Book Review: A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
A Deadly Education
Series Number: 1
Published: 29 September
Page Count: 336
Enter a school of unlike any you have ever encountered. There are no teachers, no holidays, friendships are purely strategic, and the odds of survival are never equal. Once you're inside, there are only two ways out: you graduate or you die. El Higgins is uniquely prepared for the school's many dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out untold millions - never mind easily destroy the countless monsters that prowl the school. Except, she might accidentally kill all the other students, too. So El is trying her hardest not to use it . . . that is, unless she has no other choice.
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You ever pick up a book and get more than you expected, realise you’re not quite sure what you’re reading but end up drawn into it anyway? That’s what A Deadly Education was for me. The synopsis I read was vastly different from that one above. The book seems to be promoted with two alternate ones, this one is listed on The Book Depository, however, the one I saw on Amazon is as follows:

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 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.

 As you can see there’s no mention of a school without teachers, holidays or non-strategic friendships so I was in for a bit of a shock when I first delved into A Deadly Education! If you’re looking for a darker Hogwarts you’re getting a bit warm, and that’s about where any comparison to any magical or fantasy school you’ve ever known ends. The Scholomance is nothing like anything you’ve ever encountered before. In some ways it makes me think of what would have happened if Dr Frankenstein had decided to build a school instead of a creature. It’s not made of body parts, don’t worry, but there’s a definite mad scientist vibe going.

El, the protagonist, is everything I’ve ever wanted in a character. If you’ve ever sat alone at breaktime, had someone look at you as though you were nothing or had someone make the sign of the cross at you because you’re just that evil (yes, someone actually did this to me), then you will relate to El. You will applaud her no-nonsense, take no prisoners approach to her classmates and you won’t be put off by her rudeness. I was El, and I’m glad to see someone finally writing a character like her so that the generation of young can have someone go through everything she (and they/us) went through and know it’s ok to be a bitch. It’s ok to say enough is enough, to not put up with the smiling fake faces when people want something from you because someone always does. It’s ok to put yourself first, to concentrate on surviving.


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