the mass of monsters hidden in the walls don't eat you before graduation.

El came better prepared than most with what to expect but her powers are so explosive she could destroy the entire place if she really wanted. As her Junior year progresses and she is dragged from her loner bubble into the world of Orion Lake she must keep herself- and her newfound companions- alive and kicking to graduate.

Plot wise this book is pretty much what I expected when I read the synopsis- a deadly magical school with a sarcastic and distrustful heroine at the helm. There were a few points in the story that left me surprised and shocked but in general it was a generally average plot-line. The pacing was quite slow for a lot of the story and because of this it took me longer than it would normally to read a story of this length.

The world building and lore left me a little of kilter- the story throws you straight in with close to no appreciation for the world. It is slowly built up throughout the story but for someone who thrives on understanding the world it was a bit difficult for me to get into the story.

Character wise I really liked El- I loved seeing her develop and becoming a strong female lead that i wish more books would actually do! I also really enjoyed the side characters and seeing more of them and their development throughout the school yea

Final Thoughts:
Honestly it was an average read for me- it did not have the power to keep me reading and engaged which is why I gave it 2 stars. However the ending has left me intrigued and I would be willing to read the sequel to see where the story goes.

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The narrative style of this book was enjoyable! El’s character shone through with everything she tells the reader, and it was very clear that she was the one telling the story. There was one moment in the book where she acknowledged that she was telling the story to a ‘reader’ and I loved it.

This book doesn’t have much of a concrete plot, and not enough happens that I could properly describe the plot without explaining the events of the last 10%. A lot of the word count is dedicated to infodumps about either the world or El’s backstory. Other than that we follow El over the course of the last few weeks of her second to last year at the Scholomance. She nearly dies many times, is unphased when other people die because that’s a regular occurance, and she gradually forms some actual friendships. Usually I enjoy stories that are more character driven than plot driven, where less happens in favour of us seeing more of the characters interacting and developing, but unfortunately I think that Novik missed the mark here. This wasn’t so much character driven as it was exposition driven.

It had its moments though. At the start of the book, El doesn’t have any friends, and she’s never had any friends. She’s on speaking terms with some people but that’s about as far as it goes. She’s lonely. When her association with the most popular boy in her year means that the rest of the rich and privileged kids suddenly want her around, she regards them with suspicion at the very least. And when she’s forced to acknowledge that she has somehow gained friends who want to spend time with her for her, and who accept her for who she is, she struggles to believe it and has to fight the urge to cry. Novik did do well with this, and I saw myself in El’s reactions. I’ve been there. I’m still surprised sometimes that people actually like me. These passages were worth reading, and I’m glad that I did.

But. The representation is abysmal. El is half Indian, but the only connection she has with that is when a family member declared her to be irredeemably evil as a child and tried to have her killed. There’s a lot of references to people treating her badly and not liking her as she grew up, but it’s all attributed to a ~bad feeling~ that she gives off, and not because people were racist. The one time she does say something about that possibility, she doesn’t say that people were wrong to be saying that, leaving the ‘weak tea’ comparison as the only physical description of her that we get. El somehow knows everybody’s country of origin on sight, even if she’s never seen or spoken to someone before, leading me to almost believe they must be wearing badges or something that declares where they’re from. The throwaway statement about it being hard to trade spells in Hindi because all the Hindi speakers also speak English only makes sense if you assume that English is inherently more valuable and more versatile than Hindi, which is simply untrue. Yi Liu is Cho Chang all over again. The magic system relies on ‘mana’, and while El does say that this is only called that because it’s what’s currently trendy in-universe, there isn’t even the briefest mention about how mana is rooted in Polynesian culture, and so appropriating it like this is pretty shitty, actually.

It was also very obvious to me as a British reader that Novik is an American trying to write a British character and not doing a particularly good job of it. Some American English managed to sneak through, and some of what El had to say sounded unnatural to me. This is a much more minor issue in comparison to everything else that was going on, however.

I didn’t hate my time reading this, and there were a couple of good ideas in here! But I can’t in good faith recommend this book to anyone, and its problems are so deeply baked into the narrative that it would take a lot more than simply removing one paragraph (as Novik has recently said will be happening) to fix it.

