If you’ve been following my posts at all, you know there are a few key things I will always go for in YA fiction.
Turns out that Naomi Novik’s new book A Deadly Education, the first in her Scholomance series, checks a lot of these boxes for me.
- Boarding schools. I don’t know why, I just (usually) love stories set at boarding schools. Maybe it’s a Harry Potter influence? In any case, this one is set at a magical boarding school with no teachers, and a lot of monsters that are trying to pick off the students one by one. Talk about trial by fire!
- Unique magical systems. I’m always in for a story where the audience learns how the magic works as we go. This one goes into a great deal of detail about it, which I (mostly) enjoyed.
- A bit of romance. I do prefer when there’s a feeling that some of the characters may eventually end up together, but this one doesn’t take the romance angle too seriously, and I really enjoyed the interactions between the characters!
There were only two things about the book that I felt may be negative.
First, the very beginning is chock full of info dumping as she tries to get us to understand the world, and it was a bit of a slog. I almost stopped reading in the first chapter, resolved to come back when I had energy to expend on understanding the world. But then the story got VERY interesting and I couldn’t put it down. It’s totally worth it to get through the start.
Second, there was a bit of controversy around a scene in the book that could be construed badly towards certain communities. Not going to describe in detail so as to avoid spoilers, but I didn’t even think anything was wrong with the scene(s) until I was reading Goodreads comments afterward. The scene(s) in question did not make me feel any particular way, I just thought of it/them as the author using examples to flesh out this magical world, which includes a variety of people from different backgrounds (and good for her for trying to be inclusive). However, looking back I can see how someone might feel unhappy about the scene(s), even though that was not the author’s intention. By the time of my reading it had already been pointed out to the author. She publicly apologized on her blog and agreed to fix the issue for future reprints, so it has been handled to the best of her ability and I don’t think it should stop someone from enjoying the book.
I think Naomi Novik is a great writer, and I have very much enjoyed everything I’ve read by her. If you’re not sure Scholomance is for you but you enjoy fantasy, I recommend you check out Uprooted, a twist on the “girl chosen as a sacrifice” trope, and Spinning Silver, a loose twist on the Rumplestiltskin story but with an awesome female character. Or, if you love historical fiction but, like me, you think everything is better with dragons, try her Temeraire series, which is basically ‘what if they had dragons as an air force during the Napoleonic wars.’
Have you read A Deadly Education, or anything else by Naomi Novik? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!