Cover Image: A Deadly Education

A Deadly Education

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Member Reviews

I was very excited to receive the quirky approval email from Random House U.K. Cornerstone to read and review ‘A Deadly Education’ by Naomi Novik in advance. It was one of my most anticipated autumn titles and is the opening book in her Scholomance trilogy. It came accompanied by glowing comments from a list of well known authors and a great deal of prepublication buzz. 

However, despite this, I found myself struggling from its early chapters. I read on to 67%  before deciding it was just not for me. I skimmed the balance but despite an intriguing final line have decided that I am among the very few not singing its praises.

As to what wasn’t working for me - I didn’t feel much connection to its narrator, Galadriel (El), or engagement with the plot, what of it there was among so much exposition. In terms of setting maybe I have been spoiled by Hogwarts and Brakebills, but the world building just fell flat. 

I felt that Novik was trying too hard to be edgy and dark, with Scholomance students only concerned about themselves, even willing to push another student into a void for the opportunity to occupy their assigned room. It was cynical and bleak. Orion Lake, the not-boyfriend of El, was heroic and altruistic but was portrayed as something of a fool for this, at least in El’s eyes.  

Certainly El’s snark did have its moments but it wasn’t enough given how little overall engagement I felt with the narrative. I had the impression that ‘A Deadly Education’ was supposed to be ironic and something of a dark comedy. I have noted before that comic fantasy is a very tricky sub genre. Was Novik attempting to subvert the magical school setting with this cold automated setting? If so, again it just didn’t resonate with me.

This was my first experience of Naomi Novik‘s writing though I have her retold fairy tales waiting on my Kindle TBR. 

Clearly, I am in the minority among the many positive reviews for this novel but ultimately I need to be true to my reading experience.
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This book was AMAZING!

Set in a magical school called The Scholamance, which is a monster-infested school for witches and wizards, with no teachers. In this school, failure can equal death. Graduation is a literal fight to the death if you do not make it out, and once you have your induction at this school, you are there until graduation - if you don't die along the way.  

The main character Galadriel, or El, is a student at this school who does not have many friends, she is an outsider, which can be very dangerous for students at this school. She does not really try to get many friends, she mostly just wants to be left alone and is sometimes just outright rude to anybody who speaks to her (it was definitely well deserved sometimes, but other times I feel like she took it a bit too far), however, alliances are also crucial for surviving at this school, with monsters lurking on every corner. Orion Blake suddenly appears in her life and things start changing for El, not only does she seem to find herself in a few more dangerous situations, but she also gets to form some 'friendships' and alliances that may just help her graduate.

I don't really know what to say with this book as I did really enjoy it and I always worry about saying too much in case I spoil it for anyone, but it was a really great read! It did take me a while to get into it as although the world-building was amazing, it did seem a bit much and I sometimes felt like I was getting way too much information in one go & not much adding to the actual plotline. However, I am dying to read the sequel already and cannot wait to see where this story goes!
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Holy Moly. This book was simply EPIC. 

I have never read a book by Naomi Novik so went in completely unknown of the style of writing or the set up of her books. To say I wasn't disappointed was GREAT. 

The book is set in a magical school called Scholomance, the thing is it is not like any magical school you have ever read about before. The School is basically a hot bed of monsters trying to eat the students. There is a hierarchy within the school that comes from the outside and everyone is looking put for themselves. The worse thing is not everyone survives as the monsters come for the students of Scholomance during the school week, they could be poisoned at lunch, or not turn up for a class. Everyone works together and survive until they reach their final year and Graduation. The thing is they need to survive the graduation first. 

This book follows El, she is different from the rest of the students of Scholomance, she is an individual that doesn't confirm to the norm. She is something special and she is trying to survive until Orion Lake arrives at her dorm room with a bang and saves her life from one of the monsters. Thing is she isn't too happy about that and makes her thoughts quite clear. 

This book was, I literally am struggling to say how much I loved this book. It was completely different from everything else I have read and that is why I enjoyed it so much. It is so full of tension, magic and suspense. You never know what is going to happen but the sarcasm from El and the cluelessness from Orion definitely makes me love them both. 

