A Deadly Education (The Scholomance book 1) by Naomi Novik was the 10th book I read this year and one recommended to me by my book podcast co-host.
This book is set in world where there are magically gifted people, who live among non magical humans, not exactly in secret but people just ignore the unexplainable. Magical children are hunted by these creatures called Mals, which consume their Mana (their magical energy) and kill them. For the best chance of survival they are sent to the Scholomance, a school for magic children but even there they must fight everyday for survival in a school that actively works against them and where the mals still hunt them. If you fall behind in your lessons, your chances of survival dwindle. If you fail to secure alliances, you chances of surviving (or being able to safely shower or pee) are greatly reduced. The students go through four years of education before they are let out into the graduation hall, which due to the security system failing is filled with waiting Mals. To graduate, you must survive the blood bath.
El, our main character, is naturally gifted in a particularly dark kind of magic but works hard to fight it, by doing tasks like press up and crochet to build her Mana instead. The story follows the consequences of the schools ‘golden boy’, who has been actively saving other students from the Mals all through his time at the school. Leaving a lot of hungry Mals and too many living students for the school to support, so the school starts to come apart at the seams. In trying to handle this crisis, El has to reveal what a powerful Malafacer she is and is surprised to find the friends and alliances she makes along the way.
Ah the world in this book is so enjoyable, as is the narration, which is from El’s POV. The intricacies of the ways the students find to survive, the lessons, the friendships and the magic system is all really well done! The descriptions of the school are so vivid, without being expositional and the characters are really well done too, in my opinion. This is such a good read and I’ve definitely already put book 2 in my amazon wish list!
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