A Deadly Education is the story of an unwilling dark sorceress who is destined to rewrite the rules of magic, set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets. There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere. El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students. Learning has never been this deadly.
The first instalment in the brand new Scholomance series, or Lesson One of the Scholomance as it's being referred to, introduces us to an exquisitely built world complete with intricate detail and a dark magic academy for prodigious youngsters. Add to this monsters and pupils willing to claw themselves to success, trampling on other students as they go and you have got a frightening and utterly riveting fantasy. The magic school is a seriously overdone concept in this genre, however, Novik has crafted a refreshingly original tale made unique by the true darkness of the school itself. With danger lurking around every corner it pays to keep your eyes open. The diverse cast was a joy to behold and El is an engaging heroine for the ages - a character so sharply realized and so richly nuanced that she will live on in hearts and minds for generations to come. Many thanks to Del Rey for an ARC.
This story is pure magic from the start. El Higgins has never been liked by anyone but her mum. People just seem to take a dislike to her as soon as they see her and keep a wide berth. In her defence, El has learned to keep out of other peoples way, for their own good. El is the narrator of the story and it comes across as pure dry humour that made me giggle. The further into the story I got and the more I liked this girl.
El has been sent to a very special school, a school of magic and mayhem where only fifty percent of students will graduate due to the other half being killed by the horrendous creatures that roam the dormitories throughout the year tasting the goods until the final day when the only way out is through them.
This is a cracking story, though, like everyone else that she knew, I didn’t like El, to begin with, it is very clever writing by this author. I had fallen hook line and sinker to be like everyone else and see what El wanted them to see. The entrance of a fellow male student made me smile but had the opposite effect of El. I was intrigued.
There are some wicked creatures in the story, brilliant head to heads and unthinkable alliances. The story is entertaining, funny and sure to be a hit with many generations. I really didn’t want it all to come to an end but there is going to be more. A brilliant start to a new series with the select few been chosen to take centre stage already.
I wish to thank NetGalley and the publisher for an e-copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly.
Filled with monsters, murders and blacker-than-black magic, this is about as dark as a boarding school story can get! I really loved the inventive storytelling here, in El's dry, witty voice, but at times, I did find the world-building hard to follow. It's such a full, vivid world, but it's also incredibly complex, and so at times it veers almost text-book like in terms of setting up the rules, the stakes and the monsters. That being said, I still very much enjoyed the read - and now that all the world is in place, I'm looking forward to jumping into the heart of the story in the sequel!
The minute I heard that this book was coming out I knew I had to read it. Whilst I have not read any of Naomi Novik’s books (I’m sorry! I have Uprooted on my TBR!), the concept of this book just drew me in and lets be fair dark academia is definitely something I love reading about.
I devoured 57% in one sitting and grudgingly had to put it down as I needed to get some sleep. This book is absolutely brilliant and I loved the world building and the characters.
Galadriel, or El as she prefers to go by was such a great protagonist. Sarcastic, smart, rude and incredibly angry El was brilliant and I loved watching her journey and her development throughout this story. Although she should be unlikeable, I never found myself frustrated or annoyed by her behaviour or attitude, instead I liked reading about a abrasive main character because in all honesty it was a breath of fresh air! She’s been shunned by people most of her life due to her affinity for dark magic and because of that she doesn’t know how to let people in, with her mother being the only person she cares about.
Orion was in my opinion quite hilarious with his clueless yet brave personality that makes him the hero of the school. He is everything you’d imagine in a hero and is loved by everyone but El who honestly hates the fact that he’s managed to save her life countless times. I also found myself growing to love Orion and all the side characters and what they brought to the book.
I’ve already mentioned the world building but seriously guys, it’s amazing. Everything was just so captivating and intriguing that I couldn’t help but want more. You can tell that Novik has put so much thought into this book with how detailed everything is.
