Title: A Deadly Education
Series: Scholomance #1
Author: Naomi Novik
Date Published: September 29th 2020
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Lesson One of the Scholomance: Learning has never been this deadly. A Deadly Education is 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.
The MC was a hilarious, antisocial, and rather unlikable character, which of course made me love her all the more. Her prickly attitude toward most people was endearing and was often a defense mechanism. The book was written from El’s point of view, which I loved as it gave us a real insight into her life, and how difficult life at the Scholomance can be when you don’t have friends. I am also a huge fan of sarcasm and witty banter and El’s sarcasm was on point.
The book was a high school ish book if high school was rife with deadly monsters roaming the halls, hiding in every crack, feasting on the students. There are no teachers, just the scholomance, the school which gives them the spells they need to become the best they can be in hopes of surviving the school and more importantly, graduation. I love that the school has its own personality and likes to screw with them. Unfortunately, El has a world-ending prophecy hanging over her head predicting her causing a whole lot of death and mayhem, consequently, the school only ever gives her deadly spells of mass destruction which aren’t terribly useful when she wants a simple cleaning spell. Suffice to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the book.
The Scholomance itself was a fascinating place, the way the school working, the tactics and precautions El had to think about and put in place were very interesting to read about. It felt as though the book constant a lot of plotting and scheming, reminiscent of books involving political intrigue, though this was a very different book to those, the constant planning and having to be on guard and use tactics to get around without being attack, gave me those vibes, which I loved.
I knew it would be a great read from the first line. El was yet again angry at being saved by Orion, which of course she hated as this in fact stole the opportunity from her to stand out and maybe show her fellow students, she might be worth working with. Her sharp responses and endless will to fight were entertaining to watch and her interaction with Orion were perfect. Orion is not usually the sort of character I particularly enjoy, however his relationship with El was hilarious and was so well written I couldn’t help but love them both. I enjoyed watching El’s position in the school change and see how alone she had been and how much she didn’t want that. It was so great to see that change but for El to not lose herself or what’s important to her, despite the fact she’s supposed to become evil, she was really the most genuine and fair people there.
The setting was wonderful and was the perfect place to explore some really important themes, namely, the book really explored class differences and the consequences of being born without privilege – in this case, it made you chance of survival very low. This theme of inequality was continued throughout the book and the plot was heavily influenced by this theme, I loved how well the author portrayed the struggles of those without privilege. Novik also tackled the struggles arising from mixed ethnicity and not fitting in anywhere. The book included students from around the globe, so it was wonderful to see this theme explored as well as have a more diverse populace.
A lot of details and well thought out background of science, technology, and magic were offered to us, which was wonderful. Whilst some of the magic doesn’t make sense - even El told us she doesn’t know how it works – most of it was explained to us. However, whilst I loved the explanations, they were quite hard to read and if you focussed on the explanation too long it became far more confusing. Along with this, the book suffered from regular info dumps. Now whilst I’m usually solidly against info dumps, I thought they made sense for this particular book, and I enjoyed getting all the details about how the school worked, the magic, the background, everything. It was a little excessive in areas though and I can understand how this could be a significant drawback to many readers, I would say be prepared for a lot of information to come at you. However, if you don’t read too heavily or deeply into the magic explanations and take it at face value then it can be really enjoyable, and then info dumps are often needed to explain the confusion of the Scholomance. I adored the whole book and would highly recommend but be warned the explanation style is not for everyone.
Overall, I really loved the book. The premise was intriguing, exciting and a delight to read. The main character was excellently written, and all of the side characters had a lot of depth meaning the whole book managed to portray the feeling of it being very real. The story was clearly incredibly well thought out, and the underlying themes, and the overarching plot, melded perfectly together. I enjoyed it enough to put 5 stars, however, the explanation style holds me back. Though I enjoyed the style and thought it worked well with the book, I know it’s a definite consideration for readers, though I would definitely recommend this book and I cannot wait for the next one!
Rating: 4.5 Star