Review of A Deadly Education: Lesson One of the Scholomance by Naomi Novik
El is a grumpy, powerful, smart, straightforward character I was obsessed with, and I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible.
A Deadly Education is the first in Novik's Scholomance series, which is set at a magical school with two routes out: a grueling path to graduation and beyond or, just as likely, death. Danger and darkness lurk around every corner.
Galadriel (El), a loner, is set on defying the odds and graduating, even if she doesn't have the benefit of a group of magicians around her or the safety in numbers some of the more privileged students enjoy. In fact, she prides herself on aggressively rejecting everything associated with the enclaves and the power conferred by their wealth and social status. But she fears she'll be killed in one of the school's daily unfortunate incidents before she can finish her education, like so many other students are.
Orion, the golden boy in her class, irritatingly insists on repeatedly saving her life and acting the annoying hero. El, with her dark magic--more powerful than any of her classmates realize, which is just how El wants it--fears she might accidentally take him out before she can master her skills if he keeps hanging around. He may suspect her of being capable of dark magic, but it's not like she's summoning her mortal flame or blowing the school to bits with everyone in it or something. She's got it under control--she thinks. El is grumbly and abrupt, not looking for friends-nor making very many--as she speaks plainly and bristles at foolishness.
I looooooved the wonderful dark humor and unexpected details, and the exchanges between El and Orion (and El and everyone) were fantastic--El is a grumpy, powerful, smart, straightforward character I was obsessed with, and I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible.
I did feel like the page time spent on extensive explanations (of how enclaves do and don't work, how the school's systems do and don't work, and how powers do and don't work, for example) made parts of this feel tedious and made me impatient.
However, I am ALL IN on the series: El, Orion, the burgeoning alliances, and the twisty turns Novik has set up for the next book. I adored that El's mom seems like a peaceful hippie and inspires iconic obsession in the world of magic--and that El tries to keep their connection a secret.
I loved that Novik began putting more of the school's fate in the hands of her young characters--and I gleefully tore through the book to find out what they'd do with their power. And I love love LOVED the ending scenes (wall of mortal flame! annoyance at hand-holding! the promise of friendship and magic and bonds to come!). Love!
Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?
Novik also wrote the fantastic Spinning Silver and Uprooted, both of which appear on the Greedy Reading List Six Magical Fairy Tales Grown-Ups Will Love.
The dark humor in this book reminded me of another book I also loved, Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots.
The Last Graduate, the second book in this series, is slated for publication in June 2021.