Deadly Education (The Scholomance #1) — Naomi Novik

A Deadly Education was an interesting reading experience. I was immediately drawn to the concept of a magic school that is openly dangerous to its students, to the beginning snark of our protagonist, El, and to the dynamics between El and her archnemesis, fellow student (and hailed hero) Orion. The book lost me a few times after the strong start, but it was still enjoyable overall.

I mentioned El’s snark as one of the things that drew me into the story, but snark is a tricksy beast. For me, it’s usually 50/50 in books. It’s challenging (and risky) to have a snarky, single-perspective protagonist, since connecting to the book very much depends on relating to their humor. Fortunately, most of the time, El still fell within my threshold, but there were a few times she felt aggressively anti-social, which bordered on obnoxious.

(I do get teenage characters acting like teenage characters, but the other teens in the book do not seem to like her either—and not because she is “different” in an underdog sort of way, but because she is genuinely mean-spirited and thinks lowly of others/coincidentally, highly of herself. Readers who are into this character type will enjoy!)

The story itself was fun. An openly dangerous and unapologetic magic school does bring about a lot of quirky, interesting moments. Shenanigans, if you will. I would say the worldbuilding is one of the book’s strong points. Word of warning, though: there is a lot of info via stream of consciousness, and it gets more intense over time. Getting lost in a character’s head like this (for an entire book) is an investment, so if you don’t like stream-of-consciousness/”info dump” storytelling, you might not enjoy this.

A Deadly Education is a fun read if you need a quick magic school fix. It is a darker take on a magic school filled with oddball students, though the main character and streams of consciousness did take me out of the story a few times. If that’s your jam, check it out!

Keywords to help you decide: magic school, YA fantasy, single-POV, stream of consciousness, snarky protagonist, dark humor

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