Book Review: A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

Book - A Deadly Education by Naomi NovikA Deadly Education tells the story of Galadriel Higgins (El for short) – a teenager battling her way through the challenges of high school, a school of magic called The Scholomance. But this is no ordinary school of magic – it is a place built to keep the young witches and wizards safe from the mals that wait outside. And some of the mals (monsters) do manage to force their way in, so this is not a place to let down your guard, not even when you’re walking to the bathroom, or trying to get some sleep. Even the library isn’t safe.   

The Scholomance is not your average building, either. Once inside, the students must stay until graduation, when they are forced to fight their way out through a swarm of waiting mals, relying on their friends, and their ability to cast spells – a great incentive for education. But El is a loner, and is struggling to come to terms with her own particular magical ability – the power to kill millions of mals, people, and anything else that might get in the way.

It doesn’t help that the Scholomance is built on the edge of the void, held up by magical forces that make it less than reliable:

The problem with living in a persuadable space is, it’s persuadable in all sorts of ways. When you end up on the stairs with six people rushing to the same class as you, it somehow takes you all half the time to cover the distance. But the creepy anxious feeling you get if you have to go down into a damp unlit basement full of cobwebs, where you become convinced there’s something horrible about to jump out at you, that works on it too. The mals are more than happy to cooperate with that particular kind of belief. Anytime you do anything out of the routine… the stairs or the corridor might end up taking you somewhere that doesn’t actually appear on the blueprints. And you really won’t want to meet whatever is waiting there for you.

And, just to add to the pressure, Orion Lake, whose talent seems to be fighting mals and saving fellow students from horrible deaths, has saved El’s life twice now, and she can’t stand it anymore. He seems so pleased with himself, and his popularity is shooting through the roof. Yet El knows she has the power to kill far more mals than him, she just can’t use that power in case she accidentally kills the other students.

Naomi Novik has a knack for writing books that are addictive. When I began reading A Deadly Education I found it so weird and confusing that I almost gave up after the first couple of pages, but I kept going, only to discover, a few hours later, that I was a third of the way through the book and struggling to put it down.

So there you have it – probably the weirdest magical school you’ve ever read about, all wrapped up in a very addictive story. And it’s the first of a new trilogy… book two is due out in 2021.

Buy A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik.

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