Cannot wait to see what happens in the next book.
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This book is absolutely amazing, I mean I’m not unbiased I’m a huge Naomi Novik fan, but this was just everything, trust me. It’s fast paced, with the magical and fantastic  world building we’ve come to know and love from Naomi , it’s fascinating, addictive and  entertaining . I loved  El so much, she’s everything you want in an MC she is clever, strong  and stubborn, but you find her endearing still. I loved the relationship and banter with Orion, how they are with each other. I hate cliffhangers so it’s painful for me the ending, but just because it’s a cliffhanger and I have no patience, I’ll just whine and moan until I’m happy with the sequel in my hands. Overall a completely fantastic , addictive and enthralling read, another classic from Naomi 

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a free copy for an honest opinion
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Dark academia is a fantasy sub-genre that I have a bit of a growing penchant for and this latest release from beloved author Naomi Novik seemed to satisfy that craving. It’s also perfect for the season too, so I have been highly anticipating this one for months.

Galadriel is a sophomore and a loner at The Scholomance, a monster-infested school for talented witches and wizards with unusual affinities. Failure really does mean death but Galadriel -or El, as we call her- is beginning to unravel its mysteries. Her own dark power is so deadly that at full strength, she has the ability to wipe out thousands of people in one go, so can she keep it at bay while struggling to survive?

El has a natural repellent about her and I really wasn’t surprised that most people tend to leave her well alone. I don’t know if it’s entirely her fault really because it seems her magic can be sensed by others but she does very little to actively gain friends. By the end of the book, she has a small band of associates but the connections aren’t particularly strong, as you might expect between teenagers.

The enemies-to-lovers dynamic between her and Orion, a New York jock who seems to be the Scholomance’s saviour, is quite hilarious. He consistently saves her life and naturally, El is angry about it. For most of the narrative, I couldn’t decide whether he was truly in love with her or whether he just didn’t want her to die. Their constant bickering, mostly instigated by El, is filled with sexual tension and I know that this is something that will develop in future Scholomance books. 

El’s closest friendship is perhaps with Aadhya, who isn’t shy about being totally honest with El. This little exchange between them is probably one of the stand-out parts of the book for me. I know exactly what Aadhya is trying to say and I thought it was such a clever way of telling El that she radiates despair and frustration. Novik is a master at characterisation and this is one thing that really shines through on every page.

Despite its darkness, A Deadly Education has the air of wonder that is arguably essential in any fantasy novel. The magic has a secrecy about it that encourages readers to ‘believe’ in order to make it work -a concept with an innocence about it that is more commonly seen in middle-grade books and Christmas films. This small detail was the only time during my reading that I was reminded of a certain other, much more well-known magic school series.

Orion has been treated like a precious prince his whole life, so it’s not too hard to see why El’s constant cutting him down to size is refreshing for him. Her cruel remarks and exasperation at his presence brings him back down to Earth and this is why he forms such an attachment to her. It’s a smart, unique way of conveying the message to not put people on pedestals.

The action is narrated by El. She literally tells us absolutely everything in a very matter-of-fact tone and it almost reads like her journal or confessions. Novik appears to smash the ‘show not tell’ rule of writing to pieces but it’s a style that I’m definitely not used to in fiction and I would have preferred to discover some things -such as the premise of the Scholomance and how the magic worked- for myself. This may explain the emotional detachment I felt and I think I’d have appreciated more scenes from different perspectives. I was dying to spend some time in Orion’s head. Yes, I would love a Life And Death-esque book featuring his voice, please!

A Deadly Education is a strange, unique YA fantasy but I didn’t fall in love with it. I struggled to truly warm to El and at times, the romance got a little frustrating. The world building is very smart and unique but the style meant that it felt like I was watching things through a window or a screen rather than actually being there. However, if you’re looking for a quirky, dark magic-infused novel, it fits that bill.
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The scholomance is a school of magic where every student is lucky to get out alive. If you don't graduate then you die a pretty horrible death. El Higgins has plenty of power but one thing she's lacking is friends, or more importantly allies. The more allies you have the higher your chances of staying alive and making it to graduation.

Wow this book was absolutely fantastic! Fast paced, absolutely fascinating world building, and so much fun. I adored El, she was smart and endearing even with her prickly barriers up. Orion Lake was such a contrast to her and they bounced off each other so well. I was enthralled by all the ins and outs of how the magic worked and the hierarchy within the students. The school itself was fun to learn about too. I will be impatiently waiting the next installment in this series!

One of my favourite reads of the year, highly recommend!

