I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve been having a very difficult time reading lately. I mean, it’s almost like it’s hard to concentrate when the world is burning around me? As I was discussing this with a friend and former co-worker of mine (also laid off at Powell’s), we decided to do our own mini book club. The hard part was finding a book we both wanted to read and had amongst our STACKS of titles. And, because that’s how we roll, we ended up agreeing on an e-arc instead.
That e-arc was A Deadly Education, by Naomi Novik. I am a huge fan of her novels Uprooted and Spinning Silver (my favorite of the two), and when I read the synopsis of this one, I was pretty much ALL. IN. So, we agreed to read 2 chapters a day. Something easily attainable as we tried to get our reading groove back. Reader, we did NOT read 2 chapters a day. Or, I should say – we did for 2 days. AND THEN WE RACED TO THE END BECAUSE IT WAS JUST THAT GOOD.
So – A Deadly Education. You’ve got a school for magic kids that sort of…runs itself? It’s absolutely deadly, between the monsters – *and the other students*. Competition is a given, and both your fellow students and the school itself will punish you in a variety of ways should you not be up to the task. Best part? Make it through alive, try to form an alliance, and on graduation you might STILL die because there are beasts waiting below to eat the slowest, weakest, least cunning, and alliance-less. It’s like a magical hunger games on drugs.
But there’s no Katniss Everdeen here. Instead, we have El – an antisocial “loser” who has no enclave backing her up, little chance for an alliance…and hidden power. She bitchy, cranky, stubborn, and tough – and I LOVE HER. She is the anti-hero we all need right now.
The book balances El’s story and that of the school and students very nicely, and there really is a feel of high school/early college years. All the insecurity, power games, frantic studies…and even a hint of romance…all rolled up into emotional chaos. It’s great! I mean, from a distance. Like, through the pages. You couldn’t PAY me to go back to that messy time of my life
The characters are the focus here, as is often the case with Novik’s writing. And here, even the school is as much a character as it is the setting of the book. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I don’t care how good the story idea itself is if I can’t deal with the characters. El has a GIGANTIC chip on her shoulder, the school is…well…one of those people you see from across the room and know *instinctively* that you really do NOT want to get to know any better – and the cast of supporting characters is just as good. Honestly, El may be the “main” character here, but all those surrounding her are just as well-written and *human* as she is. They feel true to life, like I could pass them on the street and know them for who they are.
Having said that, however, the story was GREAT. I was hooked by the second chapter, by the 4th chapter I didn’t want to put the book down, and by the 6th chapter…I just…didn’t put it down. I kept on reading until the end. And THEN I told my reading buddy that I had finished. Thankfully, she had done the same thing (great minds), because neither one of us wanted to stop. Oh, and that 6th chapter I mentioned? HOLY HELL IT’S A DOOZY. Just sayin’. Anyway, I finished the book, thinking that it was a stand-alone, as were Uprooted and Spinning Silver. I mean, totally doable as a stand-alone, though the ending was like
BUT READERS – IT IS *NOT* A STAND-ALONE. My book partner informed me that Goodreads has it listed as Scholomance #1, and I AM SO VERY HAPPY ABOUT THIS. Not because I feel that there had to be more with this book, but because I WANT more. I want to spend more time in this insane asylum of a school, with these characters I’ve enjoyed (mostly) getting to know. I want to find out more about the school itself, and maybe learn more about El *and her grandmother’s warning*. Yep. There’s some maybe bad mojo coming her way. Or is *she* the bad mojo? I’ll never tell…
Suffice to say that this book has me excited about reading again. I had a great time with it, and now I would like to ask WHEN IS THE NEXT ONE?! Downside to reading an e-arc, of course. Finding a really great one and knowing it’s THAT MUCH LONGER before there’s another book in the series. *sigh* But, it was worth it. I’m seriously thinking about re-reading this, because I’m guessing there may be *clues* that I missed. Signals. Signs. Anyway, Naomi Novik has done it again – crafted a superb book with awesome characters. And if I was working (I miss you, Powell’s!), I would 100% be making sure that this book was on the buy list. Which is, frankly, what YOU should be doing too.
So: here’s a link to indiebound so you can support struggling indie bookstores! It’s open for pre-order, and YOU WANT THIS TO SHOW UP IMMEDIATELY.
Trust me on this one. https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780593128480
Thank you to Edelweiss and Del Rey for the arc!