Cover Image: A Deadly Education

A Deadly Education

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I found this to be a disappointment. I've loved much of Novik's precious work, but this felt off the mark and contained some pretty racist remarks.
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When I first started reading Fantasy Fiction about two years ago Naomi Novik was one of the authors I was told I should read. She has quite a good back catalogue, but I was lucky enough to be given a copy of A Deadly Education which was published in paperback in May. This is the first in a Duology set in a school of magic, like no other; imagine a nightmare version of Hogwarts. The school is set in a black void making it impossible to to leave until graduation, or another student pushes you into to it to die. There are no teachers only monsters, and less than half the students are expected the graduate, the other half killed by the monsters. Into this comes Galadriel, El, a loner in a place where safety is in numbers, but her magic is not like the others, she can’t use it to make alliances. Her magic is strong and dark, but also dangerous, so whilst she could kill the monsters, she could also kill the students, and has a prophecy for slaughter an destruction. As El tries to survive she has to open herself up and learn to trust others if she wants to survive.

This book has its roots in Romanian Folklore about Scholomance, a fabled school of black magic run by the devil, and reading this book I think the monsters there, and some of the students are more frightening than the devil. Monsters lurk everywhere, in the food, the showers, the classrooms, just waing for a lonely, unwitting student to come along. The fear is not just of monsters but of other students that practice’malia’ a dark magic that feasts on ‘mana’ a life force, from people and iinaminate objects, that have to be sacrificed. Even is you survive the horrors this school holds there is still graduation, where students face the worst of the monsters, before they can leave, if they leave. Naomi Novak keeps the tension throughout, as El and her classmates fight to stay alive, in this horrible and fearsome world she has created where literaly there is no where to run in the void. There are so many current themes addressed in this book, class differences, equality, the consequences of our actions and how we cannot go through life alone.

I really liked El as a character, and felt I understood her in some way. She is a loner, brought up in a commune by her mother after the death of her father in graduation. Most of the other students come from enclaves so are part of a group, giving them the better chance of survival. El finds it hard to trust and has no friends, making her vunerable, but during the course of the book, she seems to open herself up mainly due to her unwanted protector Orion Lake. Orion is everything El is not, popular, part of the New York Enclave and now her protector, whether she wants it or not. Orion is everyones knight in shining armour, always on hand to save the day, but shows modesty and is unpretentious about his skills. His interest in El sees her popularity rise, as enclaves and other students start to take notice. The relationship between El and Orion is one of sarcasm, she doesn’t adore him or admire him like others do and I loved watching then spar against each other. There is also a host of interesting characters, all trying to graduate alive in anyway they can, as it is a game of the survuval of the fittest.

A Deadly Education is a dark, tense, magical and spellbinding read. The school is fearsome in it’s need to feast upon students, and the monsters are terrifying to say the least. El is a wonderful character, strong and independent, and as the plot progresses she realises that she can’t do this alone, and has to compromise. I was totally hooked by this book and am lucky enought to have the sequel from the publisher to read and I can’t wait to see what happens next, especially after the cliffhanger ending.
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I had to DNF this book. I honestly could not get past the first two chapters. It's just all info dumps and extremely long inner monologues, and I just couldn't take it anymore. I heard from others that pretty much 80% of the book is exactly like that, so I decided to do myself a favour and put myself out of my misery by putting the book down. 

The premise and setting of the book sounded perfect, but the execution was not my cup of tea.
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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me a digital review copy of this book.

This is going to be a very short review, because I didn’t finish the book. I had a lot of trouble understanding what was going on and it all felt kind of weird to me. So after 100 pages I decided to stop reading. I’m very sorry that I did, but I just wasn’t enjoying it enough to keep reading. I hope other people will like it, because i really liked the idea and I think it can be really good when you understand what’s going on.
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I have been absolutely transported by this book.

Would I want to go to The Scholomance? Absolutely not. Will I go to The Scholomance by reading anything and everything about it? Absolutely I will, and I fully intend to bring as many people along with me as possible.

