A Deadly Education – Naomi Novik

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Pages: 336
Release Date: September 29, 2020

Lesson One of the Scholomance: Learning has never been this deadly.

A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets. 


There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere.


El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students.

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DNF @233 of 313

A Deadly Education is a disappointment to say the least. I picked up this book, like most people did, expecting a Harry Potter style experience, though told from an evil or Slytherin perspective. Unfortunately, Novik’s writing, character choices, and plot make A Deadly Education a flop.

The first chapter of the novel is one long info dump. The main character, El, is talking directly to readers and laying out the world, the school, and how the magic system works. There is so much exposition that it’s hard to get a grasp on all the information being hurled at readers. I figured Novik wanted to situate readers quickly so that she could continue with the story seamlessly. Unfortunately, the exposition continues in almost every chapter. El turns to the reader to explain something that is directly related to what’s happening or is going to happen. A Deadly Education introduces readers to this world through a character in her sophomore year at the Scholomance. This poses a problem for Novik since the main character is already well versed in the world and school while readers are at a severe disadvantage. It’s difficult having a main character experience things in the world for the first time if she’s been raised in this world from birth. This is why Harry Potter works so well since Harry, along with readers, are discovering the world for the first time.

What also does a disservice to the novel is Novik’s writing. As harsh as it is to say it’s sloppy and unrefined. There were serval instances where sentences were awkwardly structured that I had to read several times over. It honestly made me question whether an editor even went over it. The worst instance, in my opinion, is the following:

“I didn’t like the idea at all, and I even more didn’t like how much I didn’t like it.”

El is a difficult character to connect with. She’s brash, independent to a fault, and just plain annoying. As a result of who she is and her upbringing, El is closed off from those around her and refuses to let anyone in. This character trope works, but only if readers are given a glimpse of the character’s more vulnerable side. This vulnerable side of El is too well hidden for most of the novel.

The plot of A Deadly Education is lacking. Severely. Novik spends too much time telling readers about the small details of the world and her characters that a plot never really emerges. Instead, readers watch as El tries to survivor life at school while playing politics. I wouldn’t even say that A Deadly Education is a character driven novel because El barely changes and it’s too hard to connect with her.

I’ll also mention briefly that Novik tried to make A Deadly Education as diverse as possible. Writing as a white woman, my opinion on whether or not Novik was successful in her portrayal is irrelevant. So, linked HERE is a review that speaks to the “diversity” in the novel that is well worth the read.

Overall, A Deadly Education is one of the most disappointing novels I’ve read this year. The idea behind the novel is incredible, even if it is a Harry Potter rip off, however the execution is borderline terrible.

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Have you read A Deadly Education? What did you think?

7 thoughts on “A Deadly Education – Naomi Novik

  1. I received one of those preview books, I think it had the first three chapters in. I did not even make it all the way through. I agree with you: good idea but the execution was flawed. Something about the writing just did not click with me and it did not hold my attention.

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