A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
Galadriel, El, is attending the Scholomance, the deadliest school for wizards in the world. Surviving fellow students and the monsters that come after the magic sitting inside the students is just a small part of being a Scholomance student. There’s also gathering enough magic to use, creating alliances, and preparing for the all out brawl that is the graduation ceremony. Normally only a few hundred students live to see the graduation ceremony, but El’s year is different due to one Orion Lake. He has make it his personal mission to save everyone he can, and be the hulking hero everyone loves. So El decides it’s time to take him out, and make her odds of graduating easier.
Honestly, I’m confused as to how I feel about this book. While reading it I was rather bored and bogged down with the way the story was told (more on that later), and the sheer amount of information presented to, I was really just reading it to finish it at that point. I was actively reading it, but I just couldn’t care about the plot, or the characters, even Orion. I was just meh about it all. But for some reason, I couldn’t stop reading. I finished it in two days and couldn’t stop thinking about it.
My muddled feelings aside, I really liked the setting. The school with a void was super cool, and I’m so interested to see what else is done with it. So many options!! I also really liked El’s abrasive personality. I think it fits her magic affinity really well. Perhaps the thing I liked the most in this book though, was the general atmosphere. I love dark academia, and books where everyone is suspicious of each other. It makes the plot more interesting and engaging, because I’m trying to figure out who to trust as well.
I know my “loved” section isn’t that big, but somehow they were enough to keep this book at the forefront. I finished the book awhile ago, and still keep thinking about all of these things, so for good or bad, my liked section had a huge part in my feelings.
The things I didn’t like though, that’s another story. The list is rather long, so buckle up to be just as confused at to my higher rating as I am. I won’t be touching on how this book tackles diversity, or any of those following criticisms. They’re not something I can speak on, but I do think they are incredibly important. I can, however, speak on my random opinions that are entirely subjective to me.
The first being, the info dumping. If this book were twice the size, or started during El’s freshman year at the Scholomance, then the info dumping would not have been a problem. Instead we got pages upon pages of information that we didn’t even use in book 1. And I can’t confidently say I know how the magic system works. I just learned weird facts about the world.
I also didn’t love the way this story was told. El was supposed to be “talking” to the reader throughout the book. But it felt like that aspect was meant to be edited out, and they just missed it in the first and last chapters. Being talked to by the narrator and the info dumping reminded me of the footnotes in Nevernight only I couldn’t skip them. It was such a weird experience. The last big issue I had with this book is it’s category. Petty, I know. But it’s labeled adult. It’s said to have adult themes, adult content, and that possibly it lives in the gray area between YA and adult.
But that was a lie. This book is so laughably YA it hurts. The extra $10 I shelled out to buy this “adult” book is laughing at me. Every single scene, dialogue, plot progression, and character thought was YA. I know it’s a gray area between adult and YA, but YA books tend to follow an immature character on a formula, and that’s what this book did. I know it’s petty, but I do think it’s an important thing to point out. I went into this book expecting it to be adult, and to have darker themes, more mature characters. Instead I felt transported right back to high school, and it was not a fun swap.
Overall, I’m glad I read it, and I’m cautiously waiting the sequel. The next book will for sure determine my official feelings, since I will hopefully see more pay off. I do say give it a go though! It seems to be rather polarizing, and I’d love to see where you fall! Just be aware it reads more like high schoolers than adults!