A Deadly Education takes your expectation of what a magic school for children should be and turns it on its head, and then inside out, and then throws some death and murder at it for good measure. The Scholomance is no place for children. It’s dangerous and deadly and when a student enters, they already know that their chances of getting out alive are slim to none. After all, nearly a thousand students are killed within its walls every year. If the monsters that stalk the halls (and the air vents, and the storage boxes, and the cafeteria bain maries, and… you get the point) don’t kill you, you might catch the attention of another student who has gone darkside, and who powers their own magic by draining your life force. Tough luck. There are no kindly teachers to help you. You enter The Scholomance, and, if you keep your wits about you and make the right connections and study hard enough, you might just exit with your life.

Needless to say, I am obsessed.

To me, reading this book felt like I was an exchange student joining The Scholomance for a semester. Naomi Novik tells the story in a way I found very interesting – namely, some plot happens, and then we get a huge wad of backstory as to why that plot is so dangerous. This story doesn’t start from the moment Galadriel (‘El’) enters the halls of The Scholomance. She’s in her second final year, and as such, we haven’t had five books worth of backstory to give us a rich tableau of the school’s history or the mechanics of how it works. Some people may find this way of telling the story grating, but I loved it. I felt like I was running the halls with El while she explained to me why I could never trust the staircases to lead me where I wanted to go, or why I needed to form an alliance to shower more than once a week, or how best to approach a toolbox without getting my head separated from my body. Others might find it tedious; I found it exhilarating.

I also loved how prickly and awkward and powerful El was. Hell is a teenage girl, or whatever the saying is. She wasn’t endearing in almost any way, and still I’m in her corner. I figure if you’ve been told since you were born that you’re going to bring about the end of the world as we know it, you’re allowed to be a bit pissed off and give off weird bad vibes.

Anyway – love love love this book. Eagerly awaiting the second in the series, as well as any other tidbits Naomi Novik sees fit to give us. She is filling a rather large magical school-shaped hole that I gouged out of my heart, and for that I am grateful. I can’t wait to travel further into the bowels of The Scholomance and head into – gasp! – the graduation hall in the next instalment.

Thank you to NetGalley and to Random House UK for providing me with an ARC of this book.
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An intriguing premise with compelling characters, this was a good introduction to Novik's work and I'm eager to read more.
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Arc provided in exchange for an honest review.

3.75 stars

The plot:
The story follows Galadriel 'El'  Higgins a 16 year old magic wielder who at 14 was sent to the Scholomance, a magical boarding school, along with all of the other magic wielders her age. This isn't any normal boarding school though for one there are no teachers and two there are Mals (monsters) roaming the halls trying to kill you every chance they get. Lastly the only two ways to leave the school are graduation or death. 

World building:
I have to say the world building in this story is on another level. At times it can feel like an information overload while reading but the world is so intricately built and unique that the info dumping didn't bother me.

Characters:
EL- Look I ended up really liking her character by the end of the book, but through out the start and the middle I wasn't loving her. She's prickly, snarky and sarcastic which I loved but I thought at times she pulled the victim card a little to much and was unnecessarily mean. But then I remembered that she's 16 and that's probably normal. I did really like how unwaveringly loyal she was to her friends.
Orion - I love Orion so much I have nothing bad to say about him. I just really hope he doesn't turn evil.

Overall:
I would absolutely recommend this book to people. It was such an interesting read. The world building is so unique and enjoyable, it's dark without being to triggering or gory.
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After a brief false start (I wasn’t keen on El at first, and didn’t quite ‘get’ the setting/set-up!), I was completely sucked into this storyworld and couldn’t put the book down. In fact, this was one of those rare books I immediately went out and bought a hardback copy of for my ‘keeper’ shelf!

If you can imagine an unholy mash-up of Hogwarts, Soman Chainani’s School for Good and Evil series, the Hunger Games and Rusty Quill’s Magnus Archives podcast, then you will get something of a taste of the Scholomance’s style.

There are no adults or authority figures of any kind here, just a school full of teenagers trying to learn magic and pass exams in a building that is stuffed full of monsters, floating in a void, and actively trying to kill them.

El is a fantastic anti-hero and her reluctant truce with anti-villain, Orion Lake, turns the standard fantasy tropes neatly upside down. Even the side-characters, like Liu, Aadhya, Jack and Chloe, are well-written and fascinating to read.

