Review: A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

In the start of an all-new series, the bestselling author of Uprooted and Spinning Silver introduces you to a dangerous school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death – until one girl begins to rewrite its rules.

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.

Students across the world work toward graduation, but for the students at Scholomance, it’s a whole other level. Galadriel ‘El’ is sick of golden boy monster-slayer Orion Lake saving her life, when she doesn’t need saving from the monsters that lurk about the school. El is one of the most powerful people in the building – she could slay the monsters with a click of her fingers – but she can’t give in to the horror of her full potential power. Instead, she’s got to work hard and build her reserves. When Orion thinks El is up to no good, it sets into motion a precarious liaison that tests the fabric of the school’s power groups and perhaps the very survival of their class group.

A Deadly Education will be known as the comeback kid for the foreseeable future. There was a moment when I genuinely didn’t think I’d keep going. Hand on heart I’ll be so honest: I thought some fanfics I’ve read are better than this.

A Deadly Education is primarily a world building book through the perspective of El, who’s rich narration also feels like a character study. There is no major plot event(s) other than toward the end of the book, which is appreciated by the earlier time spent establishing ADE’s supernatural world. To give you an idea of the world of ADE: I found it to be like a combination of elements of Nevernight, Shadowhunters, Shadow & Bone and The Hunger Games.

I really, really liked El. She’s the textbook definition of sarcastic and angry. She took me back to all those days when I was a teenager angry with the world, people, just everything and blared my music to drown it all out. She reads as if she’s got a chip on her shoulder and I loved it because I got it. El feels as if the whole world is against her – who hasn’t felt that feeling, right? – but the difference is it most definitely is in El’s case.

One of the best things about A Deadly Education was the relationship of Orion and El. Their interactions are predominantly banter fuelled to the point I was genuinely laughing, so that carries and compensates for the all of book’s weaker points.

I felt the book lacked an overarching plot that pulls everything together – at least an obvious and immediate overarching plot. We’re repeatedly reminded of El’s needs for successful graduation (which is not happening in this book)… So instead we’re focused on El explaining all the different ways to have a successful graduation. That’s what made up the bulk of the read imo. And as much as I loved all of that, it’s undeniable the book had a flat atmosphere to it. It’s as if it was missing a soul and life force. At the worst of times it felt like a deflated soufflé and I considered DNFing it around the 30 – 40% region. It also didn’t help that Novik used “et cetera” mid explanation a handful of times, which felt careless and read as if she herself were bored, which was especially concerning when whats being explained is the book’s own magic system, opposed to some everyday mundane thing there’s a chance readers may know.

But I enjoyed the school’s set-up and the monsters aka ‘mals’ – there was a whole monster hunting predator vibe going on throughout the read which was sinister but thrilling. I found reading about El’s studies really catered to me as a student at uni, and I was often intrigued about what El was going to have to do next in order to not anger the school.

But let me tell you… The ending of this book! Oh my gossssh. My gut twisted and my eyes bugged out of my head. There’s so many questions and a big desire to know what the heck is going on?! I need the next one now!

A Deadly Education wasn’t what I was expecting, for better and for worse. I wish there’d been a central plot (or stronger plot) alongside the world building and El’s character, but I did enjoy both of these when they weren’t so empty in feeling. I can’t wait for the sequel!

My overall experience of A Deadly Education: really liking it – really confused – really unimpressed – really irritated – really liking it again – ultimately really really reaaally invested.

Buy It Now

A Deadly Education (Scholomance 1) by Naomi Novik
Published September 2020
Genre: fantasy, dark academia

Thank you kindly to Random House UK Cornerstone and Netgalley UK for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

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