... the can’t-miss fantasy of fall 2020, a brutal coming-of-power story steeped in the aesthetics of dark academia ... If you’ve been searching for the antiheroine of your dreams, El is a strong contender. There is something so cathartic about being in El’s mind, seeing the world through familiarly jaded and angry eyes. The thought of being able to wield her power even just for a second, and the confident way she nurtures and uses her abilities are the vicarious experiences many restless readers will appreciate ... Do not be fooled by the book’s high school setting and the presence of teen wizards, as this is very much an adult fantasy novel ... a wild ride that never ceases to yank the rug out from under readers. El is a heroine you want to root for over and over, while still worrying about what all this means for her future ... As a reader, nothing is more thrilling than discovering an author blessed with boundless imagination. A Deadly Education will cement Naomi Novik’s place as one of the greatest and most versatile fantasy writers of our time.
Intricate world-building, a nuanced and diverse cast and a thrilling plot culminate in the kind of pulse-pounding ending that resolves much, but sets up the next installment with unanswered questions and dangers both new and old ... delivers a heroine working hard to thwart a dark destiny. She's determined not to care what her classmates think, making her character arc--based on reluctant friendships and grudging alliances--satisfying, as is her growing mastery of her magical affinity. Novik somehow conjures up a heroine perched on the line between good and evil, a protagonist readers can cheer for even as they wait for her to dip her toe into the darker side of magic. A Deadly Education is a spellbinding start to Novik's new series.
... the start of a fabulous dark and monstrous trilogy ... The final chapter in this fast-paced fantasy introduces new characters and a surprising conflict for the next book in the series, which offers a fresh take on the magic school trope.
This latest from Novik launches a new series that should appeal to aficionados of fantastical fiction as well as to those who have felt they never quite fit in and don’t understand why. The magic and mystery of this chillingly lovely novel will appeal to both YA and adult fans of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.
...this charming story has a lot to offer ... The strengths of this story are the intricate world building, El’s journey of self-discovery and the author’s terrific writing. Ms. Novik has a gift for combining magic and mayhem to deliver a realistic look at human relationships, and for using her tales to examine the importance of having justice and equality in the world ... if you are a fan of YA fantasy or of Ms. Novik, or if you enjoy books set in magical schools, then this is the novel for you.
... [Novik] pays homage, often with sly wit, to her predecessors, but she is no imitator ... My only complaint is that Novik’s elaborate universe kind of takes over A Deadly Education in the first few chapters. Too much worldbuilding happens before the story really gets going. But once I’d gone through orientation --- learned the vocabulary and history of the place --- I adored this clever reworking of young adult formulas into a sophisticated coming-of-age story. I give it an A+.
... not a Harry Potter-esque feel-good story about a school for witchcraft and wizardry. Mind, you will feel good afterwards, because it is so very good, and it does take place in a magical high school. But that is where the comparisons stop ... What this book has is a fully realized world where magic works and where three-quarters of what a person who can do magic comes into contact with wants them dead ... Yes, a book about dead kids seems harrowing (and it is, in spots) but Novik’s light touch, dark whimsy, and sense of humor make it hard to put down. Once she sets up main character Galadriel, a third-year student whose magical affinity could lead her to a dark place, and shows the daily operations of the Scholomance, the tone is perfectly set. Add to that a story that never stops moving while always remaining focused on developing the characters of both the people and the school itself – and A Deadly Education builds momentum that can’t help but drive the reader to its end. And the end sets up the next book – this is the first in a trilogy – stunningly.
The Scholomance is where the entire novel takes place. It makes for an appropriately claustrophobic, constantly tense ambience, but it also means that a great deal of exposition is required to tell us about the outside world—what it is, why it needs the Scholomance, who set the school up and how it works. El tells us a great deal of this, quite often and with her trademark charm (read: unrelenting one dimensional snark) ... In fact, there are too many info dumps in general and while they may be amusing, this is not enough to not notice the masses of exposition. El is prickly, angry and sarcastic, and it’s not always clear why she needs to be quite so dramatic in her disdain for everyone around her, especially since she needs to form an alliance to get out alive, but without taking out half her classmates in a show of power. Sure, she’s developed this bad attitude as a result never being liked, but she does very little to help her cause, even if her cause is just to survive. What really brings El to life though, is when she does eventually let her guard down, and start to form friendships ... What’s odd is how we are told where each character is from, and what language they speak. It feels a bit forced, because most of them do not seem to have any other defining characteristics...What Novik’s intent with this was, is unclear, because it mainly seems like a way to check off what appears to be a diversity requirement in contemporary fiction ... may be making a commentary on predetermined societal class structures, but seems less intent on getting things right, then on being entertaining in an almost trendy way. Novik’s caustic and rebellious young protagonist is sure to appeal to a great many readers, though just as many will be thrown off by both her and the ‘soft diversity’ approach to what is vastly different from Novik’s last two books.
Novik puts a refreshingly dark, adult spin on the magical boarding school setting ... Readers will delight in the push-and-pull of El and Orion’s relationship, the fantastically detailed world, the clever magic system, and the matter-of-fact diversity of the student body. This is a must-read for fantasy fans.
El's bad attitude and her incessant info-dumping make Novik's protagonist hard to like, and the lack of chemistry between the two main characters leaves the central romantic pairing feeling forced. Although the conclusion makes space for a promising sequel, getting there requires readers to give El more grace than they may be willing to part with ... A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.