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Naomi Novik’s A Deadly Education is the hottest new title in the YA world - a movie is even already in development. And there’s good reason for all the hype. Novik has managed to offer not only a fresh take on the familiar ‘magic school’ set-up but also delivered one of the strongest teen heroines you’ll find anywhere.
In premise, A Deadly Education is essentially Harry Potter meets The Maze Runner - imagine Hogwarts, but there’s no teachers, and monsters wait in the shadows to eat the students. Here, high school really is a life-or-death situation and the kids have to fight to survive as well as worry about schoolwork and the social hierarchy.
Fortunately, our heroine doesn’t care about making friends at all. As novel as the premise is, the book’s highlight is El Higgins. A card-carrying loner, El’s blessed with a sharp tongue and a constantly foul mood - but her social stature changes when she’s saved by beloved school hero Orion Lake, who she hates with a passion.
The one hitch is Novik’s reliance on threading the exposition about the world she’s created randomly throughout, with tangents sometimes lasting pages at a time. It’s a technique that may rub some readers up the wrong way, though El’s POV keeps it focused.
If you’ve been turned off Potter by recent events, or you want something that mixes the magic with more peril, maturity and great characters, don’t miss the first bell for A Deadly Education.