A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
The Harry Potter blueprint still is something that is attempted to be emulated to this day. A Deadly Education is another novel that tries to take this formula and flip it on it’s head. That is about as close as it gets to Harry Potter though, in idea alone.
The premise here is The Scholomance is a school for Dark Wizards. The school is filled with monsters that feed off of the student's magic. So essentially, the monsters hunt the students and can live in any crevice, door, or closet all over the campus. It creates this weird dynamic where the students are constantly fighting monsters or trying to find ways to protect themselves from being ambushed. Our main character El is a character with a prophecy that she is going to destroy the world and everyone in it with dark magic called malia. Then there is the second character, Orion Lake who is the dark wizard who is actually a good guy and works his hardest to not let students get killed by the monsters. El and Lake have a very YA dynamic in that she constantly insults him and he continues to save her regardless.
Let’s get into the good here. The novel really has some interesting ideas. The magic system being king amongst them. The magic system is based in language so it lends itself to have a diverse cast of characters from all over the world. Not that it matters because of how shallow the “diverse” cast of characters is. There is also the malia versus mana idea that is incredible. Mana being the “good” magic and malia being the “bad” magic. Using malia can cause you to be physically altered and so the Wizards who use it look evil, think like Voldemort. Secondly, the idea of this school being the teacher, rather than having professors is an interesting concept. The school provides textbooks and assignments through a portal that drops the items out of the void. After that, this book really starts to stumble.
The bad in this novel is plentiful. For starters, the main character, El is just not a character I cared about throughout. She is kind of heartless. Her only shining moments are when her and Lake are bickering and they have a bit of comedy. Second, I still to this day do not know what the purpose of going to this school is. My understanding is you can learn outside of it so there really is no reason to go into a school that wants to murder you and try to graduate, it just seems silly. Third, there really is no plot here. There is nothing to accomplish, no common enemy other than the monsters. No reason for me to feel like the students need to be here. Why are they in school? What are they hoping to accomplish once they are out of school? There is just no motivation for them to attend The Scholomance. The monsters are their own issue. There are so many of them, that eventually they don’t feel like a threat, just more of an inconvenience. Lastly, the final encounter or event in this novel is so anti-climactic it's laughable that it is passed as a climax to a story.
One final element to note, this book is written as one large information dump. There is not a lot of dialogue between characters which is unfortunate because the dialogue is the strongest part of the novel.
This is a series I will not be continuing, unfortunately. There are some great ideas in here, but the story isn’t well written enough for me to continue. I’m sure it will find its audience as every book does, but I will not be a part of it.
Rating: Borrow it from the Library (Straight to Streaming)