" I decided that Orion Lake needed to die after the second time he saved my life. Everyone loves Orion Lake. Everyone else, that is. Far as I'm concerned, he can keep his flashy combat magic to himself. I'm not joining his pack of adoring fans. I don't need help surviving the Scholomance, even if they do. Forget the hordes of monsters and cursed artifacts - - - I'm probably the most dangerous thing in the place. Just give me a chance and I'll level mountains and kill untold millions, make myself the dark queen of the world. At least, that's what the world expects. Most of the other students in here would be delighted if Orion killed me like one more evil thing that's crawled out of the drains. Some times I think they want me to turn into the evil witch they assume I am. The school certainly does. But the Scholomance isn't getting what it wants from me. And neither is Orion Lake. I may not be anyone's idea of the shining hero, but I'm going to make it out of this place alive, and I'm not going to slaughter thousands to do it, either. Although I'm giving serious consideration to just one. "
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It's nice knowing that books about witches aren't dead. The main idea of Naomi Novik's new novel, A Deadly Education - - - a new series with the second book already slated to release in 2021 - - - is about a school of magic that is focused on survival. Of course, this may bring about similarities of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, but this story is no way the same, A Deadly Education is a much darker witch school story with young murderers and also monsters that eat the students alive.
Yet this dark and morbid story is about a young girl who has been foreseen to possess powers that could destroy millions of people as our main character, and she can be quite off-putting at times. Her personality - - - a need to be liked, but refuses to allow anyone to like her, her need to show that she is always the smartest person in the room, and her blatant rudeness to a young man that saves her life more than once - - - makes it hard, as a reader, to root for this character. She does have moments of dark humor that made me laugh, moments of sarcasm that were pretty good, but she quickly assumes that everyone hates her and wants her to die before making it to senior graduation.
Galadriel is her name, but she prefers to go by El, and both of her parents were students at this Scholomance. She begins by talking about different kinds of witches there are at the school, including ones that use malia. Malia is a form of magic that takes it's mana from living things, including people. One such student she knows that uses malia is Yi Liu. El describes how malia of this sort slowly kills the one using it by telling the reader that Liu's eyes are turning all white, and her nails have gone completely black (and it's not polish).
Early on, readers are told about enclaves at the school, usually rich kids whose families have had more survivors from graduating classes than others. Students who are not part of these cliques know that it is very important to try to get an invitation to join one before senior year because your chances of survival are higher with a group than by yourself. El spends most of her time debating whether she wants to be part of one or not; her shifts in decisions are quite annoying. After she is saved by a student named Orion Lake, who is an enclaver from New York, she quickly decides to use him to obtain a seat in his enclave: " I couldn't blame her, really. It wasn't stupid to want to be pals with Orion if that looked like a real possibility. Aadhya's family lives in New Jersey: if she got into the New York enclave, she could probably pull them all inside. And I couldn't afford to alienate one of the vanishing few people who are willing to deal with me. "
Throughout the story, El becomes angrier and angrier every time that Lake saves her from being killed (which ends up almost being ten times), but one such time that he isn't able to, readers finally get to see what her powers have taught her, and this is practically the only time that we do: while an attack is happening in the library, El decides to go after Lake and help him save other students, but you can easily get lost in the library due to the shelves constantly moving, or you can be eaten because of the dark areas the shelves create; this is when a giant creature appears called a maw-mouth: "My whole body was clenched and waiting for it, and in the next flare of deep-red light I met half a dozen human eyes watching me, scattered over the thick rolling folds of the translucent, glossy mass that was just bulging its way out of the vent, many mouths open and working for air. " El tells us that the only way to stop a maw-mouth is to give it indigestion. "I stopped, and I used the best of the nineteen spells I know for killing an entire roomful of people, the shortest one; it's just three words in French, a la mort, but it must be cast carelessly, with a flick of the hand that most people get wrong, and if you get it even a little wrong, it kills you instead. " She does it correctly and the maw-mouth is defeated.
El believes that she saved a majority of the students from being killed by defeating the maw-mouth, but when she goes to breakfast the next morning, she finds out that a student had been 'poached' by a senior student. Every student's dorm room has a wall or spot that is nothing but a black abyss, where if anything that enters it will disappear forever. 'Poaching' is an act that has happened at the school before, and it's when a student pushes another student into the void, usually to take over their dorm room because the former's is unsafe. Oddly, this isn't surprising that it happened, when life at the school is life or death, people, especially teenagers, will make rash decisions without adults being present - - - yes, there are no teachers at this school, and everything seems to appear out of thin air.
The novel finally picks up pace when the wall leading to the graduation hall, which contains two maw-mouths for the senior class, is starting to break away, threatening to release any and all creatures into the school: "If a hole opened up to the graduation hall before the senior dorms were closed off, the seniors went from being the whole buffet to the toughest and most stale entrees on the menu. "
When the students decide to work together to patch up the hole, they soon find out that the senior students don't want it patched up: " 'But we also don't want to let you buy your lives with ours. That's what I hear seniors saying. Not, let's rip open the school, but why don't we make you, your class, graduate with us. Your class are the ones Orion has saved the most.' Chloe flinched visibly, and a lot of the other kids at our table tensed. 'So? Are you all willing to do that, graduate early, to save the poor little freshmen? If not, you can stop ' - - - she waved a hand in a spiraling circle, making a gesture of drama - - -'about how evil we are because we don't want to die...' "
The atmosphere in the story makes the threat of death in the school very real, but Novik's main character isn't well-written; there are side characters that I found much more interesting than El, and were better written. Lake is even a better character - - - especially when readers find out why he has a need to save people - - - I honestly believe it would have been a better story from Lake's point-of-view. Also, the amount of explaining that Novik does in the novel really breaks up the flow of the story, sometimes stopping right in the middle of an important scene just to explain something about the school.
I will be reading the sequel when it comes out because I do want to know what happens to a lot of the side characters and their senior graduation, but I can only recommend this book to people who love stories about witches and the occult. As for horror fans, I don't think you would get your fix from this novel.
WIN A FREE COPY OF 'A DEADLY EDUCATION: LESSON ONE OF THE SCHOLOMANCE' BY NAOMI NOVIK!
As a end-of-the year contest, I have decided to give away a brand new, hardback copy of Naomi Novik's 'A Deadly Education: Lesson One of the Scholomance.'
If you have already read this new release, this would make a great gift for any Harry Potter fan!
I am only giving away ONE copy, so click the link below to be taken to the contest form, and fill it out! The contest is only open to residents of the USA (sorry, but CoVid has closed most outgoing mail from the States). No P.O. BOXES, PLEASE!
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