A Deadly Education


What a world!

After being told by several people to try the Deadly Education series, I have finally done it!

I love fantasy novels, especially those that involve magic and boarding schools, so this book was right up my alley. After reading it, I think it’s a little less my thing, but I enjoyed it overall.

A Deadly Education takes place in a world where survival is the most important thing. Schoolmance is the most important school in the world and takes magical students from all different countries. These students aren’t working within the usual school parameters. Instead, they are on their own to teach themselves everything needed to survive graduation day. Graduation day is not so much a celebration as we know it; it is a battle to escape school alive as the monsters within the school attack the seniors on graduation day.

Our main character is El, stand-offish, headstrong, and determined not to make connections unless needed. Her only goal is to save enough mana to get out of school alive and possibly making enough alliances to join an enclave, a group of students who have a better chance at survival if they work together. There are no teachers or days off. The students are on their own to study, whether that means they work on translating ancient languages, using alchemy, or finding new spells to aid them in their graduation escape.

Unknown to all, El is the daughter of a famous magic user who brought her up in a way unconventional from the rest. She conserves her mana, like energy, in crystals her mother gave her, whereas others use other people and feed off them to perform magical spells. El is more aware and in control of her magic as she possesses insanely dark power and is destined to unleash it onto the world. She has an affinity for being presented not what she wants but something darker and more devastating every time she attempts spells. She has all the tools needed to escape graduation next year but has no real allies to stand by.

Enter Orion. Orion is the school’s golden boy, whether he’s aware of it or not. He has an affinity for fighting monsters and dark magic and uses it as much as he can, constantly trying to save those around him. His savior complex comes as a help to El, who is occasionally in need of saving, and El and Orion strike up an odd friendship to work together to improve their chances of survival.

El and Orion were both fantastically layered characters who read like real people stuck in an impossible situation. Orion is a bit oblivious as to how he comes off to other people, and the interactions between the students of different cultural and social structures was incredibly telling and intriguing to read about. While I can’t say I liked El as a character, I found her particularly compelling and wanted to know more about her and this world.

My only real gripe with the novel was the amount of world-building. This might be the first time I’ve said this in my life, but this book had too much world-building for my tastes. So much of the book’s first half is setting up the world, which is needed to understand the unique social structure, but it felt like I learned more about the world and the school than the characters by the end. There’s so much description regarding the architectural layout of the school and how random monsters can kill; it got repetitive for me. I think this might be less of an issue as I continue reading through the trilogy, as this book mainly felt like the initial setup, but it did make some parts a bit of a slog to get through. The book is incredibly well-written and fun to read, but I didn’t feel like much was going on by the end. I don’t know how to word it correctly, but the book felt like a lot of world-building, some great characterization, a lot of small monster fights, and then a big battle at the end, all told through the perspective of one jaded woman. Something about it felt a bit too repetitive or lengthy for me, but nothing turned me away from continuing the trilogy. The writing was really great, and I’m interested to see where this goes.

Title: A Deadly Education
Author:  Naomi Novik
Pages: 336
ISBN: 9780593128480

Three Descriptors: Snarky, World-Building, Richly detailed

Read Alikes:
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Master of Sorrows by Justin Travis Call
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix
The Betrayals by Bridget Collins


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