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*I received an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for the free book.*

Galadriel -- El -- is a Welsh/Indian girl attending a very Gothic and extremely dangerous school for wizards. She's prophesied to be a dangerous and evil sorceress which is why her Indian relatives wanted to kill her. But El just wants to survive school, she doesn't even try to make friends. But when Orion Lake, the heroic chosen one who can fight the mals like no other, befriends her, her life is turned upside down.

This was fun, not super deep, like Hogwarts but dangerous (more dangerous), I think the story was ok, the world building as well, but it was entertaining most of all. Almost all areas could've been fleshed out a bit more, but as I was entertained and am interested in reading the sequel (the last sentence was LIT).

Edit: I have since learned that many BPoC are angry for the shitty representation in this one. Many scenes felt awkward to me as well, but of course I entirely lack the background. Novik could've avoided many stereotypes and should work on thorough and well-researched representation without diminishing or reducing a culture or several cultures to one. Overall, the novel felt unfinished in many ways.

3.5 Stars

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Naomi Novik is one of my favourite authors, and this book sounded written just for me - I've always loved stories featuring schools or universities where magic is learned or taught. And it turns out the distinction is important in this novel - the magic school here is devoid of teachers as instead the school itself has a sort of consciousness which provides answers to questions asked by extremely internally-motivated students (it's their best chance at survival!) Our main character is Galadriel (El for short) and she has an innate affinity for mass destruction - she's a hugely appealing character, and I look forward to reading more of her adventures. This is a really engaging, well-paced novel, full of interesting characters and brilliant worldbuilding. It would also work well as crossover Teen/YA, with its mostly teenage cast of characters and school setting.

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I was really looking forward to reading this, as I really loved Novik's previous books. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed. Maybe it's because I'm officially Old and have grown out of reading books set in schools/magic schools/He Who Shall Not Be Named was never really a book series that I gravitated towards, but something that is pitched as Dark Feminist HP really should have made me not even want to pick up this book. I should definitely just steer clear of dark academia books in general, because I do not enjoy them and why do I keep thinking that this time will be different?


I enjoyed the writing and some of the characters, El was a really fun protagonist, wry and stubborn and headstrong, kind of annoying at times, but all in all a good narrator.

But other than that, this book was just Not For Me. I do think it will appeal to MANY people for the sheer FEMINIST HP and DARK ACADEMIA vibes, but unfortunately, this wasn't a winner for me.

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A Deadly Education is the first in an all new series from acclaimed author Naomi Novik, and follows a young girl called El as she attempts to survive her years in the Scholomance – a school for children with magicial abilities. The only trouble is the school is not a typical boarding school – monsters hide in every corner and the only way to escape is to graduate at the end of your time there, or to die.

This book ended up being on my most anticipated releases of 2020, I was so intrigued by the school setting with a deadly twist. A Deadly Education is an action packed read, full of fighting and dangerous beasties. It was a quick paced story that I devoured in a few days and one I’d highly recommend. The world building is pretty fascinating in this story and while it took me a little while to get my head around the different terms I soon settled into this gripping and compelling story. There are a few moments that felt a bit like info-dumps, but generally the magic system were well explained in the story.

The main protagonist El is a fascinating character, she’s stubborn and sarcastic and at times she’s quite unlikeable. Despite all that I really found myself rooting for her as she attempts to survive another year in the school. I liked watching her develop friendships with her classmates and the way she stuck to her beliefs even when letting go would get her everything she wanted. I did feel some of the side characters could have been a little more fleshed out – I wanted to know more about boy wonder Orion Lake and why he’s so desperate to save everyone.

The story focuses on a lot of topics, particularly wealth and class inequalities which was something I did not expect. A Deadly Education is a gripping tale and ends on a pretty big cliffhanger. If you’ve been curious about this one I’d recommend giving it a try and hopefully the wait for book two won’t be too long!

