A Deadly Education Naomi Novik

The start of a Deadly Education really sums up the entire book. “I decided that Orion needed to die after the second time he saved my life”. Dark humour, snappy and inventive dialogue and an anti-heroine with a grudge against the world (because the world has a grudge against her).  

This is the first book in Naomie Novak’s new YA series, The Scholomance. I’ve loved Naomie Novik’s stories since I discovered Uprooted. Her female characters are always strong, and her narratives are usually unique and fantastical.  

Enter A Deadly Education. Published in 2020, it is the embodiment of a crazy year of pandemics, lockdowns, and unseen dangers trying to get you. She’s even perfected the dark humour that got a lot of us through one of the craziest years many of us have had.  

The Plot

Galadriel, or El (which she prefers), is a student at the strange and deadly Scholomance. The school is for the magically gifted and is designed to teach survival in the dangerous world outside. The Scholomance is a deadly place and every student in it is prepared to do everything they can to survive. El is a social pariah, which means her chances of survival are low, that is until the hero of the Scholomance, Orion Lake, starts showing an interest in her. It doesn’t seem to matter that it’s for all the wrong reasons.  

probably every instinct he had was now going wild with the desire to put a stop to my not-yet-begun reign of terror.

A Deadly Education

The Review

I think the only way a story like this could be written is with the dark humour that Novik employs so effortlessly. The Scholomance is a deadly education, and many of the students are guaranteed to die. The humour never gets in the way of the drama and excitement like it does in some novels. It is used as a gateway to protect but also expose El’s battered heart. El’s voice and the prose that Novik uses are my favourite parts of this book.  

El, the main character, is a wonderful conundrum. From a very young age, everyone has expected her to become a Maleficaria, and do dark deeds. Even her power is designed to create supernova volcanos and destroy the world instead of saving people’s lives. Without ever saying it Novik is posing the question; can someone be good even when no one has ever treated them this way? 

I wanted to shout at him that I didn’t have to do anything to make people assume I was evil, I never had

A deadly education

The relationship between El and Orion Lake is hilarious and sweet. Boy saves girl, girl wants to kill boy, boy now thinks girl is an evil witch, girl convinces the school that boy is dating her (when really he’s following her around to discover her doing dark deeds). Somehow they become friends (with a little unconscious smoldering romance to keep you hanging), even though they are polar opposites. However, one thing they have in common, El has no friends because everyone assumes she’s evil, and Orion has no friends because everyone assumes he’s the messiah come to save them.  

In the dangerous world of the Scholomance, what also becomes apparent is the disparity between those who have connections, wealth and power, and those who don’t. The school is meant to be an equal opportunity for all, but it slowly becomes apparent that this is not the case. These are issues that El is forced to confront. She is eventually made to choose between safety or what she believes is fair.  

It’s not that we don’t all know that it’s unfair, but nobody says so, because if you say so enclavers don’t invite you to join them on the better side of the unfair.

A deadly education
Summary

I loved this book, the voice of the female charater is epic, she’s somehow relatable, the love story is sexy but hilarious and I can’t wait to read the second instalment.

— Bliss
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