Many thanks to DelRay and Penguin Random House for the gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.
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3.5 stars!

A Deadly Education seemed to have everything that I love in a book: magic, boarding schools, dark academia vibes, secrets, hate to love relationships, etc. Which is why I am slightly disappointed with how it turned out. 

For me this book had a whole lot of telling and not enough of anything happening. For the first 2/3 of this book I really wasn't invested in any of the characters and the plot was basically non-existent. It was a lot of going back and forth between our main character's experiences and just all the times that magical creatures tried to kill her. If I'm being honest, I still can't very much pin point what the climax of this book was. There was a lot of information being dumped on us all throughout the book and I personally prefer to find out things through experiencing them in the plot. 

I loved the concept of a school for people with magic that's so dangerous and cut throat that most of the students don't make it til graduation. Considering this is the first book in a series I am tempted to overlook the lack of action and plot and just expect that more will happen and be explained in the second one. 

I won't spoil this book for anyone, but one of the main issues I found myself coming back to was Orion Blake. From the offset, we are straight up told that he is special, he's a hero, he's a saviour. But we're never told why? We're never told what makes him the only person in this school who isn't attacked by the deadly creatures, we're never told why is powers are so special, we're never told why we're meant to believe that he's this all powerful guy who is there to save everyone because he is SO special. Considering that El's power seems much more practical in a school like this, it was a bit disappointing that she was constantly being upstaged by Orion - without any explanation of why he's so special. 

I found that halfway through the book I also started resenting our main character El a little bit. She is always rude and abrasive and extremely mean to everyone for no apparent reason. It was entertaining at first to see all the hate/love relationships between the students but after a while it just become too much to deal with. 

Overall, this was an amazing concept but the way the book was written just didn't do it for me. I will look forward to the second one - especially because of that cliffhanger at the end !!!

Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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A Deadly Education seems to be the story of Tom Riddle written as female, had the wizard who came to be known as Voldemort decided to use their raw power for good instead of evil. The school itself acts as a sorting hat, arranging itself to create moral decisions that test our protagonist El's resolve to avoid a prophecy set in a same same but different world as Rowling's beloved books. The similar beats of your favourite wizarding school are all here, including fantastic beasts (maleficaria), warring teenage houses (or alliances) and Defense Against The Dark Arts (maleficaria studies). The missing ingredient is teachers. 
I appreciate the overtones of privilege examined here, as 'enclaver' students traditionally have and abuse the upper hand. The politics of wizards it seems echoes those of the mundane world-there are haves, and have nots. There still seems something sad about teaching children to ration compassion and other feelings in order to become suspicious and paranoid magic wielding brutes. This school seems like a boot camp, all alliances, strategy and be or be killed but as our chosen one character, one can hope El is destined to put this to rights.
I think that what kept my rating from being higher was simply a lack of engagement. I enjoyed the book because I enjoy the author but her usual beautiful writing was missing because so much was constantly being explained. Yet for me, little of it made sense. Some of the spellwork has promise, with singing and instruments, rare ingredients and teamwork. Except the inner 'machinery' of the school seems full of plot holes, it is what it is because it does what it does but for me none of it made much sense aside from as a device to be eternally threatening. The descriptions of kids constantly warding themselves to eat, sleep, shower or move became repetitive. There were so many monsters I stopped caring about them at all.

There are a lot of good ideas here and maybe the story will evolve but it wasn't the strong start that I hoped for.
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dark academia + magic + monsters = a deadly education 

Naomi Novik takes the overdone concept of a magic school and refreshes it with darkness, a diverse cast and unique world building. If you are looking for a book to serve all the Slytherin vibes- complete with an unlikeable mc and twisting political alliances- look no further. 

The school in a deadly education is truly what the title suggests- deadly. When there are monsters lurking around every corner, you need to be 10 steps ahead at all times. How are you going to get to breakfast? Who are you going to sit with? Navigating the complicated social hierarchy of high school suddenly becomes a matter of literal life or death. As a result, there is a vague undercurrent of anxiety and foreboding through the whole book, which both unsettled me and forced me to keep reading. 

My favourite part of this book was undoubtably the world building. A common complaint I have heard is of the often unnecessary info-dumps. I didn't mind them, because the world Novik has created is so intricate and calculated that I loved learning more about it. I also didn't mind because I liked the voice of our main character with her sarcasm and dry humour. If you enjoyed the footnotes in Nevernight, I think you have a greater chance of liking them, and probably vice-versa. 