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4.5 stars
A magical school that’s full of creatures trying to kill the students. And the students have to ‘earn’ their magic? I was ALL IN from the second I heard about this book.
The story is told from the perspective of our female protagonist, El (Galadriel). Being the first book in a series there’s a lot of world building and character introductions etc and I’m really looking forward to continuing the series.
There’s lots of tactics, fighting creatures, cliques and the ever impending doom of Graduation. When the seniors will take on the creatures down in the basement as it’s the only way out of the school. El and her friends aren’t seniors until the next school year

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Ooooof. Okay. How to even begin this one. Pegged as feminist, dark Harry Potter, A Deadly Education is the first in a new trilogy from Naomi Novik. While I'd read some of her Temeraire books in the dawn of my university years and then never finished them, I had read and enjoyed both Uprooted and Spinning Silver and I would be lying if I said this one wasn't high on my list of hyped books for the year. I was excited to be given an opportunity to read the book prior to release and as the cold, dark autumn nights rolled in, I felt this was an appropriate time to try and see what this book was actually like.

On paper, trying to do another magical school book (especially one set in the UK) following the success of Harry Potter seems like a rather daft idea. But as issues with Rowling's growing transphobia and the problems inherent in the Potter books themselves have become more of a talking point, it seems like everyone is ready for a new protagonist and story to sweep us off our feet. And hey, if she happens to be a mixed race, female protagonist who's actually potentially on her way to being the prophesied destruction of the magical world, then so much the better right? Except... that's not quite what happens here. And what's left is instead much messier and so much more disappointing, considering that those of us who have read Novik's other work have seen how good she can be.

Galadriel (yes, really) Higgins, or El for short, is a half-British/half-Indian witch trying to survive in the Scholomance, the magical school that will gleefully kill its students. You see, there are no teachers in the Scholomance, nor even quite structured classes, the rooms are pokey and open up into a void you absolutely don't want to fall into and the school itself is infested with maleficaria, or mal for short, horrors and monsters that are dying to eat you up. El herself is trying to make her way through the school year without falling into the temptation of using dark magic, because once she starts, she's not so sure she can stop, plus her great-grandmother prophesied that she would be the most powerful dark sorceress ever, the one to bring down all the magical enclaves of the world. Enter Orion Lake, who basically is some sort of boy wonder, taking it upon himself to save his fellow students from the maleficaria that are out to get them. In this sort-of rivals to lovers story, El and Orion find themselves unwittingly on the same team as they struggle to stay alive and make it to their final year. But there are dark powers at work in the Scholomance and in a school where every friendship is strategic and nothing is without a cost, El must decide if she's willing to use her deadly powers to ensure her survival, or if she can avoid the temptation.

From that synopsis alone, I was so ready for something more than just Harry Potter. El is a sarcastic loner, someone who doesn't make friends easily and pushes people away. She's abrasive, she's constantly trying to figure out if people have it in for her and oh yeah, if she gives into the temptation to become a maleficer, she could just about level the school and kill all the kids in it. But even though the book has a bit of a slow start (nothing I minded too much, not even with the excessive infodumping that counts towards worlbuilding), once I got invested, I was interested in seeing where it all went. Would El go to the dark side or could she maintain her commitment to not murdering everyone in sight? Even though her voice is relatively grating and her personality about as soft as sandpaper, I could have forgiven El: she's a teenager in a brutal school where everything is out to get her, so why expect her to be fun and cheery? But what really ended up bothering me is just how... colonialist this whole piece of fiction is.

El's mixed race background barely counts as anything, other than to mention that she sometimes got bullied when going to "mundane" school. She knows Marathi, among other languages (one of her special skills), but there is little in the way of cultural background here. We learn a lot more about her childhood growing up in a yurt in Wales than we do about anything that her mum does to try and keep her link to India alive (other than visiting relatives, the whole prophecy thing and that's that). To all intents and purposes, she could be a white character, because there is nothing here to address that cultural link, nothing to really make her actually sound like a mixed race character. Even her interactions with other students (and credit to Novik, she does try to make the school a hell of a lot more diverse than Hogwarts was) all boil down to the language they speak and whether they're of any use whatsoever to El. They have next to no personalities of their own and while it’s nice to see Black and brown and East Asian characters take a much more prominent role in the story, it’s not great when they’re basically defined in such broad strokes as to be meaningless. Arguably, this is an issue with El’s point of view and how she perceives everyone in the school (and how useful they are to her), but it’s a weak argument. Why bother even having a whole Baghdad enclave when their entire role is to provide El with some people who know Arabic when she conveniently needs it?

