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A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

A Deadly Education

by Naomi Novik

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Quick take

Monstrous enemies and killer exams are hardly metaphors in this story of a magical school and its dangerous student.

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  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Series

    First in series

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Snarky



A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real)—until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets. There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die!

The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere. El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students.

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Get an early look from the first pages of A Deadly Education.
A Deadly Education

Chapter 1


I decided that Orion needed to die after the second time he saved my life. I hadn’t really cared much about him before then one way or another, but I had limits. It would’ve been all right if he’d saved my life some really extraordinary number of times, ten or thirteen or so—thirteen is a number with distinction. Orion Lake, my personal bodyguard; I could have lived with that. But we’d been in the Scholomance almost three years by then, and he hadn’t shown any previous inclination to single me out for special treatment.

Selfish of me, you’ll say, to be contemplating with murderous intent the hero responsible for the continued survival of a quarter of our class. Well, too bad for the losers who couldn’t stay afloat without his help. We’re not meant to all survive, anyway. The school has to be fed somehow.

Ah, but what about me, you ask, since I’d needed him to save me? Twice, even? And that’s exactly why he had to go. He set off the explosion in the alchemy lab last year, fighting that chimaera. I had to dig myself out of the rubble while he ran around in circles whacking at its fire-breathing tail. And that soul-eater hadn’t been in my room for five seconds before he came through the door: he must have been right on its heels, probably chasing it down the hall. The thing had only swerved in here looking to escape.

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Why I love it

Who among us hasn’t felt at some point like school was trying to kill us? Naomi Novik takes the idea literally with the Scholomance, based on a mythical school supposedly run by the devil. I love a gothic setting, but what I love even more is a complex heroine trying to control her own demons in addition to the ones stalking the halls.

Galadriel “El” Higgins is training to be a wizard—if the school doesn’t kill her first. It doesn’t help that El lacks the social graces to make the alliances she needs to survive, though her social status might change now that golden boy Orion Lake keeps following her around. Along with the other remaining students, who could be friends or foes, El must navigate the perilous (as in, chock-full of monsters looking for a snack) halls of her school and try to live past graduation.

El’s first-person narration won me over from the start. She’s witty, she’s cranky, and she’s trying really hard not to destroy everything and everyone (it’s hard when the school keeps giving her spells to end the world). Through El’s razor-sharp voice, Novik takes on the concept of a magical school with no mercy, examining structures of power and privilege as well as the psychological effects of never being able to drop your guard. I hope you’ll be as captivated by El and her intricate, treacherous world as I was.

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Member ratings (2,334)

  • Melody C.

    Santa Fe Springs, CA

    I read this in an evening and promptly restarted it. more enjoyable the 2nd time with familiarity of the universe. The comparisons to Harry Potter, hunger games are valid but this is it’s own beast

  • Mikayla W.

    West Haven, UT

    Though the description may not sound like it, this book felt utterly new & unique. The characters—especially El—and the author’s writing style held me captive. Book 2 is solid too; can’t wait for #3!!

  • Whitney L.

    Atlanta, GA

    Love the world building and adventure. The sass and snark are glorious, and the characters are amazing. The cliffhanger is actually killing me though. Can’t start anything because I’m stuck on it ????

  • Marissa F.

    Scranton, PA

    Wow. For the first 50 pages, I thought I hated this book because you are thrown right into everything but just hang in there! All will be explained and I absolutely LOVED it! Can’t wait for the sequel

  • Victoria G.

    Anderson, CA

    Other than a passage that reads as blatant racism (which I assume wasn’t the authors intent, still), I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to the next installment in this dark, snarky world.

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