However, while I liked learning about the world and the concepts explored, I didn't feel that spark that makes me invested in the story. I was overall left feeling lukewarm about the characters, plot and writing. There was nothing done wrong per se, but nothing I felt to be outstanding either.

I also felt it to be a little juvenile at times. I am not sure if it is the marketing or my own misplaced expectations, but I thought this would fall more on the adult fantasy side. Instead, the inner monologues felt almost silly at times. For a school full of students whose only options are to graduate or die, I felt like they weren't as mature as I would expect and instead were overly fixated on frivolous and petty ideas. That's not necessarily a bad thing, just a side effect of it being a slightly different age range than I had hoped. I am pretty sure that this issue won't be present in Spinning Silver or Uprooted, both adult as far as I am aware, so now I am even more excited to try them!

I have a feeling that this will be a very divisive and polarising book, but I found myself falling towards the middle in terms of enjoyment. I definitely had more positive feelings than otherwise, and so I am looking forward to seeing how the story progresses in the rest of the series. I would hesitantly recommend it, but only to specific people as I can definitely see how this wouldn't work for some. If you have read this, I would be really interested to see what you thought of it! 

★★★☆☆.5 stars

Thank you to Random House UK for this ARC!

Release Date: 29 September 2020
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I cannot explain how much I adored this book. Yes, it's weird. Yes, it has a lot of information to take in. Yes, it's slow. But it worked so well for me. I knew I'd love this book the moment I started it. I thought the characters were well crafted, and all the extra info we got on them? I could have asked for more.
Naomi Novik simply created a unique magical school with a unique cast of characters. I was not able to put this book down, because I needed to learn more and to spend more time in this story. It truly was a wonderful book and I cannot wait for the sequel!
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Before this I'd never read a Naomi Novik book before so I didnt really know what to expect... but I was pleasantly surprised here! This is pretty typical fantasy fare but written with great detail and with such engaging characters, I look forward to the rest of the Scholomance stories and would definitely recommend book 1!
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Actual rating 2.5/5 stars.

To give such a renowned fantasy author and a book featuring a magical academy such a low rating physically pains me. I had such highly placed expectations for this one but there was an inexplicable <i>something</i> throughout that kept me distanced from the events occurring.

The concepts for how this school functioned, and the gaining of mana or malia to tackle the beasts that threatened the students there, were such intriguing concepts to explore. However, I felt the explanations for their intricacies may have been my initial source of interest but became my later issue. Much was repeatedly explained and it pulled me from any scenes of action. This also resulted in my ultimate emotional detachment and whilst I could acknowledge the brilliance of this creation I couldn't feel much for it.
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I loved the premise of the book but I did think that the author struggled to execute it properly. There was a lot of info-dumping and not much really happened until the last 20%. However, I did like the snarky main character and will continue with the series as it has so much potential.
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So fun, snarky, smart and completely addictive.  The Scholomance Is a brilliant creation, a dark magical battleground where students either learn or die. Naomi Novik once again shows how excellent she is at world building, and making characters we will love.  El is a such a great hero, fizzing with untapped power, full of rage and completely in charge of her own destiny. Exactly what I needed to read during these uncertain times.
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an enticing, atmospheric read. this book is set in a dark magical school called the scholomance. we have a twisted world with an intriguing magic system and a wide-ranging cast of characters. we follow el, our snarky main character with a dark prophecy of destruction looming over her. she has to figure out how to get through her school years without bringing attention to her ultimate powers of doom, and without friends or allies. naturally, some unexpected turns of events occur...

my favourite things about this novel were: the world-building, the writing style, and the characters. the scholamance is a dangerous school full of monstrous creatures lurking in the dark, where the graduation cermony (if you're lucky enough to make it that far) consists of fighting your way out of a graduation hall full of monsters. you may be wondering why any parent would choose to send their child there... well, they don't really have much of a choice. despite the danger of the halls, the students are safer there than they would be outside, where it would be even easier for the mals (monsters) to get to them. the magic system of the world relies on the build up of energy, a person can do anything that requires effort (for example push-ups or crochet) to build up their pool of magic. i really like that this magic system depended on give and take - magic can't just freely flow from nowhere, it follows certain laws of conservation.

