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A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

In the start of an all-new series, the bestselling author of Uprooted and Spinning Silver introduces you to a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death–until one girl begins to unlock its many secrets.

Enter a school of magic unlike any you have ever encountered: 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 untold 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. So El is trying her hardest not to use her power . . . at least not until she has no other option. Meanwhile, her fellow student, the insufferable Orion Lake, is making heroism look like a breeze. He’s saved hundreds of lives–including El’s–with his flashy combat magic. But in the spring of their junior year, after Orion rescues El for the second time and makes her look like more of an outcast than she already is, she reaches an impulsive conclusion: Orion Lake must die. But El is about to learn some lessons she never could in the classroom: About the school. About Orion Lake. And about who she really is. — Provided by publisher.

A Deadly Education was such a surprise! At first, I had a hard time getting into the flow of the book and I was confused with the way the author just drops you into the story with so little information, but once I realized what she was doing, I. Was. Hooked.

Novik starts A Deadly Education with no introduction and no explanation. She uses invented words and terms you’re unfamiliar with and begins the story in the middle. You, as the reader, are left flailing and stressed and unsure of what’s happening – much like many of the students who attend. It’s such a powerful technique that really brings you right into the world and minds of the characters and creates an emotionally charged atmosphere that has you looking over your shoulder, scrutinizing the dark for nightmares hidden in the shadows.

This book was everything I was hoping for and more. The characters were whole and complex, with little of the stereotypical broodiness and cheese that I often find in YA books. I can’t wait for the follow-up to see what fresh, new horrors await senior year. This would be perfect for readers 14 and older and contains a lot of monsters that eat students, discussions of students and magicians who do dark deeds or kill others for magical powers, and a little language.

Review by Sara, Support Librarian

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