Review: A Deadly Education in Which Harry Potter Meets Hunger Games

Have you ever read a book and then asked yourself, why did I finish that? I experienced that reading Naomi Novik’s A Deadly Education. Why did I read it? Well, someone on Goodreads enjoyed it and I added it to my list. Then I randomly added to my library account and picked it up. I was out of other books to read, so I turned to this one.

At first, it seemed witty and funny. The super powerful magician who has an affinity for dark magic but is walking the straight and narrow of magic use. Nobody likes her and she’s a jerk. But she also isn’t who she seems and then she gets rescued by the rich, powerful hero, who of course is a boy. She doesn’t need rescuing. He doesn’t ask. There’s a neat inversion of the classic, misogynist storyline going on.

Too Much Worldbuilding Done Badly

How do you kill momentum in a sci-fi or fantasy book? You push worldbuilding to the foreground and character to the background. Why do N.K. Jemisin’s novels work so well? It’s because the worldbuilding is continuous, but doesn’t impede action. Jemisin doesn’t explain. She shows us the characters in the world and we begin to experience it through their eyes. We start to learn how the world works. It may take longer this way, but it’s so much better than information dumps in the first 100 pages.

How Harry Met Hunger Games

I can imagine how this novel was pitched. It’s like Harry Potter meets Hunger Games with a side of Mean Girls. That idea must sound awesome to some people; but, it was fairly bland. The reader sees the shape of the novel and it quickly becomes uninteresting.

Pacing vs Inner Monologues

What does the reader get from seeing a character’s thoughts? They are grounded in that point of view. How are your thoughts organized? Do you sit and think in complete paragraphs while unaware of your surroundings? Or do your thoughts jump a bit? Do you hear the jet flying overhead and the clack of the keyboard? So much of the novel gets gummed up with Galadriel’s thoughts. Her inner monologue slows down the action and isn’t very believable.

Scholomance is Not a Good Name

Scholarly romance? Skunkmancer? Neuromancer but with scholars and magic? Someone, somewhere should have said, is there a better name for the school?

So Why Did You Keep Reading?

Boredom and curiosity. I started skimming, because how much repetitive action and inner monologue does one need? The question becomes: will Galadriel change and make friends / alliances and survive graduation? That was compelling enough, but I also was curious to watch the train wreck.

My advice is to not read this book and instead pick up something like The Goblin Emporer.

Tim Lepczyk

Writer, Technologist, and Librarian.

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