A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
There has been a rash of young adult fantasy novels featuring strong teenage girls coming into some sort of magical power. A Deadly Education, billed as “Lesson One of the Scholomance” is one of my favorites.
The Scholomance is inspired by Hogwarts, but it is orders of magnitude less benign. In this world, monsters called maleficaria are everywhere, and they find magical adolescents particularly tasty. So, the kids are walled off in an inescapable magical high school to keep them safe during those tender years. As a side benefit, the school is supposed to teach them to use their magic. But the school’s protections have worn down over the years, and the school itself is an unreliable teacher. There are no remedial lessons and failure is often rewarded by death.
Our wonderfully snarky heroine, Galadriel (El for short, certainly not Gal) is a junior. She is extremely powerful, but only if she uses evil magic, which she absolutely refuses to do, so she is barely surviving her schooling. Her likely-fatal pathway changes when she meets a privileged, popular classmate named Orion Lake, who is quite clearly the wrong guy for her.
What follows is a delightfully chaotic mix of dangerous lessons–about magic, class privilege, true friendship, romance, and the cost of evil. Given the increasing number of maleficaria, it seems unlikely that anyone will make it through the year. Though Lesson One doesn’t end on too bad of a cliffhanger, we know that El and Orion still have another year to get through.
A Deadly Education is coming out in paperback soon. Lesson Two of the Scholomance, called The Last Graduate, is expected in July 2021.
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