A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

Rate: 4/5

Medium: Audiobook

Overview (No Spoilers):

Novik has proven time and time again to be a peerless storyteller and her latest novel, Deadly Education is no exception. Novik has developed an incredibly dark school of magic, the Scholomance, where death lurks around every corner. Despite being based in a school setting, this was in no way a YA story. There was death, and quite a lot of it. Our view of this unique literary world was limited to the confines of the school, however this base was more than adequate for Novik to set the stage for a life where maleficaria (various nightmare inducing monsters) target children. In order to give their children the best shot of survival, these parents send them to a school that only slightly gives them a better chance of making it to adulthood, a mere 25%.

This book was fast paced, with me finishing the audiobook in a matter of days. I honestly couldn’t stop listening to it. The fight scenes were intense and well crafted. While the sequences worked to keep the reader on the edge of their seats, they ultimately served a dual purpose by granting crucial insight into how magic works in this world. 

I loved having a female lead to follow in this school setting, however El’s prickly demeanor made it slow and painful for Novik to introduce more characters and layer any dimensionally on the supporting cast, especially due to the lack of overall trust cultivated in this environment. Looking out for oneself is rewarded more than working in a team. Eventually, when El does grow a circle of friends, it is enjoyable to read develop, even through at the end I kept expecting a big betrayal. At various points, I would find myself getting frustrated at El’s general unpleasantness, however before I knew it I would find myself reveling in how unique it is to be given the perspective of a female who doesn’t necessarily care if she’s liked or not, and refuses to conform to typical stereotypes.

While highly suspenseful when leading up to the conclusion, the end result was unexpectedly neat for being part of a planned trilogy. I was actually surprised to learn that Novik had intended this book to be the first installment of a new trilogy. Needless to say, I’m excited to find out what this Novik has in store for The Scholomance, especially if she gives us a glimpse of life outside of this deadly school.

Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):

  • It’s so strange that there are no teachers. Adults are rarely targeted so why not have some extra protection in the school. 
  • Also, why can’t fresh supplies be brought in? I know the reason in the book was that maleficaria could sneak in but expecting kids to only have one pair of clothes throughout if they don’t have resources seems flawed. 
  • Why did El’s mom warn her against Orion? What do Orion’s parents think of his selflessness?
  • What is the prophecy regarding El about? 
  • What else will El find in her mysterious book?
  • After several centuries of 25% survival wouldn’t population be a concern?


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