A Deadly Education
- Author: Naomi Novik
- Genre: YA Fantasy
- Publication Date: September 29, 2020
- Publisher: Del Rey Books
- Series: The Scholomance #1
TRIGGER WARNING: off-page death of a parent, violence, murder, stabbing, racist comments about minority groups
I decided that Orion Lake needed to die after the second time he saved my life.
Everyone loves Orion Lake. Everyone else, that is. Far as I’m concerned, he can keep his flashy combat magic to himself. I’m not joining his pack of adoring fans.
I don’t need help surviving the Scholomance, even if they do. Forget the hordes of monsters and cursed artifacts — I’m probably the most dangerous thing in the place. Just give me a chance and I’ll level mountains and kill untold millions, make myself the dark queen of the world.
At least, that’s what the world expects. Most of the other students in here would be delighted if Orion killed me like one more evil thing that’s crawled out of the drains. Sometimes I think they want me to turn into the evil witch they assume I am. The school certainly does.
But the Scholomance isn’t getting what it wants from me. And neither is Orion Lake. I may not be anyone’s idea of the shining hero, but I’m going to make it out of this place alive, and I’m not going to slaughter thousands to do it, either.
Although I’m giving serious consideration to just one.
I was really looking forward to the release of this book, and was actually planning to buy it. But before spending my (limited) funds, I decided to request it from my library. However, all the controversy involving the representation about minority groups popped onto my radar before my library loan came in. Of course, a few days later, the library notified me that the book had arrived. I debated about reading it or not, but in the end, I decided to give it a shot and see how the book itself was aside from those issues.
Since I do not belong to the minority groups involved in the controversy surrounding this book, I don’t really think it’s my place to address these topics. Instead, I’m going to link a more comprehensive review written by someone who is more knowledgeable and capable of discussing these issues here.
The main character, El, was SO unlikable for the first third of the book. I was strongly considering DNFing this book, but I was really hoping that it would get better, and it did … slightly. But it was really off-putting to have a main character who is identified as someone who is identified as:
“‘You feel like it’s going to rain.’”
And clarified as:
“‘You know that feeling when you’re a mile away from anywhere, and you didn’t take your umbrella because it was sunny when you left, and you’re in your good suede boots, and suddenly it gets dark and you can tell it’s about to start pouring buckets, and you’re like Oh great.’”
It makes it really difficult to like a character like that, especially when she goes out of her way to deliberately push everyone away, be nasty to them, and just be generally unpleasant. It’s like she enjoys being miserable and making everyone else that way, and I really struggled with caring about her as a character. If she exhibited even a tiny bit of humanity, I’d probably have been able to find at least *something* to identify with in her. Orion seemed like a much more interesting character to me, and I would have liked to see more of his POV.
The world building was fantastic. I loved the idea of the school itself, where it was entirely self-directed, with no teachers or supervision. The magic system is well-defined, and the monsters were incredibly interesting and at times, horrifying. Danger lurks around every corner, and students must learn to be completely self-reliant, aware at all times, and dependent on strong alliances if they’re able to make any. (Naturally, El is lacking in this area).
The majority of the story was fairly slow. There was a decided lack of surprising plot twists (see below). There was a lot of info dumping throughout the story, which got tedious. There’s a bit of romance, although I didn’t really feel the attraction between El and Orion (more on El’s end), and it seemed like more of an alliance than an actual romantic connection for her. Honestly, the most interesting part of the story was the last line, which may get me interested enough to get me to read the sequel. It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. For a book that I was so excited to read, I was really underwhelmed and it just wound up being meh.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 1
Categories: Book Review