The whole story is inventive and complex – the setting is still in the process of being explained by the end of the story! – and the shocking cliffhanger ending makes it 100% guaranteed that I will be back for the next instalment.
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I wanted to love A Deadly Education so so badly - I adore Spinning Silver and Uprooted - but this just fell so flat to me. Mostly, I just found it boring. I didn’t warm to the characters and I felt like the narrative was so limited by the MC’s voice - we see the entire story through her eyes but I didn’t enjoy her viewpoint at all, and she’s very restricted in the people she speaks to and where she goes so the story feels very samey. I feel like the first person narration really limited the story, not allowing us to explore the excellent concept of this school. I also feel like Novik relied too heavily on the first person narrative when introducing world building and back story - it was all info-dump and tell, rather than show. Which again, just made the story feel one dimensional. Maybe this narrative technique will work for some, but it just didn’t work for me at all, and felt like such a slog to get through.

All the incredibly lyrical description and world building that I love Novik for was completely missing from A Deadly Education, and the writing style just did not live up to what I’ve come to expect from her.
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“I decided that Orion needed to die after the second time he saved my life.” 

These are the opening thoughts of El Higgins, a girl who possesses the power to destroy the world, about her heroic classmate Orion Lake. In the opening line Novik has established that this is a school unlike any other we have seen with a protagonist who, distrusting of her peers, avoids friendships and actively wishes people harm. Nice! 

Survival is the name of the game at this school and from the first line we are drawn into the story of El’s survival. I really enjoyed this story and loved the characterisation of our main protagonist. Setting plays an important part in this story and Novik spends her time really crafting a school that is capable of living and breathing. 

My main criticism is with the formatting of the text which I believe is more a publishing issue then an authorial one. The text does look like a slab or writing that at times made it incredibly difficult to read or pause for comprehension. I also think to compare this to Harry Potter or the Hunger Games is a disservice to this book which stands on its own within the fantasy genre. Novik has crafted an original tale and I am very much looking forward to reading the next instalment.
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A Deadly Education turned out to be different to what I wad expecting but it does have a certain touch that keeps you reading.
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I was so surprised reading this book. Previously, I haven't got on too well with the author's writing style but I ended up getting so sucked into the story.

You're pretty much thrown right into the story. Written in first person POV from our main character Galadriel, we don't waste time going through info dump world building as she's an insider in her own world and the reader is treated as though they're an insider as well. Which in my opinion, lends to the ability of this book to draw you in.

The story took place in SUCH a cut throat setting. Set in a type of school meant to train wizards to survive and keep them safe from the "mals" that are drawn to them for their power. If you're anyway into dark academia books I think this fits the bill with a bit of Hunger Games type competition thrown in for good measure.

I found the entire concept on the school so interesting. There are no teachers, the students are graded on pretty much whether they survive or not and left to fend for themselves.

One of my favourite aspects was definitely the magic system. It was so intricately detailed, from the inner workings of the school to the way it tries to almost work against the students. This magic system is heavily based on a theme of balance. There must be a consequence for every action, good or bad. The complexity of spell work and language was such a unique aspect, also.

Seeing how the students survived in this environment was fascinating, they're not allowed to take anything from the outer world in with them and have to make or trade for absolutely everything they need, from food and clothes to tools and weapons. Including trading their own hair!

I also enjoyed the fact that literally anything they did from turning on a light switch to going into a room had the potential to kill them, either by machinery with an evil streak or the plethora of creatures that were constantly trying to get through the schools wards.

It may sound strange to say, but I liked how none of the characters were necessarily likable. They lived in a cut throat environment so they in turn had to be just as ruthless and cut throat in order to survive, and I'm really impressed that the author wasn't shy about showing the ruthless lengths some of the characters went to during the story.

What really got me though was that cliff-hanger of a last line. I wasn't expecting it at all! It doesn't give too much away but gives you just enough to leave you wanting more.

Overall I'd probably recommend to readers more familiar with fantasy/high fantasy already. Anyone who enjoys dark academia themes and those who enjoyed Lev Grosman's Magicians series. 

Since reading it has come to my knowledge that there was some harmful language used that affected minority  groups in a number of ways. As of writing this I believe the author has listened to the readers bringing forward this issue and believe she will be making edits to future print runs of this book in apology.
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It’s taken me three days to write this review, as I’ve tried to find something clever and witty to say about it when the simple truth is, I like this book and it’s hard to explain why without giving too much away.

