A Deadly Education
by Naomi Novik
* * * * * Stars (Amazing!)
Galadriel, “El” is a year from graduation at a magical boarding school (Scholomance). She’s got her work cut out for her just trying to stay alive in its cutthroat environment where it’s every student for themselves, unless they belong to an Enclave. El doesn’t have any close friends or ties and if she wants to survive graduation, she’ll need to have allies and a plan. Fellow student and legendary hero, Orion Lake, throws a wrench in El’s scheming by continually saving her life and embarrassing her (the whole student body thinks they’re dating), but he also opens up her mind and the way to other possibilities.
The school and its murderous magic-eating monsters is a lovely backdrop for crabby, cantankerous El who is trying to be a good person (and not go full-on malaficer). There don’t seem to be any actual teachers (the school offers up tailor-made assignments to each student depending on their courses of study and their natural affinities/abilities), but students enjoy rigorous (and often infuriatingly frustrating) academics in classroom settings as well as on their own/self-directed. Some readers may find El’s constant righteous anger abrasive, but I really adored her character and the world Naomi Novik has created. El is Much Put Upon. For older teens and adults. (review of the audio edition)
Reviewed by YA Librarian