Author: Naomi Novik
Narrator: Anisha Dadia
Audiobook Length: 10 hours 59 minutes
I decided that Orion Lake needed to die after the second time he saved my life.
Everyone loves Orion Lake. Everyone else, that is. Far as I’m concerned, he can keep his flashy combat magic to himself. I’m not joining his pack of adoring fans.
I don’t need help surviving the Scholomance, even if they do. Forget the hordes of monsters and cursed artifacts, I’m probably the most dangerous thing in the place. Just give me a chance and I’ll level mountains and kill untold millions, make myself the dark queen of the world.
At least, that’s what the world expects me to do. Most of the other students in here would be delighted if Orion killed me like one more evil thing that’s crawled out of the drains. Sometimes I think they want me to turn into the evil witch they assume I am. The school itself certainly does.
But the Scholomance isn’t getting what it wants from me. And neither is Orion Lake. I may not be anyone’s idea of the shining hero, but I’m going to make it out of this place alive, and I’m not going to slaughter thousands to do it, either.
Although I’m giving serious consideration to just one.
The Scholomance series first appealed to me when A Deadly Education was announced last year, but, unfortunately, it fell off my radar. After I received the sequel, The Last Graduate, I decided to read the series in order. I honestly did not know what to fully expect with this novel aside from a school filled with multiple dangers. While the novel did deliver for multiple sources of terror, I found myself invested in the different characters, who would survive and who would perish by the end. The story is told from the perspective of an unreliable narrator, a junior named Galadriel (El), whose parents did name her after her Lord of the Rings counterpart (I loved this decision by the author). As the story is told through the eyes of the main character, it is difficult to tell if some characters were as bad as they seemed (i.e. were they actually bad or was it just El’s perception).
El is the daughter of a famous healer who is trying to survive her time at school. While she does not mind being alone, she does have moments of loneliness and wishes that she could have groups of friends like the other students. She does have friends, but there are moments where they are not around. El’s main companion is Orion, the famous “hero” as he is constantly saving others from the many dangers at the school. He and El have an interesting relationship where it is not quite defined and El has a like/hate relationship with him, but many outsiders believe them to be dating. Although this discussion is done throughout the book among the students, romance is not a focal point of the story. Instead, the story keeps the focus on survival and El’s magic. The additional secret that El has regarding her own magic added to the tension of the story and I cannot wait to see how this further develops in the sequel.
The school itself becomes a character, as it is full of magical students trying to survive, as well as graduate. There are no teachers at the school and instead the education comes from the students learning through literature found in the library and experience. There are dangers around every turn, so there is hardly a moment of rest for anyone. The final test for graduation is the students must go through a series of monsters in order to reach the school gates. Students can form alliances with each other in order to work together to survive, but, unfortunately, El is an outcast, so finding others to join with her is easier said than done. As the school was not originally created to be filled to the brim with danger, there is the added mystery of how it became that way.
The reader is thrown right into the story at the beginning as El is already established as a student at the school. Therefore, there is no slow build up to the reader being given an introduction to the school and its dangers. Instead, the reader learns everything mostly through El’s inner monologues. At times, the beginning did feel a lot like an info dump as El goes through each day. While it was interesting to learn everything, it was difficult to fully comprehend the world all at once. The story does level out and then the second half of the novel truly gets into the action, which leads to a cliffhanger ending and I am excited to now try the sequel.
Overall, El is a prickly unlikeable antihero that the reader somehow still roots for by the end. She goes through a little character development, but not as much as I would expect; there is still another novel where she can continue to grow. For me, if I did not already have the sequel, I would be more on the fence about continuing right away. The information in the story is extremely interesting as I found the magic and school fascinating, but there is a lot more to be explored with the characters and plot. My hope is that not everything has been more-or-less established in this novel, so the sequel will take all of this potential and create a fantastic conclusion for some parts of the story while leading to the third novel. I think this was a decent read, but generally, I will hold judgement until I try out the sequel.