A deadly education by Naomi Novik
The Scholomance, book 1. Random House, 2020. ISBN:
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Easier to read than Uprooted and Spinning silver, which I loved, A deadly education is set in the Scholomance, a school for those with magic. El is a mouthy heroine whose magic is so strong that it could be disastrous for everyone. And Orion Lake is a young man whose whole purpose in life is saving people from the deadly creatures that haunt the school. When the two clash after Orion saves her life, secrets begin to show themselves, and El must find a way to stay alive and maybe save others at the school.
El is a grumpy, sarcastic heroine whose asides will have readers grinning, but at the same they will begin to relate to her as her life story gradually unfolds. Orion Lake too is a hero who is only appreciated for his magic powers and El is the first person who has seen him as lonely and needing real friends. El has always been aloof, but when the Scholomance is under threat she must find some allies and work with Orion to help defeat the monsters.
The descriptions of the life that the pupils must endure in the Scholomance are fascinating. Everyone needs mana (magic) to survive and there are unique ways of obtaining it, the dark magic is malia, and those who wield it to master spells pay for it later in life. Novik also explores the class system that operates in the school. There are privileged people who belong to enclaves, coming from rich and powerful families. Those who do not have these connections scurry around looking after them, in the hope that they will be accepted into an enclave after graduation.
Readers who enjoyed the Harry Potter books and the Magisterium series (Iron trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare) will be happy to move onto this series, as will those who liked Sorcery of thorns by Margaret Rogerson.
An eye-opening cliff-hanger conclusion will ensure that anyone who has read the first book will be eagerly waiting the next in the series.