Naomi Novik burst on the scene with her Temeraire series but around book 4 or 5 I lost interest. Then last year I finally read Spinning Silver and was reminded what a good author she is and was excited to find out that a new book was forth coming in the Fall, Deadly Education. Attending one of her virtual release events whetted my appetite and I have been eagerly waiting for Deadly Education to rise to the top of the TBR, I’m happy to report it lived up to expectations!
Deadly Education is set in a 9th through 12th grade magical school called the Scholomance. The world is not safe for spellcasters. Evil beings, created by magic, called maleficaria (mals) roam the world seeking mana users and killing them. To educate their children and give them a better chance at surviving to adulthood the Scholomance was created. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, the mechanism that was supposed to sweep the whole school in mortal flame between school years was broken and now mals live, replicate, and grow older and more powerful within the school. Once you arrive at the school, the only way to leave is to graduate or die. You qualify for graduation by surviving the four years and then you must escape the gauntlet of monsters and horrors in the graduation hall to reach the exit door of the school.
El (only her Mum can call her Galadriel) has been prophesied to bring forth ruin and destruction, wrecking havoc on a global scale due to her power and affinity for spells of that nature. When asking the Scholomance for a spell to clean her room, it gives her one to enslave humans, which technically could then clean her room. It’s a struggle for El to keep her temper and swallow back the urge to rain chaos, because it would be easy to let go and “become evil” the way it was foretold. Raised outside the comforts of an Enclave, a perpetual outsider among mana users and mundanes, El is a self-reliant loner but this is her junior year and she needs to find alliances to survive the graduation hall.
I loved this book! I was fascinated by this alternate version of our world full of magical terrors that keep mana users forever on watch for their safety, and the Scholomance is unlike any magical school I’ve read. Monsters lurk in the air vents, students caste circles of protection to be able to eat safely, a trip to the supply room requires a cohort of fellow students also in need, showering is only done if someone can watch your back. And there are no teachers or any adults. The school creates assignments individual to each student and magics up every meal (no guarantee that some horror isn’t hiding in a covered food tray).
El is cantankerous, determined to do things her own way, and refuses to become a hanger on of Orion Lake, even though he has saved her life multiple times. I love the interaction between the two. She keeps pushing him away, because that’s what she knows best and is comfortable with. Orion keeps hanging around despite the abrasiveness, at first due to suspicion of El and her intentions.
If you do not like stream of conscious writing, you may not like this. The majority of the book is El’s inner monologue and there is a lot of explaining of the world that she does. However, it felt organic as El revealed each section about how things work the way they do. Otherwise, I whole heartedly recommend this book.