The other issue here is how often El mentions she needs a shower. Again, Scholomance is a deadly place, it’s dangerous to go alone, take a buddy with you, I get that. But to have your mixed race character (pathetically described as “the colour of weak tea”, like really?) go on and on about being unclean… that’s just really poor optics. And I mean really poor. There is an entire passage dedicated to how locs are a bad idea in Scholomance because a deadly monster might nest in them, like locs (particularly on Black people) are not already a source of derision and comments about things living in them, in a book where there are apparently no major Black characters (we have a couple of mentions of Western Africans but that's it really). All of it just comes across as tone deaf, like no editor really picked up on it, there were no sensitivity readers to point out how this is such a bad idea. There are other examples: El mentions that all the languages of India can apparently fit on a shelf in the Scholomance library, despite there being over 800 of languages spoken in the Indian subcontinent. There are mentions of djinn (a decidedly Islamic concept) used as servants by Hindu wizards (and seriously, is she not aware of what the India-Pakistan conflict looks like, or does she not care?). We have another 'Cho Chang' situation on our hands, except this time it's a character whose name is Liu and we have no idea if it's her first or last name, nor does the narrative seem to particularly care about it. I even saw someone mention that it looks like Novik straightwashed some Harry/Draco fanfic she once wrote which if that's actually true, then absolute yikes.

But the story itself also leaves a lot to be desired. It's boring at times, it's full of long segues where nothing happens, it doesn't seem to really hit its stride until about 60% of the way through, it ends on a cliffhanger so monumental I wanted to hurt my Kindle against the wall. El treats languages like they're some download into her brain and she can apparently just pick up stuff like Latin, Sanskrit and Old English, like it's nothing (also really, two of the languages are dead and one very much isn't, let's not pretend they're remotely the same) and she does the same with Arabic when she encounters a book of spells she desperately wants to learn. She can pick up spells like they're nothing too, apparently, which obviously makes even not just evil (or potentially evil) but also wickedly powerful and this is without even getting into the whole prophecy schtick.

It feels like a disappointment. It reads like one too, because I wanted so much more out of it. Novik shouldn't have had this published in its current format. It continues to perpetuate colonialist and racist beliefs (also, please don't use bullshit like "freshman" and "sophomore" in a book set in a magical school in the damn UK), it's overhyped and has some really lazy tropes in it and I just... I wanted and expected better from her. If this is what's meant to be the next Harry Potter cultural phenomenon, then hard pass and no thank you.

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Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book.

Set in a school that is quite literally a death trap, this book proved to be a super interesting concept where teenagers deal with not just your standard levels of social hierarchy, but the most intense kind, with monsters and magic thrown in the mix. Of course, our main character seems to be a siphon for destruction, and mere survival is a challenge of restraint for her. Add in the difficulties of friendships and schoolwork, and you have yourself a fun read about the most chaotic teenage life.

As dark as this book sounds with all its claims of monsters and destruction, it is the word "fun" I keep coming back to. This book is categorised as adult here in the UK, which honestly baffles me a tad. If you take out the few instances of swearing, this book really does read on the younger side of Young Adult/Teen fiction. Which isn't a criticism in itself - just something to note. That being said, I really did struggle with imagining these characters because their voices just didn't align smoothly. One minute our main character would be hurling rude insults around, the next, she would say something that immediately had the voice of a 14 year old. It was slightly jarring, and I had to keep reminding myself what year of school she was in just to be able to conjure up an image of her in my head.

It's worth noting too that this is entirely different to Naomi Novik's usual writing style. Novik attempts a teenage, slightly angsty "I-don't-care-about-anything" voice on our main character, throwing around lots of "Etcetera etceteras" to show just how much she didn't care to explain. I have to admit, I didn't love it. I'm much more of a fan of Novik's adult folkloric fantasy. That being said, it was engaging to read and still had the charm I expected from Novik. Despite to caring all too much for the characters, I had my moments of emotion when reading the backstory scenes, or when everything about our main characters defensive attitude suddenly made sense. It takes a lot, to invoke that kind of emotion and understanding in a reader, and yet Novik manages it every time.

