A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik, lesson one: block off a large block of time when starting this series because you will not want to put it down. Damn, getting sleep and bathing. Hell, even food is optional. This book is so excellent it will grasp you around the neck and hold you tight.
“READER, I RAN the fuck away.”
First off, let me set the scene. The first book of the trilogy, A Deadly Education, introduces us to our protagonist Galadriel and the school called Scholomance. Galadriel’s character reminds me of if I took Harry Potter and made the exact opposite of him in every way.
If I constantly put him in dangerous situations, and Hogwarts was continually trying to feed him to fluffy the three-headed dog, it would be Galadriel. The only similarity between them is at both of their cores; they have good hearts. But in Galadriel’s case, her heart is slightly darker and has terrifying magic and great snark armor.
Scholomance is the wizarding school that Galadriel goes to. The survival rate for Scholomance is around 50%. You do not fail out; you are blown to bits, eaten, have your skin flayed off in strips, or suffer irreparable psychological damage. To graduate, you must run the gauntlet through an obstacle course of creatures from hell all bent on devouring your mind, body, and soul. Surviving Scholomance is just as much about luck and social station as it is a skill.
“I love having existential crises at bedtime, it’s so restful.”
Imagine being a kid; maybe you are a bit shy or gawky. Perhaps you come from humble beginnings. Now imagine that your ability to survive Scholomance is almost certainly on your family’s wealth or your power to be a suck-up. If you aren’t good enough at it, you will probably get eaten by the demons that roam the sacred halls. In Galadriel’s case, everyone hates her or is unnerved by her. They know something is off, dark queen vibes. What they don’t know is that Galadriel has an immense amount of power. The kind that flattens cities and makes people slaves. Except that all she wants to be is left alone and not hurt anyone. How does she survive her junior year without hurting anyone and not being eaten alive by the evils that roam the halls?
It has been a long time since I read something as engaging as this story. I adored El, her snark, and her heart. She wants people to leave her alone, and short of yelling at them to “get off my lawn,” people won’t leave her be. And things keep getting more complicated. There is a boy who is a confusion to her. People start gravitating towards her and maybe want to be friends. What is this friend nonsense?
Novik did an excellent job in crafting the characters and the school. You want to know them; there is enough teenageness to believe they are young adults grappling with hormones and who they are. But enough realism that they understand that the school and the demon-like creatures will eat them.
Pick up this book and get sucked in.