Blurb: Enter a school of magic unlike any you have ever encountered. There are no teachers, no holidays, friendships are purely strategic, and the odds of survival are never equal. Once you’re inside, there are only two ways out: you graduate or you die. El Higgins is uniquely prepared for the school’s many dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out untold millions – never mind easily destroy the countless monsters that prowl the school. Except, she might accidentally kill all the other students, too. So El is trying her hardest not to use it… that is, unless she has no other choice.
Title: A Deadly Education
Author: Naomi Novik
Publisher: Del Rey, part of the Penguin Random House Group
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
The Scholomance is a school unlike any other. Forget dreams of Hogwarts and take a step into a magical school for wizards that’s much less cosy. No teachers, no holidays but a whole host of creatures hungry for a taste of a student. Surviving the four years is hard enough, especially for someone like El who has no allies to help her out. But something’s brewing down in the graduation hall and it’s hungry…
My favourite thing about this book has to be the setting. The Scholomance sounds like it’s been incredibly well thought out and planned and that shows in the writing. I could picture the rooms myself (with the help of some fabulous illustrations) which really helped to pull me into the story. To add to that, we also get a great idea of what being a student there is really like. We get to see a lot of the trading systems between the characters, the constantly looking over your shoulder and the tips and tricks you need to up your chances of survival. I even found myself looking around my own room just in case there was a mal hiding there! It’s clear that a lot of effort has gone into the world building in this aspect as it’s very easy as a reader to picture the school itself, as if you were there. I also want to note how much I enjoyed El, the main character. I appreciated that despite the cold exterior she mainly adopted, there was a more tender side to her that just wanted to be accepted, even if she thought it was better that people kept their distance. I liked that she was a normal girl underneath it all who went on snack runs and just wanted a friend or two – it helped to make her relatable in a world that is so magically different to our own!
As for what I disliked, my main problem with this book is that not much happens. For a book that boasts a particularly dangerous setting and a main character with untold destructive power, it’s all a bit tame. Any creatures that we encounter are fended off fairly easily and the ‘big’ event at the end is over in a matter of a few pages. It just all felt like a lot of build up for not much reward. In particular, this is the case at the end of the book where we’ve been consistently told for 10ish chapters that El has the power to essentially cause destruction of a mass scale and she doesn’t use it. It was almost like teasing us! There’s one instance where you could say she does use her power a little but the scene lacked any sort of umph for me. We do get a lot of information dumps where El fills us in on who’s who, what’s what, etc. but again, while interesting in a world building sense, it wasn’t particularly exciting. I always feel like it’s more dynamic to find things out from meeting new characters or being in new situations instead of just being told, but that could just be me. I also feel like Orion remained a bit of a mystery to me. With a lot of the other characters we get to see them be normal teenagers/students but if he’s not killing something to save someone’s life, he doesn’t really do anything else. I would have liked to see more of him considering that he was obviously a main character. However, I will say that while this book isn’t action-packed, it could be a set up for a sequel. Senior year is obviously the most important in the Scholomance and we end with El starting hers. But did we need a whole 300 page book to set us up for it? I’m not sure.
I’d also point out that as much as I love the diagrams of the Scholomance in the front and back of the books, as well as the drawings of El and Chloe’s rooms, I would have loved to see pictures of some of the mals that we encounter. They’re not always described in any particular detail so leaves a lot to the imagination – this could be great if you prefer to picture them yourself but for me, I would have loved more information.
Overall, I would recommend this book if you’re a fan of dark academia or are looking to get into a new fantasy series!
Have you read this book? Or maybe you’ve read something similar? What did you think? I’d love to know!
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