The world building - or rather, school building - was by far the most intriguing part of the book. Granted, we were given quite the disjointed info-dump at the beginning about how it worked, but it doesn't take too long to just go along with it. The school was another character in and of itself, almost a sentient being that would adapt to whatever was happening in the book. Not only that, but the sense of danger surrounding every corner of this book...oof did I feel the intensity. I didn't even begin to fathom the level of alertness needed to survive in this school until Naomi Novik laid it all out on a plate to me. Assessing which table to sit at while eating lunch, how to shower, walking down corridors - even deadlines somehow became more scary. Novik really did think everything through, and it was a wonder to read.

That being said, this did end up being a middling book for me. I love the concept, the world, the social systems and magic. But the writing was just...not for me. I had too many niggling issues with the book to be able to fully sink into the story. Which is such a shame! I had high expectations going into this one, after my love for Uprooted. Still, it was a fun one to read and give a go, and I'm more than eager to give the rest of her books a read if I haven't already.

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I was really looking forward to this book. There has been a lot of hype about it in the bookish community. When I received the email, saying that I had been approved to read it, from the publisher it made me even more excited as it read like an acceptance letter to the school featured in the book.

However, I found that the book fell completely flat. The first few chapters felt like the protagonist was just reeling off everything that you needed to know about the story with no particular structure to it. It was like being in a teenager's head. Or someone that feels the need to tell you every single one of their thoughts without pausing or taking a breath. I'm not sure if this was suppose to be a character trait, but it really did not make me want to keep reading.

I understand that there needs to be some world building in a new story, but it could have been done so much better. I had to put the book down. I was hoping I would come back to it in order to review it further, having read it all, but truthfully I just didn't want to read it. So it was a DNF for me...

I really hope everyone that has got special editions think it's worth the hype. For me it wasn't.

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DNF at 34%. Let me be straight forward, I honestly thought A Deadly Education was going to be what I never knew I always wanted. Dark academy, deadly magic and a sassy main character? I signed up as soon as I read the synopsis. This was my very first time reading a book by Naomi Novik so I didn’t know what to expect in terms of her writing style, but after hearing so much praise for her novels Uprooted and Spinning Silver, my expectations were quite high. But after reading just a few pages, I knew this book wasn’t for me. I tried to push myself to finish it, but then I decided to DNF it.

This YA fantasy story starts off with the mail character, Galadriel (better known as El), being saved from a soul-eater by the golden boy at Scholomance. El is a biracial sorcerer (Indian and Welsh) with an affinity for destruction who just wants to survive her academic time at the school and get in an enclave. But surviving in a setting with dangers in every corner and without teachers, can be a little bit challenging. Nevertheless, she is willing to try her best by her own. That’s it, until Orion saves her.

In this school, sorcerers can either use mana or malia. Mana is an arcane energy, a life force. While malia is dark magic. Also, there are three academic tracks in this school: alchemy, incantations and artifice. That sounds interesting, right? Except that it seems no one told the author that she should show, not tell. This was just more info-damping that anything else. There is barely a solid plot because the author is more focused on the continuous exposition of information. That, added to the childish tone of the book and that I wasn’t impressed by El’s attitude at all, made me loss any interest in the story.

Summing up, A Deadly Education wasn’t what I was expecting. The 34% I read is just full of info-dumping, the main character being saved by the golden boy and being rude to him, and demons attacking them every few seconds. This wasn’t the dark and twisty book I thought I would find here. I guess if you like school settings, overly childish humor and a kind-of-sassy main character, this may be for you.

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I was so excited to read A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik.

A Deadly Education is the first book in the Scholomance series. It was supposed to be everything I love – magic, magical school, a bit of romance. And it left me so disappointed and just empty within. I have no words of how sad I am to be writing this review. I am crushed, but I have to be honest to myself and to the people reading my reviews.


A Deadly Education is indeed a story about a deadly magical school. This school, Scholomance, is a school for students that are magically gifted. There are no teachers and students are left alone to master skills and attend lessons. They are also forbidden to walk the halls at night, because deadly monsters are lurking from every corner. And the ultimate graduation test is a deadly game of survival by fighting these monsters.

