A Deadly Education | Naomi Novik


A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

Out Now from Random House Worlds; 336 pages

About the Author: “Naomi Novik is the acclaimed New York Times-bestselling author of the Nebula Award-winning novel Uprooted, Spinning Silver, and the nine-volume Temeraire series, as well as a founder of the Archive of Our Own. Her latest book, The Golden Enclaves, is the third of the Scholomance trilogy” (Bio from the author’s website).

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“Getting attached to anyone in here except on practical terms is like sending out an engraved invitation to misery, even if you don’t pick out an idiot who spends all his time hurling himself into danger.”

Life in author Naomi Novik’s wizarding world is no piece of cake. Young wizards are particularly tasty to evil maleficaria creatures who prey on them for their power: a type of energy called mana. Galadriel “El” Higgins is no exception. She has no connection to any of the powerful enclaves that bind mana and power affinities for protection during her four-year stay in the Scholomance—an unusual high school overridden with maleficaria. El has an affinity for mass destruction and a snarky attitude that makes it difficult for others to trust her, especially considering her grandmother’s prophecy that El will destroy the world. However, El has a plan to lay low to survive, store mana in her mother’s crystals, and then impress the enclave members with a massive display of her power before graduation. But a wrench is thrown into her plot when golden boy Orion Lake repeatedly saves El’s life and sends her into turmoil.

Although the impeccable world-building initially drew me in, the characters ultimately made the story a disappointment. The Scholomance is a unique setting: built into the magical void to stay hidden, the school doesn’t have teachers and is full of evil creatures trying to eat the students. However, all El and her friends do is fight these creatures with no regard for character development or relationship building. El is an unlikable, antisocial heroine with a terrible attitude. While Novik attempts to peel back El’s layers, this is accompanied by an unparalleled amount of El’s complaining and bickering. Most of the book consists of El being rude to Orion, who continues to follow her around despite her behavior alienating him from the all-mighty New York enclave. There is no chemistry between the pair or satisfying release of their supposed romantic tension. My main problem with the novel is how unrealistic the characters’ behavior is considering their perilous situation. El details this plan to join an enclave to ensure her survival, yet she is unnecessarily rude and snarky to both enclave and non-enclave students. El’s only redeeming quality is her vow not to turn evil and employ her affinity for mass destruction. Her struggle to stay “good” is an interesting internal dilemma, especially considering how powerful she could be if she tapped into her full potential. Although teenagers are not supposed to be entirely rational, I would have liked the students to be more realistic in their fight to stay alive through graduation.

Pine Reads Review would like to thank NetGalley and Random House Worlds for sending us an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change before final publication.

Emilee Ceuninck, Pine Reads Review Lead Writer & Editor