Series: Scholomance #1
Published by Del Rey on September 29, 2020
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Lesson One of the Scholomance: Learning has never been this deadly.
About A Deadly Education
A Deadly Education kicks off a new fantasy series by Naomi Novik. Take the magical school trope and combine it with the survival of the fittest with a main character with the ability to destroy the planet.
El, short for Galadriel, grew up in a commune with her hippie healer mom. Unfortunately, El’s magical affinity is for dark magic. Plus she’s a snarky, prickly hedgehog of a human. And it’s possible that she’s going to destroy the world. So not many friends.
El is a student at The Scholomance, a magical school existing in a void cutoff from the regular world. The school is full of magical creatures constantly trying to kill the students. It’s not even safe to brush your teeth alone. And no one leaves their rooms after lights out.
Unsurprisingly, students band together for protection. But El’s natural reserve plus students’ suspicions about her dark magic make alliances hard and friendships even harder.
Until her junior year when her snarky ways attract the friendship of the most talented and popular student in the junior class, Orion. He’s all of the things El isn’t – white, privileged, well connected, wealthy. Once Orion starts sitting with her at lunch and sitting with her in the library, other students start to accept her. Which is what she’s always wanted, right?
My thoughts about A Deadly Education
While it’s not new, the trope of a magical school has been particularly popular for the past couple of decades (and yikes, I feel old typing that!). Along with the trope of the magical school, is that of The Chosen One. I appreciate that the author chose to make El an outsider, standoffish and even unliked by many of her classmates. Instead of inspiring hope, El causes fear because of her dark magic.
Yet, using the trope of the dark character with a heart of gold, El quietly works hard to keep classmates safe from the always ravenous creatures and dangerous magics of the Scholomance.
Even with the use of several well used tropes, this story never never feels cliched or boring.
I appreciate how the author’s created a diverse group of characters and works socioeconomic observations into the story. I’m eagerly looking forward to the next book.
Do you have a favorite setting for books? I have several favorite books set at a school, like The Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo or The Secret History by Donna Tartt.
If you want other fantasies set at school, try Sarah Gailey’s When We Were Magic. What happens when prom night goes incredibly wrong for a member of a coven of high school girls.
Lev Grossman’s The Magicians is another take on a secret magical school, hidden from the mundane world.
Uprooted is Naomi Novik’s lovely take on fairytales.
Thanks to NetGalley and Del Rey for the DRC.