The synopsis for A Deadly Education filled me with so much excitement when I first read it a year ago. And yet I put of reading it for months after its release, because I was scared. The reason for that fear? In a word: Uprooted. While I didn’t loathe it with every fiber of my being like my co-blogger Petrik did, I very much did not understand the love for that book. So many people adore it. And I desperately wanted to share in that adoration, I really did. On paper, it should have absolutely worked for me. Rich setting, interesting magic, a fairytale retelling that flips its source material on its head. It should have become an instant new favorite for me. And yet, it didn’t. I struggled my way through it. So you can see why I’d be scared to try A Deadly Education, right? I have a huge weakness for magic schools, but I wondered if maybe Novik’s writing just wasn’t for me.
I am excited to report that my fears proved themselves to be unfounded. I took to this book immediately and loved every single page. Whatever my disconnect was with Uprooted, Novik’s a gifted author with a talent for immersive writing, and I’m already counting down the days until The Graduate, the second book in the Scholomance series, is published.The Scholomance, a school for magical children, is fascinating. Imagine Hogwarts, but where everything wants to eat you. There are no teachers in the Scholomance, or adults of any kind. The school divvies out the classes and assignments. Whether you want them or not. And you better do your very best on what your given and finish everything you’re assigned, because the school has no problem meting out punishments. It’s a dark place, full of danger and monsters. And the reason these magical kids attend the school is because it’s SAFER?! Students have a one-in-four chance of survival to adulthood, instead of the one-in-twenty chance they would have outside the school. No wonder our main character is so crotchety.
Galadriel, or El, is perhaps the youngest curmudgeon I’ve ever met in fiction. She’s so darn angry all the time, and she has every right to be. Not only is the school she attends a fan of eating its students, but her fellow classmates have all decided she’s evil and won’t have anything to do with her. Which is really dangerous, because you need someone watching your back. It’s also really unfair, because Galadriel far from evil, no matter what that prophecy said. She can’t help that her affinity is for mass destruction. It’s not like she wants the school giving her spells to melt bones or activate super volcanoes. She just wants to get out alive. Preferably without actually going over to the dark side.
And then there’s Orion Lake, the hero and golden boy of the Scholomance. For reasons that baffle her, Orion has decided to attach himself to El. Both of their lives are about to change radically.
While I really loved learning about the school and the world Novik has created outside of it, my favorite element of this book was the slow-burning character development. Honestly, the characters seemed awful at first. Especially El. But as she grudgingly grew, so did those around her. I ended up loving her and her core group fiercely by the end of the novel, and I already miss them. And their snark. Because there was a ton of snark. El is incredibly sarcastic and I love it.
The Scholomance itself is such a unique magical school, and the world building Novik wove within its weird walls is pretty incredible. The lessons are tedious and difficult and, in some cases, insanely powerful. Every kid in the school is overworked and worn ragged, but most of that workload is self-inflicted. The more you learn, the better chance you have of escaping alive. The student body runs off of trade and alliances, which was an interesting dynamic to observe in a teenaged cast. I loved how these kids had shaped a way of life for themselves sans any adult supervision. Honestly, adults weren’t needed. The students were plenty motivated without them.
I had tentatively high expectations for A Deadly Education, and those expectations were definitely exceeded. This is a world I’m really looking forward to revisiting. I can’t wait to see what happens next in the series. If you love magic schools but have always wanted a maniacally hungry one with a bit of a Lord of the Flies vibe, look no further.
You can order this book from: Bookshop.org (Support independent bookstores!) | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Audible | Libro.fm (Another way to support independent bookstores!) | Book Depository (Free shipping worldwide!)