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.
I wasn’t too sure about this book when I started but our angry little antihero and magical, deadly school eventually won me over. A Deadly Education is a story about a school with no teachers, no formal lectures and filled with monsters (known as malificers) who are constantly trying to kill the students. Families send their young mages to the school so they will be somewhat protected from the outside world when their magic is manifesting. The goal is to stay alive, make alliances and fight your way out during graduation. The premise sounds like a YA fantasy but reads more like a darker adult fantasy.
I was really intrigued by the premise and even more intrigued when I started to get to know our main character. Galadriel, or El, is a bit of a rude, angry loner. At first you aren’t sure why she intentionally isolates herself when making alliances are so important, but the more I got to know her the more affection I felt for this angry little mage and I started to understand her motivations. El, you see, is destined for mass destruction. She tries to do a simple cleaning spell and instead gets a spell for murdering large groups of people. The story is filled with this kind of dark humor and I thoroughly enjoyed El’s narration and she struggles to figure out her purpose with this dark destiny.
There were so many interesting elements in the world-building that I am excited to see in the next installment. El’s relationship with her mother, the politics between the different enclaves and El slowly figuring out how to manage her dark powers. The other prominent character in this story is “golden boy” Orion Lake. He is the antithesis to El in many ways, he saves lives, kills mals and has a strong support system both inside and outside the school. Watching them navigate a friendship and realize that they were maybe not so different was extremely enjoyable and their dynamic made the story even more interesting.
I was already enjoying this story but that ending makes me want the next book now! While A Deadly Education did take me a few chapters to get into, it ended up being a dark, bloody fantasy with interesting relationships, a unique protagonist and amazing world-building. I recommend for all fantasy fans!