The students’ magic works based on either mana (the good magic) or malia (the bad magic).

El is our main character in this book, who can use malia to defeat all the monsters, but that would involve killing the other students. Survival also means working on strategies and making allies with other people.

And then we also have Orion Lake. He has many friends and admirers and he keeps saving El’s life. And she’s not impressed and hates him.

My Thoughts:

I feel like A Deadly Education was a great idea about a magical school that has a “Hunger Games” type of graduation, but somewhere in the middle the plot got lost and we got a weak story.

First of all, I hated El. I don’t usually hate characters, but God, I really despised her. Not only was she incredibly rude all the time, but she was very entitled, self-centered and very selfish. I hated the fact that she always thought the world revolved about her. Furthermore, she kept pushing people away, especially her so-called friends and Orion.

Then we have Orion Lake, who is portrayed as the hero, saving so many lives. Which he is. But he also is this person that can’t speak for himself, and seems like he does whatever other people tell him to do.

And the romance between them was very non-existent. There wasn’t any form of attraction that I felt, only El’s rudeness. I don’t know how it escalated in the end to a romance, because I didn’t see it. El was even then being rude to him.

This is such a hard review to write, as I know this book is widely popular. But for me, it didn’t hit the mark in any way. I wish there was more to it than just the deadly monsters and strategies for a graduation that was so talked about. And I wish the romance was real. But I’m still keen to read the second book, just to find out whether it will redeem itself, at least a bit. If you’re looking for a magical school, I’d suggest Hogwarts.

This ain’t it.

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My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Naomi Novik is absolutely in my list of top ten favorite authors of all time. Spinning Silver and Uprooted are so beautiful, romantic and atmospheric that I know they are books that will always stick with me. When I learned that we were getting a SERIES from Naomi Novik…and not just a series but A DARK ACADEMIA series? I legitimately jumped for joy. It was not cute and my downstairs neighbors definitely didn’t enjoy it, but it happened.

A Deadly Education was absolutely everything I wanted. The world was incredible and so unique. Novik actually managed to create a magical school that I very much do NOT want to attend. I never thought it would happen, but if I got admitted into the Scholomance I would legitimately run away. Far far away. Do not sign me up. Ever. Please. That being said, I loved reading about it. It is a school with no teachers that is instead filled with monsters that the students have to somehow survive in order to graduate.

El had the unique talent of being absolutely endearing in her narration, while simultaneously annoying me to no end when she spoke. Try to remember every snarky thing you’ve thought but kept to yourself. Now imagine what would’ve happened if all of that snark came out of your mouth instead of staying in your mind. THAT is El, and I absolutely loved her for it. When I tell you that El spoke her mind in this book, I don’t mean sometimes. The girl really spoke her mind. She also managed to be witty, funny, likable, tenacious and a surprisingly good friend to those who managed to slide into the role.

The pacing was a little slow to start, but that is to be expected of the first book in a new series. I didn’t feel as though there were any info-dumps, and the world was fairly easy to understand once I really let myself sink into it. While the book ends on a tiny cliffhanger, it is one that I can manage to survive. Do I want to call Naomi Novik and beg her for the second book right now? Well, yes. Will I be able to control myself and resist the urge? Probably.

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If you fancy a book about a magical school which is basically designed to kill you, more monsters than you can throw multiple sticks at, a kick-ass, take no prisoners, smart mouthed snarky heroine and the promise of more to come then this is a book I’d highly recommend. The first in a new series, this is quite different from Naomi Novik’s previous novels but none the poorer for that. Her brilliant writing shines through and she has created some absolutely brilliant characters in this, both the leads El and Orion and the fabulous supporting cast. The school itself is a master piece in world building, and a larger world is hinted at that I very much look forward to discovering more about this. This is a thoroughly entertaining romp of a novel but there are serious moral issues raised, such as equality, privilege, and the abuse of power (both magical and non) which than give it an edgier tone than other books of it's kind. There is a hint of romance and some excellent unfolding friendships which will have you wishing for the next in the series.

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