BOOK REVIEW: A Deadly Education (The Scholomance #1) by Naomi Novik

BOOK REVIEW: A Deadly Education (The Scholomance #1) by Naomi NovikA Deadly Education (The Scholomance #1)
by Naomi Novik
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Add to: Goodreads


NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the author of Uprooted and Spinning Silver comes the first book of the Scholomance trilogy, the story of an unwilling dark sorceress who is destined to rewrite the rules of magic.

FINALIST FOR THE LODESTAR AWARD • “The dark school of magic I’ve been waiting for.”—Katherine Arden, author of Winternight Trilogy

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. Sometimes 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.

With flawless mastery, Naomi Novik creates a school bursting with magic like you’ve never seen before, and a heroine for the ages—a character so sharply realized and so richly nuanced that she will live on in hearts and minds for generations to come. The magic of the Scholomance trilogy continues in The Last Graduate.

“You know, it’s almost impressive,” he said after a moment, sounding less wobbly. “You’re nearly dead and you’re still the rudest person I’ve ever met. You’re welcome again, by the way.”

It goes without saying, at this point, that I am obsessed and would die for character driven stories: if not for the most amazing buildups, for the agonizingly painful build up to something almost always extraordinary. Do I think this book had some epic end? I don’t know-I think it was epic, in its own right, but it wasn’t some crazy battle to the end or anything. What it 1000% DID accomplish, though, was one of the most satisfying cherries on top of an incredulous El sundae, where we get the most gratifying payoff of the cutest non-storyline ever. Seriously. I know, vagueness is vague but….it’s good. It’s worth it. It’s just so deliciously underhandedly subtle and fleshed out. The genius behind this…I still can’t put my finger on how it made such a dark story so cute.

I’d like to claim I couldn’t bring myself to go, but I’ve got quite well-developed willpower when it comes to doing necessary work. I just have very little willpower when it comes to indulging petty resentment.

But enough of that. This book was so much darker than I ever thought it would be. It honestly makes me wonder if my radar is off, if my mind is inexplicably broken, if I have some gear that’s broken inside my brain for how little my radar has protected me lately. I guess I’m just coasting through books these days, assuming because it’s labeled YA it won’t be weird or nasty or downright gory-I’ve seen more gore in YA lately than I’ve seen in years, it feels like (I’m not complaining), and I owe it all to my lack of being in the loop for years because of my children. It’s a weird sort of vindication to have found so many wins in one year/one summer, and I’m really immersing myself to the point it’s onto the next one each time I put a book down. I’m a monster. I’m insatiable. And this book was just another I added to my 5 star pile in 2021.

…probably every instinct he had was now going wild with the desire to put a stop to my not-yet-begun reign of terror. Naturally that made me want to go and launch said reign of terror immediately, but first I had to sit through two hours of language and one of Maleficaria Studies.

Which, can I just say, is just so refreshing. I don’t even truly know how I’m reading, at the moment, as I can’t seem to shake my illness, but I am demolishing each book thrown at me, and I’ve re-read two different sets of stories back to back within a few months. Who even am I? That being said, this poor book probably shouldn’t have stood a chance. I mean, I kept picking it up and eventually zoning out, yet it held my attention so raptly that I couldn’t help to forge on through the plague of zombie-mindedness. I am shocked I got even a flicker of a feel, seeing as how I feel emotionless and dead inside-but, hey, perhaps this was the perfect read, as the snark was at a 10/10 level, and it kept me laughing long into the night.

Boys often think for about ten seconds that they might want to go out with me, and then they look into my eyes or talk to me and I suppose get the strong impression I’m likely to devour their souls or something. Also, in Orion’s case, I’d been aggressively rude to him and nearly got him killed by mimics.

But, aside from what I was talking about earlier and will probably [but definitely will] expand on, the thing that worked most for this book was the level of anger and snark that emanated off of our dark heroine. It actually almost broke my heart how mean she was to Orion, but he seemed to like it so who am I to feel bad for the poor dude? At one point I felt so inexplicably drawn to her inner thoughts that I had to do a double take to make sure it wasn’t ME who was talking. The way she ALWAYS has to get something snarky in, the way she views everything, the way she portrays it to us and breaks it down into a hilarious, dark version with morbid humor about every situation added much needed levity to a book centered around a school that basically devours it’s students to keep it running (but why).

Thanks to my freshman-year Maleficaria Studies textbook, I know that our deliciousness goes up another order of magnitude every six months between thirteen and eighteen, all wrapped up inside a thin and easy-to-break sugar shell instead of the tough chewy hide of a grown wizard. That’s not a metaphor I made up myself: it’s straight out of the book, which took a lot of pleasure telling us in loads of detail just how badly the maleficaria want to eat us: really, really badly.

And I can’t even begin to describe how this book helped me kind of coast through the worst days of my illness, but it did. I don’t know how, but her inner ramblings-which are 90% of the book, seriously-just spoke to me on a higher level, one that kept me grounded and not so miserable. Perhaps because she was so miserable herself? I suppose that’s something that people should know, going in, if you live under a rock-this author is very wordy (Uprooted, anyone? Another FAV!) and doesn’t rush any one under any circumstance for any reason. And that’s why it’s so amazing once you make it to the end-it’s always extraordinary, even if its unconventionally so.

Instead I’ve spent three years putting it off and coming up with convoluted plans for how I was going to arrange my dramatic revelation and meanwhile, at the first chance I got, I just started being as rude as I could to every enclave kid who crossed my path. I’d certainly done my very best to chase Orion off. If he wasn’t a towering weirdo who liked that in a person, I’d have succeeded.

And finally, my favorite favorite plot point: The whole plot literally revolves around our MC’s vehement denial that she and Orion are dating. I was lol’ing the. Whole. Time. Like clockwork when she’d ground it out of her clenched teeth or in her mind, her little reassurances to make sure we readers knew she knew better and it annoyed her people thought so. And that’s the other thing-she spoke to us sometimes, addressing us as readers, and it cracked me up, too. I am so odd, but it just made me chuckle.

My anger’s a bad guest, my mother likes to say: comes without warning and stays a long time.

So, in the end, I guess I never even knew what this book was about, because it was nothing I’d have ever expected. I still really don’t get it, but I guess that’s the fun of it, and that’s what makes the Orion and Galadriel moments that much sweeter. I can’t say it’s for everyone (it’s definitely not), but for those, like me, that like bitch humor, snark, and character driven plots…it’s literally a hole in one.


Literally my favorite storyline (and it’s arguably a large portion of the plot, if you ask me (I know you didn’t, but)) in the book is the ‘We are NOT dating’ struggle the MC passionately shuts down throughout the novel-seriously, it’s like a subtle plot that slayed me. And Orion’s complete obliviousness to the whole debacle lol. 5 stars just for that hilarious drama


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  1. Sophie

    I am so happy you loved it too!!!
    Sophie recently posted…THAT’s how a Christmas romance is done! The Plight Before Christmas by Kate Stewart. ReviewMy Profile

    • Chelsea (Peril Please)

      YES!!! Epic doesn’t even begin to cover this weird little book! 🙂

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