Exploring lesson one and two of The Scholomance series

Last updated on February 1st, 2024 at 11:35 am

Exploring lessons one and two of The Scholomance series

Naomi Novik’s Scholomance series immerses readers in a fantasy world where young magic users must survive a perilous school teeming with deadly creatures. The story primarily follows Galadriel Higgins, known as ‘El,’ as she faces the school’s dangers, forms alliances, and fights to stay alive. This series offers action, dark magic, and intricate relationships.

In my review of A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate, the first two books in the series, I explore a dark fantasy world where survival is key. A Deadly Education introduces us to El, a formidable sorceress with a dangerous connection to dark magic, navigating a hazardous school year filled with deadly creatures called mals. The story’s straightforward, but the technicalities of magic may require some extra effort for readers (it was for me lol!). The writing style captures El’s distinctive voice (sometimes annoying), and the pacing it slow but gains momentum as it unfolds.

The Last Graduate delves into El’s final year at the Scholomance, featuring heightened pacing and notable character development. Both books deliver tension, suspense, and a touch of romance.

A Deadly Education book review

A Deadly Education” by Naomi Novik marks the first book in The Scholomance series, a dark fantasy set in a magical school. The story centers on El, a gifted young sorceress with a dangerous affinity for dark magic. She possesses immense power, but it’s so dangerous that she refrains from using it to prevent evil consequences. View book rating and bio below

The plot follows the classic ‘fight for survival’ theme, with students combatting deadly creatures known as mals and striving to form alliances throughout the school year. 

Book rating & bio

Three Star Rating/5

A deadly education by Naomi Novik book cover

Title: A deadly Education.
Author: Naomi Novik.
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Dark, Magic.
My Score: 3/5
Good Reads score: 3.99/5. Visit book in Good Reads.
Publisher: Del Rey
Format: Paperback
Pages: 313
Buy on: Amazon | Amazon – Kindle editionWorld of Books  

Enter a school of magic unlike any you have ever encountered. 

There are no teachers, no holidays, friendships are purely strategic, and the odds of survival are never equal. Once you’re inside, there are only two ways out: you graduate or you die. 

El Higgins is uniquely prepared for the school’s mangy dangers. She may be without allies, ut she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out untold millions – never mind easily destroy the countless monsters that prowl the school. 

Except, she might accidentally kill all the other students too. So El is trying her hardest not to use it… this is, unless she has no other choice. 

Author apology against racism:Novik has offered a proper apology for singling out a hairstyle associated with Black individuals. The passage will be removed from future copies, underscoring the significance of white authors avoiding missteps when addressing backgrounds they lack personal experience with, even if the background is not directly linked to a specific character.
Diversity: POC, Biracial Identity, Gay relationships. 
Disclosure: This blog contains affiliate links, and as an Amazon Associate, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through those links.

Thoughts on plot

While the overall storyline is straightforward—a school where students learn magic to defend against mals—the technical aspects of magic, including concepts like Mana, Maleficer, and Maleficaria, might initially prove challenging to grasp, requiring some external research to fully understand. This was the case for me, Googling throughout to make sure I understood what was going on which ruined the flow of the story.

The narrative unfolds from El’s perspective, featuring her rambling and streams of consciousness. While this writing style may not appeal to everyone, it gradually becomes more familiar, allowing El’s humor and standoffish attitude to shine through.

The pacing is somewhat slow, particularly in the first two-thirds of the book, which, combined with the writing style, demands some patience from us the readers. There’s a lot of clunky paragraphs and fluff throughout. However, the story gains momentum toward the end, resulting in a few unanswered question that sets the stage for a next book. It still does take most of the book before we get into the action which might not appeal to everyone.

Thoughts on characters

I loved the relationship between El and Orion. El’s refusal to treat Orion as the typical ‘strong hero’ sets their dynamic apart. Their friendship slowly evolves into a flirtatious relationship, though it remains quite PG, lacking any spicy elements. While romance isn’t the central focus of the book, I didn’t mind, even as a romance enthusiast.

Orion initially comes across as a somewhat clueless and irritating character at the beginning of the book. However, as the story progresses, his character undergoes some development, making him more likable over time.

Throughout the story, I enjoyed El’s growth as she becomes more open to those around her and learns that not everyone is solely self-serving, though most characters were (hating most of them!). Frankly, I found it challenging to like many of the characters in this book.

The friendships she forms end up being some of the highlights, but I did find El’s frequent moaning and complaining to be somewhat annoying. It’s understandable given her circumstances, but it did become a recurring theme, which could be attributed to the writing style.

A Deadly Education Glossary

Mana: In ‘A Deadly Education,’ mana represents magical power that wizards gain through their own efforts, such as exercise or studying. However, when a wizard takes mana without consent, it transforms into malia.

Malia: Malia is a form of magical energy acquired by taking it from others instead of generating it. This energy can be absorbed from the environment by extracting life energy from nearby living creatures, including humans, animals, or plants.

Maleficer: This term refers to a wizard who gains mana by stealing it from other living beings. Such actions are generally frowned upon, and wizards who engage in maleficence are considered dangerous.

Maleficaria (Mals): Maleficaria, or simply ‘mals,’ are creatures driven to go after young wizards to seize their mana. They pose a significant threat in the magical world.

