Thank you to Random House Publishing Group, Del Rey and Netgalley for the review copy in exchange for an honest review. This does not change my opinion in anyway.
Book: A Deadly Education (Scolomance 1) by Naomi Novik
Release Date: September 29th 2020
Tags: Young Adult | Fantasy | Magical School | Monsters | Friendship | Alliance
Trigger/Content Warnings: Mentions of Death | Non-Graphic Deaths
Other books by this author I reviewed
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.
I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to read this Naomi Novik book early. So far I have loved all her books. However while I have rated this 4 stars this is not the kind of book I am used to by Naomi Novik and I think it is the book I like least so far. Still it was good in general.
The thing with A Deadly Education is that it is a much more introverted and bleak book than any of her other work has been. It is a first person point of view in a setting and situation where our main character can never really relax.
Scholomance is a school without teachers where the students learn by getting assignments and sheets that drop on their tables as they are in class. They always have to be careful of monsters that can attack at any moment, even in their dorm rooms. Luckily, or unluckily as El feels, their year has Orion who has been slaying most of the monsters. More students have been surviving. Orion saves El once more at the start of the book which frustrates her immensely.
I enjoyed the setting, the story and the characters. But I felt that the writing drones on in places with introverted thoughts and too lengthy world building explanations.
One of the plus points of this book is Orion and his relationship with El. El isn’t exactly easy going but he hangs out with her regardless. Orion is just deliciously oblivious and kind hearted. Their whole school thinks they are dating and he doesn’t notice anything. El gets so frustrated by him and it gives some funny interactions between them.
El might not be the easiest person but she is fair when she does trading and treats those around her equally. When this gets noticed by those around her, it is appreciated and she manages to create a group of girls around her with Orion. Alliances that are based on friendship, and not who is the strongest or who has the most the offer. I liked seeing that. Their friendships grew slowly and in between the darkness of the school it was a shining beacon of hope.
Lastly I’m going to note that El is a biracial (half indian, half welsh) character. Nothing in that stood out to me as bad rep throughout this book. BUT I am white so please take that with a grain of salt and listen to the opinions of own voices reviewers on this particular instance.