Book Review – A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

Learning has never been this deadly

A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets. There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere. El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students.


A Deadly Education was not at all what I expected it to be, and I can see why it wont be for everyone, but the uniqueness of the writing style and Novik’s ability to drag me head first into whatever world she builds made sure I left this one still a firm fan.

El is not what you would call ‘Likeable’ she lives her life on the fringes, which for life in the Scholomance means risking her life 3-4 times a day. That is until the maddening good boy Orion saves her life for the second time ( not that they’re counting) and then starts sticking to her like glue. El is initially greatly annoyed by his presence, but soon realises she can work it to her advantage. She wants into an alliance and a Enclave invitation after graduation and Orion, golden Boy of the New York Enclave might be her way in. What starts as a wary alliance, soon blooms into a semi-reluctant friendship and El comes to realise that she may have more friends in the Scholomance than she realises… but also more enemies.

El is a really unique perspective to read from in that the book is 75% her inner thoughts and her feeding you bits of information. Don’t get me wrong, their is action and dialogue, but those parts are few and far between, I have never read a book with this much inner dialogue and I admit to being put off a little at first. But once you get to know El, Orion and the other kids in the Scholomance you feel inexplicably tied to them, no matter how little page space they actually get.

Novik does something with El that few authors do, she allows her to be unforgiving , rude, prickly she didn’t try to fix her. Does she start to lay off a little towards the end? Yes, but not enough for her to be classed as likeable. She want’s so much to be at the start, but she quickly realises there is a strength to people being wary of her. Everyone assumes she is using Malia (magical energy drawn from living beings who are more than likely killed in the process), the only problem is if El used even a little of it she could level mountains, cities with a click of her fingers. Instead she lives on a strict diet of Mana (magical energy formed from physical or mental exertion) which limits her powers to the city block kind of destruction. El and Orion’s relationship had me in literal hysterics in parts:

”You know, it’s almost impressive,” he said after a moment, sounding less wobbly. “You’re nearly dead and you’re still the rudest person I’ve ever met. You’re welcome again, by the way”

she starts off unbelievably annoyed by his attention, even when that means more people start talking to her. But when she realises the truth of him, she realises that they are similar in a way, both being used for what they bring to the table and not who they are.

High school was the worst for most people, but imagine high school where you had to shower in pairs, with one person keeping watch for any Mals (demons) that are trying to kill you, where you have to check the food in the canteen before sticking your hands, or mouth anywhere near it, where sitting by yourself in the cafeteria can be a death sentence. So you would ask why people willingly send their children here right? You would be right in assuming it would be to weed out the weaker magic users, those not part of an alliance by graduation essentially become cannon fodder to the other groups fighting their way out on graduation day ( if you make it that far). Novik not only introduces us to both Mana and Malia users, but also different types of magic people specialise in which fits into three main categories: Incantation, alchemy and Artifice.

We get a lot of information, not just about what is happening in the Scholomance, but the outside world, insights into El’s past and the history of magic users. I can see where some people would say it was a little dumpy and if I’m being honest I was close to DNF’ing in the first few chapters but I’m so glad I carried on. Novik is a rare talent who can give you enough information to completely immerse yourself in the world, past and present, whilst never loosing out on character interaction or growth.

I did wonder when reading this how it would turn out to be a series, whether it would get a little monotonous, but Novik weaves little tid bits of information throughout the book so that when you get to the ending, where she throws a complete spanner in the works, you find yourself questioning every interaction and scene. I am unbelievable eager to get my hands on book two, and for anybody starting this one… get past chapter two and it will pick up I promise!

12 replies »

  1. Great review! I really enjoyed this one too and glad you carried on. I can see what you mean about all the introspection – it reminded me a little of the lengthly reflections in ‘The Raven Cycle’ books. I think the unique tone of El’s character voice made me way more interested in her narration of everything, even the more info-heavy parts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fab review, Becky! There’s so much you’ve included in your review that I haven’t seen in other peoples reviews yet (like about El’s character and about the school — like showering in pairs WHAT?!) but I’m so glad I have a heads up about all this stuff. Especially about El’s character. I struggle to enjoy stories with such unlikeable MCs but… I hope it won’t be an issue here 😂 So glad you ended up enjoying it 😃 I’ve been so looking forward to this one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Dini! Glad I could help out 😂. I wouldn’t say El was unlikeable as such, shes just VERY strong in her opinions and generally not a nice person… but I loved her 😂😂


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