Final thoughts

If you enjoy stories with magic, a slice of life trope in a school settings, this book may be worth the read.  However I picked up this book because I heard how good the second book was and ordered both. Would I have recommened this if I hadn’t already read the second… probably not.

The second book in the series is much better than the first, so if you can push through this one to reach it, it’s definitely worth the effort.

Do not continue reading the blog if you haven’t read the first book – Book 1 spoilers ahead!

The Last Graduate book review

[book 1 spoilers] The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik marks the second installment in The Scholomance series. This book continues the journey of Galadriel “El” Higgins, a powerful sorceress with a deadly affinity for dark magic.

As she navigates the challenges of the Scholomance, a magical school filled with peril, the story delves into El’s struggle for survival, the growth of her relationships, and her ongoing battle against the malevolent creatures known as mals. This sequel offers a blend of action, dark magic, romance (finally!) and intricate character dynamics, representing a significant improvement from the first book.

In A Deadly Education, the story seamlessly continues from where book one left off. El, now a senior, faces her final year at the Scholomance. With the arrival of new graduates, El grapples with deciphering her mother’s cryptic warning. View book rating and bio below.

Orion is well aware of El’s remarkable magical talents, and she maintains her alliance with Aadhya and Liu, achieving her goal of joining a small, albeit less powerful, group of fellow students. The school community is also aware that El’s mother is Gwen Higgins, and it’s only a matter of time before her exceptional yet lethal abilities become widely known.

Book rating & bio

Four Star Rating

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik book cover

Title: A last graduate.
Author: Naomi Novik.
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Romance, Magic.
My Score: 4/5.
Good Reads score: 4.28/5. Visit book in Good Reads.
Publisher: Penguin Random House.
Format: Paperback.
Pages: 388
Buy on: Amazon | Amazon – Kindle edition | World of Books

The dark school of magic has always done its best to devour its students, but now that El has reached her final year – and somehow won herself a handful of allies along the way – it’s suddenly developed a very particular craving… For her.

As the savagery of the school ramps up, El is determined that she will not give in; not to the mals, not to fate, and especially not to the Scholomance. But as the spectre of graduation looms – the deadly final ritual that leaves few students alive – if she and her allies are to make it out, El will need to realise that sometimes winning the game means throwing out all the rules.

Diversity: Gay and bisexual characters. Diversity: POC, Biracial Identity, Gay relationships. 
Spoilers: This review is mostly spoiler-free. I’ve placed all spoilers within an accordion, leaving the choice to you if you fancy reading them. 

Thoughts on plot

This book maintains a quicker pace compared to the first installment, with each chapter brimming with action and challenges. El faces a host of new trials, and the dynamics within the school undergo significant shifts. Orion, who once held the role of the hero, now finds himself in a different light.

While the first book laid the groundwork, The Last Graduate plunges headlong into action-packed sequences, the intricacies of student politics, alliances among different countries, and the unexpected realities of senior life that differ from El’s initial expectations.

The writing style, still narrated from El’s perspective, retains its characteristic rambling quality, which is sometimes frustrating when it takes pages to get to the point. However, it effectively captures El’s distinctive voice. The sequel provides further world-building, offering insights into the world beyond the school, historical context, and fresh perspectives brought by new first-year students, which adds layers of drama and intrigue to the narrative.

While some plans within the story may appear far-fetched and precarious, the book is set in a world of magic so I can’t complain too much about the logistics of El’s plans.

The suspense is artfully built throughout the book, culminating in a jaw-dropping cliffhanger that leaves us eagerly anticipating the next installment. I couldn’t believe the twist! Aaaaaaa. I’ve yet to start the next book (I’m surprised my willpower has held up), and I’m both excited and anxious to see where the story goes from here.

Thoughts on characters

We are treated to more insights into characters from the first book, as well as the introduction of new ones. Of course, there are still those characters who remain as irritating as ever (mainly Magnus!).

Both El and Orion undergo significant character development. They open up to each other, providing unwavering support and standing up for one another. El begins to contemplate life beyond the confines of the Scholomancer school, exploring the possibilities with or without Orion.

El finds herself juggling even more responsibilities this year, while Orion’s load lightens. The introduction of new characters adds depth to the story, and I’m particularly drawn to the bond formed between El, Aadhya, Liu, and Chloe. The relationship advice and general banter these characters have is a great read. Additionally, Liu’s mouse familiar, and the two she gives to El and Aadhya add a touch of humour to the narrative, creating some entertaining moments.

Chloe’s character experiences notable growth throughout the novel, evolving for the better as she gains insight into her privilege. The Scholomancer school itself plays a pivotal role, with its personality and how it “cares” for its students becoming more pronounced.

Final thoughts

I devoured this book in under two days. It’s a compelling read filled with tension, suspense, flirtatious moments, near-death experiences, deception, and the constant threat to El’s life. It has everything.

And that ending… what a cliffhanger! I can’t wait to dive into the final installment of this series. I recommend reading this series so you can experience the rollercoaster that is The Last Graduate. El and Orion undoubtedly deserve the world.

Happy reading!

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*MCs = Main characters, FMC = Female main character, POV = Point of view.

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