It has all the elements you’d expect and enjoy from a fantasy novel, and even though most people I know who enjoy this genre feel it bridges the gap between YA and adult fiction, I should still probably say that the only thing that gives it away that this is a YA book is the teenage protagonist. Novik has gone with the canny technique of a YA voice and theme with an adult backdrop. (I know it’s school but I don’t think even Harry Potter had THIS many near-death experiences)

The protagonist is a girl called El who goes to a special school called The Scholomance. What makes this school so special is the fact that it’s for magically gifted children, it’s held between realities, there are no teachers, the school itself assesses your progress and provides your work accordingly. However, where there are magical beings there are beasties and there are some right nasty ones in this school. Luckily El is constantly rescued by resident hero Orion, which she is especially aggrieved by, considering that El herself is potentially the most dangerous thing in the school.

Oddly enough, one of my favourite aspects of this book was the one thing that most reviewers found annoying about it, and that’s what they’re calling the ‘info-dumping’. There’s a strong feeling amongst the reviews that there is constantly just too much information being thrown at you. In hindsight, I can see their point, and if you’re a fan of Novik and were expecting her usual standard this may be annoying. However, for me as my first foray into her style, I didn’t mind it. In fact, I think it contributed to her world-building and just made me even keener to read the next book. Maybe now that the base is established the next book won’t have so much of it, but it didn’t detract from the story at all for me. I can’t help it, I like information. Sure if a bunch of schoolroom chairs have just come to life and chased after our main characters I want to know how that turns out as quickly as possible, but I do also like to know why.

There is so much going on here, that not only is Novik giving you an entertaining story but it feels like she’s laying the groundwork for what could be (hopefully) an epic new series. El is at times annoying and frustrating, but refreshingly consistent. Orion is the reluctant hero, despite being provided with a bit of background for him he still feels a little 2 dimensional to me, but I hope he’ll be fleshed out a bit more in the next book. They are supported by a range of diverse characters, speaking of which . . .
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the controversy around the book regarding some racist claims. I am by no means qualified to comment on this point, but what I would say is that the issue is a sin of omission rather than intention, and has been addressed by the author. If this is an issue that has you reconsidering adding this to your TBR pile, please do read a broad selection of reviews before making up your mind. As it is a fantastic book and could potentially be my favourite new series.
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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..
Inventive and funny . Great read. Recommended.
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3 stars

I haven't yet read her other books (Spinning Silver and Uprooted, I think they're a different genre) but I found this a little odd in some aspects which weren't exactly correct. 

Unfortunately, for me, it was like most books who's plot takes place in a school for magic.
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I loved the characters, the monsters and the mysterious inter-dimensional school. What a fab antiheroine! It was unexpectedly funny too, which just added to my enjoyment. The only thing that threw me was it's classification as adult fantasy rather than YA which is what it essentially is. I highly recommend and look forward to book #2!
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A Deadly Education is an interesting take on the magical school setting with the characters trying to learn magica whilst everything is trying to kill you. An interesting premise with a dark academia vibe which I'm loving right now in literature, unfortunately this book just didn't live up to the hype for me, it was a little slow to get into and I didn't really connect with the characters.

Maybe it was just a case of right book wrong time for me.
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Dark, brutal and funny! Three things I never knew I was looking for in a book but A Deadly Education definitely delivered. I will be looking out for the rest in this series.
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I really enjoyed this book and flew through it in basically two sittings. 

You get thrown in into this crazy deadly world, this school setting of hell, so in the beginning it took a while for me to get my bearing and understand all the different monsters and powers. But the action was amazing and I loved the characters, especially the main character El. It was great following not the typical hero who wants to save everyone at all costs but instead the usual snarky sidekick with sarcastic remarks and a lot of eye rolls to go around. It makes the first person narrative so much more fun. And I lived for the banter between El and Orion. 

I can’t wait for the sequel. Highly recommend.
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This sounded like it had a really good premise with some interesting world-building, but there were definitely a few issues with the book. The representation of mixed race characters in the novel has been criticised by own voices readers, and the narrative implies that a character with locks (which seem to suggest deadlocks) has poor hygiene, which perpetuates harmful stereotypes.
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