Considering I’ve been enjoying Naomi Novik’s books so much, I often ask myself why I haven’t checked out her Temeraire series! I could potentially be devouring those books as I wait for the second book of this series because you bet I’m IMPATIENT
A Deadly Education is the first book of the Scholomance Series (scheduled to publish 29.09.2020) and follows the last few months of Galadriel’s junior year at, well, the Scholomance, a deadly sentient school where all with magical affinity are sent as teenagers to learn how to control their magic, defend themselves from creatures of nightmare called mals, and, if they aren’t complete failures, to create alliances with powerful families that will set them up for life. While many would think teachers would be necessary to keep all the students in line and on track for graduation, they’d be surprised to know that the Scholomance has no need for them. If a student wishes to survive the everyday mal attacks on them and (more importantly) graduation, they will keep to their studies or find themselves devoured
Even though the Scholomance is the safer alternative for a developing wizard, it’s a given that a number of weak and unaware students will be devoured by the mal that sneak past the protection wards of the Scholomance every year; however, this year is special because Orion has saved more than 600 students in the three years he’s been a student, completely changing the climate of the school…and not for the good. Now the mal are starving, the graduating class is desperate to survive, and Galadriel, in her own quest of survival, has found herself in the middle of the whole problem
I was extremely excited when I heard that Naomi Novik was going to release a new book. I had really enjoyed reading Spinning Silver last year and while I was starting to see a pattern in her endings (which always left me crying), I was prepared and longing for my next heartache. Then I learned that A Deadly Education wasn’t going to be a standalone and I panicked. I couldn’t get into her Temeraire series the one time I tried, what if the same thing happened this time too?!
Luckily this wasn’t a problem. I was immediately sucked into this new story thanks to Galadriel (El) who was a completely different heroine to Agnieszka and the girls of Spinning Silver. Galadriel was snarky and sarcastic and didn’t care if she hurt your feelings…or so it seemed to be at first glance. Because of her upbringing as the chosen one of death and destruction, El had to live a life where everyone instantly either wanted her dead or gone. Perhaps in the vein of Myriem, El didn’t have anyone aside from her mother that wanted her and this made her wish for those connections that Agnieszka was lucky to be born with. Actually, up to this moment I’ve been really impressed by how realistic many of Naomi’s characters feel and El is no exception
In terms of other characters, I have to admit that I instantly found Orion an interesting character, not just for the story but as a potential love interest. It was only the first chapter and I instantly shipped the two. Interestingly, while I wouldn’t call this a romance story, the relationship between El and Orion is greatly emphasized in a way that made me want some fluff. Another thing that only Naomi has been able to do to me. When in other stories I wish the romance was less, in this one I wish it was either existent or more! That said, there was much about Orion that was left in the dark in this first book, which I hope we get to explore in the next one, especially with THAT ENDING
One of the things that I can see as a potential turn off for readers is that there are A LOT of explanations to the point that you come to realize that not a lot actually happens in terms of actions in a story. Still, I didn’t find this a problem because El is such a great narrator and makes what would usually be boring, sarcastically fun. With all of this explaining we also get a better understanding about the world that these wizards are living in, such as how enclaves, alliances, and the Scholomance works
I also like how international this world feels with the variety of characters and enclaves interacting with each other. Since El is narrating the story, much of what is said feels cynical but if you think about it, it’s all very true. Even when it’s just your typical dark fantasy young adult story, it’s very political and you especially begin to think about things like how privilege works in society. It’s a good way for younger readers to be introduced into this topic (if they haven’t been exposed to it beforehand) and also to keep older readers engaged since it also touches on themes and topics relevant to “adult” society
As I fall into a pit of restless despair for the next book (HA, the first isn’t even out yet), I keep thinking about where this story might go next. I’ve only read Uprooted and Spinning Silver by Naomi and both of these were fairytale retellings. As I contemplate A Deadly Education, I wonder if there’s something hidden away in there. Orion is a character from mythology and so far he’s been keeping to that image of the hero who is good at combat, but because there’s (apparently) not much information on his history, I wonder how Naomi is going to twist the story. Likewise, Galadriel is a name from the Tolkein stories (which I only know because El mentions it) and while I haven’t read or watched any of his content, it also has a very Western mythological vibe to it. And to put the icing on the cake, many have made the Harry Potter connection
I’m really interested in how Naomi is going to make this scream Naomi Novik. If anyone is interested, the first three chapters are up on her website (sign up for the newsletter) and there are live readings to check out on her Instagram!