A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik: a Review

Finally getting this one up! I just got my own copy in, and I wrote this post while admiring it in front of me. It is such a pretty book…

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik book review cover image.

Summary Info

Galadriel, or El, Higgins is destined to be a mass-murderer. Unlike her classmates, El has to put major effort into NOT killing everyone in the Scholomance, the deadly magical boarding school she is stuck in for the next two years. And her plan is going well until she meets the school hero, Orion Lake. After treating her like another helpless maiden, she is sorely tempted to kill him. But that would really ruin her plan, so hopefully she can get through this year without murdering anyone. But as the starving monsters hunting the students encroach farther and farther into the Scholomance, El’s plan to fly under the radar, and not kill anyone in the process, may very well fall apart.


Wow, I have seen so many varying opinions on this one, which I definitely understand. I’m going to try to address the issues I’ve seen in other reviews as well as I can.

Discrimination against minorities:

I am not part of a racial or cultural minority, so I can’t speak with authority on this point. All I can say is that I read A Deadly Education before reading any reviews, and I was honestly shocked to see the reports of racism in it. Obviously, there are certain details/aspects that are offensive to some people, and I am very sorry for that. I do think certain words are being changed in a reprinting. However, I think the offensive portions were details in a specific context, not an overall racist tone to the book. Again, though, I’m not an expert, so if you’re concerned about this, you may want to check out more knowledgeable reviews.

Boring plot:

A Deadly Education is definitely a character-focused book. This is personally my preference over plot-focused books, but I can see why the first half would annoy a lot of people. A lot of things are happening, but there is no overall plot forming, if that makes sense. The first half is focused on character development and some in-depth world development. Again, I loved this a lot. I loved the fantasy, I loved the detail, I loved the characters. The slow build to the plot didn’t bother me, but if you are more into plot-focused books, A Deadly Education may not be for you.

Irritating heroine:

I think the character-focused nature of A Deadly Education would have worked better for some people if they had liked El more. She is definitely….prickly. Honestly, she reminded me a lot of one of my best friends, who is extremely sarcastic and salty at times. So I was kind of fond of her, but I can see that El’s brand of sarcasm and rudeness wouldn’t be enjoyable for everyone to read. Again, it didn’t bother me personally. I loved the dark, sarcastic humor of A Deadly Education, and I really loved El. Yes, she’s a pain at times, but she also works so, so hard to be a good person. And not for recognition or praise from anyone, but purely because it’s the right thing. That kind of single-minded moralism is really appealing for me in an a heroine. (Reminds me a little of Jane Eyre).

Ok, those are the main issues I saw in other reviews. Am I missing something? Anyway, the rest of this review is mainly me gushing about the things I loved about A Deadly Education.

  1. I loved the character development. El starts out as a friendless, miserable jerk (who I still somehow liked). But the whole joy of A Deadly Education is watching El develop relationships with her classmates and Orion and learn how to be a friend. That may sound boring, but since I love character oriented books, I enjoyed it so much. The arc for El (and Orion) was pretty huge. And the ending was so freaking satisfying.
  2. I loved the fantasy. I know some people may not appreciate the amount of detail given, but I loved the detail of the magic in A Deadly Education so, so much. It wasn’t given in an information dump, but it was incorporated pretty well in El’s humorous, sarcastic narration. Learning about mana and mal and maleficaria and the Scholomance was a joy for me. I discovered a new world that I loved, and I felt totally immersed in it. Btw, for those of you who are fans of Harry Potter, this did remind me of it, albeit a darker, older version.
  3. I loved all the relationships, but particularly El and Orion. I heard some people say that the relationship felt bland or that they had no chemistry. Although I can see their perspective, I disagree. El and Orion are alike in that neither of them have ever truly connected with their peers. They may be on the polar opposite sides of the popularity spectrum, but they are both alone. When they meet and interact, they are really forming their first friendship. And yeah, it’s awkward. And fumbling. But also adorable and hilarious. I am hoping this is a slow-burn friends-to-lovers romance, because I am frankly enjoying their friendship too much to rush into the next phase.
  4. I know I said this earlier, but I just wanted to reiterate: I love El. A lot! She is funny and brave and good and relatable, even though she is totally rude and socially awkward. She may not be a great heroine for everyone, but she was an awesome heroine for me. I just can’t wait for book two!!

Following Good

There were mentions of religious content, but nothing major. Minimal LGBT and sexual content. Some sporadic, but serious, language. Overall, I thought it was age appropriate.


Obviously, I loved A Deadly Education a LOT. It is probably my favorite book of the year, honestly. I totally understand why it wouldn’t be for everyone, and hopefully this review expresses that, but it was 100% for me. So I am giving it five stars. I can’t wait for the sequel!!

Sorry if this one was kind of long. I had a lot to say, lol. Anyway, I hope you guys are doing well and happy reading!!

14 thoughts on “A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik: a Review

  1. Great review! This was one of my favourite books of 2020 too. I agree with what you said about the offensive content; aside from that one unnecessary sentence (about hair), I think everything else made sense within the context of the intense, killer school environment and El’s personality.

    I loved El too! She felt like that friend who makes you really frustrated sometimes but also one that you’d stick with till the end. Orion was adorable as well and they had a great dynamic. I’m dying for the sequel especially after the ending of this one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I think that hair comment was the one she’s reprinting, which was good.
      That’s a great way to describe her! I wanted to shake her occasionally, but I still loved her😂. And I cannot wait for the sequel!! It is definitely one of my most anticipated books of 2021😁
      Thanks for the thoughtful comment and hope you have an awesome day!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, I loved your review! Thank you so much for pointing out the issues and all… I’m glad you still loved it! I’ve been wanting to read this one because of the mixed reviews haha. Have a good day!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s