A Deadly Education by Noami Novik: Book Review

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik Book Cover

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A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik Book Cover
3 Stars

Title: A Deadly Education
Author: Naomi Novik
Series: The Scholomance #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: E-book

My Synopsis:

Galadriel, El for short, is a student at The Scholomance, a school for magical teens. She has the power to flatten armies with a wave of her hand. But she and the other students have to survive the school before they’re released into the world. Hungry monsters, called mals, have an unending appetite for the students and their magic. Most of the mals are trapped in the school’s exit hall, where they eagerly await a buffet of graduating seniors. But some of the smaller mals manage to wriggle to the upper levels where the students spend their time. The mals are always hungry and sometimes impossible to defeat.

But now that El is a junior, Orion Lake, the school’s golden boy and monster slayer, is suddenly paying a lot of attention to her. Previously a loner, El is suddenly building strategic alliances in preparation for her senior year. Because only those with a strong team survive graduation.

My Review:

I’m going against popular opinion a bit in my review of this book.

Don’t get me wrong; every review I’ve seen is glowing and I don’t exactly disagree. But I don’t fully agree either.

First off, I do love this world. It’s interesting and full of magic and enclaves of magicians (Wizards? I’ve already forgotten what they call themselves). The school with danger lurking around every corner and in every roof tile and even hiding in the food is fascinating. The rules of survival and alliances are numerous and practical and well thought out.

But the majority of this book felt like an info dump to me. There is a lot going on in Ms. Novik’s head. She’s contemplated every nuance of this world from multiple angles. I would normally appreciate that kind of attention to detail. But there are pages and pages and pages of not much happening while El explains how the school works or why all of the kids are half-starved and dirty and afraid of their food. There are more pages about why the monsters are attracted to the school, how it was built, and why no one can fix the huge problem of monsters eating the children. And on and on. It was just a lot of information. I don’t think there was a better way to handle it, honestly, but I hope this turns out to be a long series since most of this first book is world building.

El is a loner. She puts off an aura that just feels evil because of all the power she has. Everyone assumes she is evil. She doesn’t feel the need to correct their assumptions. The outside world rejected her so many times before she entered the Scholomance that she pushes others away before she can get hurt again. I logically understand that. But emotionally? If she treated my friend or brother the way she treats Orion? I’d push her into the void myself. She’s just nasty to him for quite a long time. Supposedly he finds that refreshing since so many others fawn over him and his monster-fighting ability without bothering to get to know him. I can see that to an extent. But El goes quite a few steps too far.

Once events finally start happening with regularity–halfway through the book? two-thirds?–this world truly absorbed my attention. I wanted to find out why monster attacks were getting more frequent. I enjoyed seeing El finally, finally relax her guard a bit. And I really liked seeing her test her powers. As she begins interacting more with other students, I liked learning about them and their backgrounds. And what on earth is going on with that ending?

I felt like this book was quite a bit of work for not a lot of action but I see huge potential now that readers are familiar with the world and can hit the ground running in the next book. Despite my own quibbles (I’m in the minority; look at the phenomenal ratings on GoodReads), I absolutely do recommend this for readers of fantasy, just be prepared for all of the exposition.

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  1. You know, this is what I was worried about: that the hype was bigger than the book. That’s why I keep putting it off. I had really hoped Novik would release books more along the lines of Uprooted and Spinning Silver, both of which I loved so much. Ah well!

    1. It could just be me. A lot of bloggers love it. I see a lot of potential but all the info dumping (as I perceived it) held me back from enjoying this entry more. I do plan to read the sequel and hope the plot moves along more quickly since we learned so much about this world in this book.

      I haven’t read Uprooted or Spinning Silver but they are on my list.

      I have read a few books in Novik’s Temeraire series and they were 3-star reads too. Novik might not be the best match for me as a reader.

      1. Hmm… I think you should try Spinning Silver before you give up on her. That’s the best of her lot, I think. And given what I’ve seen of your reading/ blogging, I think you’ll like it.

  2. I think I’m one of the readers that enjoyed this one more than you did, Jan:)). I take your point about the exposition – but I think that all hinges around how much you bonded with El. Having her chatting about the world, etc was far easier to take if you enjoyed her voice and generally liked her company, I think. But it’s a great, very fair-minded review, especially given your difficulties with bonding with the main character.

      1. I don’t think that was overly harsh – at the end of the day, you have to give your honest opinion. And it would be a sad old world if we all liked exactly the same things.

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