i adored the writing style in this novel! it might not click with everyone because it is a little slow-paced and has to do a fair amount of world-explaining, but that's exactly what i was in the mood for. it's dark, moody, and atmospheric. i think it does a fantastic job of introducing you to a new, exciting, and dangerous world.

the next wonderful thing about this book is the characters! there are rumours and rivalries, as with any high school, but in this situation your social circle could mean the difference between getting out and getting eaten alive. there are friendships, enemies, alliances, and relationships. there's a large cast of characters from all different backgrounds - the scholomance very multicultural, being an international school, so there's students from pretty much every country. it's nice to see such a diverse range of people, as well as the interesting way different languages weave into the magic system.

another thing i appreciated was that romance wasn't a heavy aspect. there was only just a very small touch of something, which i really loved because it's nice to have some books that where it's not emphasised a huge part of the story. there was definitely a much stronger emphasis on friendships - which was actually quite beautiful to read, since el had never really had friends before.

honestly, i think this is the best book i've read all year and it's quickly become one of my favourites! it'definitely gives a promising set up for the next book!
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I have very much enjoyed Naomi Novik's first two books and have raved about Uprooted to everyone who would listen.  I think if I hadn't read them and fell in love with that style, world and writing I would have enjoyed A deadly education.  

I was so exited to get an ARC but sadly I struggled to get into it it.  I didn't have a clue what was happening during the first few chapters and the language and descriptions used were more like Cassandra Clare than the style of Novik's first books. Sadly I was put off and didn't finish this book. 

I should have read the blurb better then maybe I would have had a different expectations.
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Now, I’m a huge Naomi Novik fan...I adore her writing...just saying...

This is very different to her usual books, so if you’re looking for a fairy story then this isn’t it. 

It is however, just wonderful as you would expect. Set in a school for the magically gifted, it‘s a really scary place to be, even for a magic school. Everyone is out for themselves, monsters are constantly looking for food, students don’t speak or interact with each other unless there is a strategy involved. This is not a nice place to be.

El (who narrates), isn’t popular, nobody wants to even trade favours. But El is special...and someone notices..

....just read this book. You really won’t regret it....

My thanks to Netgalley and Random House UK, Cornerstone for the advance copy
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This is like a 4.75 maybe more, just doesn't quiiiite hit the full 5 stars for me.

This was so good though 😭 very reminiscent of the way Gideon the Ninth is written, if you enjoy the humour in Gideon you will love this book!

This is super different from what naomi novik has written before but I still ate it up lol. The character interactions and El's growth as a person really kept me turning the pages, and the last line made me need the next book NOW
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What a dark enthralling tale. School for magic with no teachers, no curriculum, you can only graduate or die. So a student desperately needs partners, great strategy and big magic powers to survive.

Galadriel or El is not a charming character, she just wants to be left alone but as everybody needs to make an allies to survive in this school. She also holds immense dark powers which can easily kill people.
Her allies are not friends in sense of the friendship definition...and the hero of the school Orion who saves everybody from different monsters, does not leave her alone.

Fantastic read, can't wait for second book.
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It took me awhile to get into this book, mostly because I was so confused with with what was going on, but carried on reading and I'm so glad I didn't give up! It was just so good and not at all cliche.
Some people might compare it to Harry Potter but I think it would be unfair to compare the two. They do have a few common factors, like the magic and the boarding school vibes but they are very different. The school itself does remind me of Hogwarts with the way it has a mind of its own as well as its own magic (also has moving staircases!!!). But this school is a more satisfyingly darker, insane version of Hogwarts with monsters and singing spells and a game of survival of the fittest.
The MC was such a delightful and refreshing person. She wasn't your typical nice, quiet loner with no friends. She's a mean, prickly loner who dishes out as much as she gets with heaps of sarcasm and wit. I loved how wicked and grumpy she is, but also the biggest softy. All she wanted was some friends who would have her back. Also her name is Galadriel, (!) and that alone would have pulled me in. 
The hero, literally in this case, is such a clueless idiot and a huge do-gooder, trying to save every single person from the monsters and i think thats what makes them such a great match. She feels annoyed at his heroics and ends up feeling obliged to have his back since everyone sees him as a hero and not an actual person who can also get hurt. The plot, side characters, the friendships, world-building were all fantastic! Looking forward to the 2nd book!
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