This book had been on my TBR for over a year – I remember buying it in late 2020 during my lunch break at a Christmas job. And somehow it kept getting pushed back, further and further on my TBR shelf as more intriguing reads tempted me and more series yet to be finished were completed. What was probably an exact year after buying it, I finally decided to read it.
I think the fact it kept getting pushed back in my TBR was a sign.
Galadriel seeks to make an alliance in the Scholomance – the brutal wizarding school meant to protect all those with an arcane affinity but wounds up feeling just as deadly. Only with her being prophesied to become a dark sorceress, she is most weary about those she can trust, the biggest cynic in her junior year. So when the hero of the school, Orion, has continuously saved her from the monsters invading the school, she knows something is odd. Especially with the influx of them. Such a huge influx that could threaten the lives of thousands of students who dwell there.
I really liked El as a character, both conceptually and personality wise. She is a sassy cynic with her defences up who still wishes for deep human connection after depriving herself of it for the past two years. Her personality carries the whole novel very well, one that isn’t seen executed well in many novels from a main character. El is written expertly, without being annoying or contradictory.
That being said, her half-Indian ethnicity was treated very orientally. Before reading this book I heard there was some racist things towards Indian culture in this book, and I can see where it came from. I’m not sure if I would call it racism myself while having studied it for a semester in high school, but I can more strongly identify it as orientalism – the act of taking things from non-western cultures for face value. El’s Indian side took on stereotypes most often found in fiction but all without the spirituality and experiences of actually being Indian. It literally felt like El had a half Indian side so she wasn’t just another white protagonist. I’m not Indian myself, but I have many close friends who are. I understand second hand the experiences and expectations of being Indian, and what El went through wasn’t it. It was superficial.
It felt like there was a infodump every five pages. This was, unfortunately, framed by El’s masterful voice adding anecdotes and miniature history lessons in where the didn’t need to be. Literally in the middle of the final battle she spent a whole paragraph describing how some other student – not the one she had seen – died to a certain kind of monster. The whole worldbuilding relied on these things being told at inappropriate times. There were too many rules introduced too quick. Frankly, this would have been avoided if the story started sooner – there were enough flashbacks to make up at least one additional novel.
That also accounts for how this novel lacked a clear narrative. Said flashbacks created the main narrative in the first half in the middle of mundane magic academy activities, which disrupted the pacing and made me confused as to what the whole point of the story was. It literally wasn’t until the climax that I figured it out by filling in so many blanks that Novik created. It simply started in the wrong place and went downhill from there.
So I do admit that if this was book three or four in the Scholomance series, I may have rated it higher. But maybe Novik should’ve listened to the Sound of Music and started at the very beginning, “a very good place to start”.
A Deadly Education gets a score of 2/5. You simply don’t start a novel in the middle of an entire series.
Yours in writing