Overall, this was a brilliant book and is now one of my all time favourites. From the sarcasm, to the plot and it’s characters this book ticked all the boxes for me. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series!
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House UK - Del Rey for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
I received an E-ARC of A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik for free on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much to Naomi Novik, Del Rey UK, Random House UK and NetGalley for this opportunity! This review is also available on my blog - Book, Blog & Candle!
A Deadly Education focuses on a magical school - The Scholomance - which is far from your usual run of the mill school. Here the students must have their wits about them and be aware twenty-four seven because there are only two options for the students who attend here - either they graduate or they die!
Our protagonist is Galadriel, but she prefers to go by El. She is tough, headstrong and learnt from an early age that she has to rely on herself. She has a close relationship with her mother but they don't have an enclave to protect them and her power tends to turn most people away from her the moment they meet, even her fathers' side of the family in Mumbai aren't immune to her destructive potential.
I really enjoyed El as a character and loved her personality. I mean she's named after a character from the Lord of the Rings, how can I not love her?! She can come across as a bit rude and jarring at first but ultimately she is a scared kid who has been ostracised and pushed away her whole life. Her main focus is trying to survive through the day. Throughout the book you get to experience her great sense of humour and biting sarcasm, you come to realise that deep down she wants to be liked but she is scared of rejection which has followed her her whole life. I found her character development really endearing and it was great to see the length she would go to so she could protect those that she has come to care about.
El forms an uneasy truce with Orion after he happens to save her life one day - not that she actually needed the help of course. He is popular, powerful and has a massive hero complex. He wants so badly to be able to save everyone in the school even at a complete detriment to himself. The dynamic between Orion & El was so fun to read, I'm excited to see where their peculiar relationship leads to next.
The worldbuilding was amazing, especially considering that the story is mostly set in The Scholomance which was really interesting and unique. Plus, I really liked the magic system, it was intriguing without being complicated and definitely very brutal! The students definitely had to on be on their guard all the time to make sure that they'd survive. I don't know why but reading this definitely reminded me of being back in law school - however the fearsome monster trying to destroy me was called Equity & Trusts law!
This was the first book that I've read by Naomi Novik and I'm definitely going to be reading more! I loved her writing style and the pace of the book was perfect for me, I'm so excited to see what happens next in the series.
A Deadly Education is a story of friendship with daring escapades and incredible twists, it is one that you don't want to miss!
A Deadly Education is slightly different to this author’s usual fairytale fantasies and not quite what I was expecting, needless to say I really enjoyed it and it is such a fun read. The premise of the story is fascinating, in that the students of this Scholomance school will either graduate or die trying to graduate. The school is not run by teachers but by magic and infested with all manner of creatures called Maleficaria or ‘Mals’ who lurk in every corner and crevice waiting to pounce. The story is dark, but written with an edge of humour and there are some really entertaining and amusing moments. The book is well written with some wonderful attention to detail, the world building is complex and the magic system is very interesting.
The characters are all portrayed really well and I liked all of them. In particular Galadriel (El) who is a perfect lead heroine, she is a bit tetchy and prickly, but completely driven to succeed in graduating. I particularly liked the bond she had with Orion and their interactions with one another were hilarious at times, they bounced off each other so well. They have a very begrudging friendship and El resents the fact he always seems to come to her rescue like a knight in shining armour, but maybe there is also the tiniest hint of a brewing romance?
My main problem is there is no riveting main storyline, pulling the reader through the book and at times my attention wandered with all the information to take in. The author spends a lot of time on the school’s history and the back history of El’s life and the main focus of the book is El’s escapades in school and her interactions with other students.
That cliffhanger last sentence really got me….and I definitely need to read the next book! All in all a great read packed with magic and world building, which I’m sure will interest Harry Potter and younger YA fantasy fans alike.
Thank you to the publisher via Netgalley for my advanced copy of this book.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Thank you to Random House UK for this ARC!
Release Date: 29 September 2020
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.