I decided that Orion needed to die after the second time he saved my life. ~ Opening of A Deadly Education
Galadriel, aka El, comes from a small commune in Wales, the daughter of a well-respected healer. All her life El has been ostracized and treated poorly, despite her mother's reputation. Not to mention, she seems to attract all the mal (monsters) who are drawn to her. Like other magically gifted children, she is sent to Scholomance to study. The school is supposed to be a safe haven for young magic users who are often the most attractive food for the maleficaria (mals) in the world, perhaps because they are untrained and still so young. However, the school is full of its own monsters who the students must regularly fight off. Hence their rules of never walking alone anywhere, not even the bathroom, and to beware of monsters who may be lurking anywhere and everywhere. There are no teachers and no holidays. It's really more a game of survival as the students learn new spells, form alliances, and try to stay alive.
El is very much a loner. She keeps to herself mostly, reaching out only when she needs something or can make a good trade. She is not an easy person to like. She is rude and does not take grief from anyone. Perhaps that is why she is so surprised when everyone's hero, Orion Lake from the New York enclave, takes an interest in her. She wants nothing to do with him, and yet he keeps saving her (and everyone else's) life. And now he's following her around everywhere.
El knows she holds great power. The spells the school keeps sending her way to learn lean more toward mass destruction. Not exactly the kind of spells that a person would find useful. She tries to keep her head down as much as possible--not only for her sake, but everyone else's as well. El is not in this for the glory. She simply wants to make it out alive so she can live her life, whatever that may be. She makes hard choices, is willing to take risks, and has a strong moral compass.
Although I felt sorry for El right from the start, it took a little bit longer for me to like her. She is pretty rude and, well, obnoxious. But it isn't without reason given her past. She's had to build a hard shell of defenses around her to protect herself and keep from getting hurt. Only, it's obvious that even she is not going to be able to get through Scholomance all on her own. And now that she's a junior, joining an existing enclave or forming her own alliance is something she needs to give serious consideration to.
Over the course of the novel, El learns to trust others to some extent, but never loses her edge completely. She has a right to be suspicious of motives. It can be hard to tell who is using who for what given the environment they live in.
I liked the juxtaposition between El and Orion. Everyone looks to Orion to be the hero. He has always gone after the monsters and people rely on him to do so. They depend on him and he even has his own fan club. But does anyone really see him for who he is? El and he make unlikely friends given their status at the school. He's popular and she couldn't be more of a pariah. And yet they both suffer under people's perceptions and expectations of them. I don't mean to focus so much on El's relationship with Orion. While that is an important part of the book, there are other characters whom El interacts with that are also noteworthy and who I am dying to know more about.
There is plenty of teen drama and while the novel takes a bit to get off the ground, I was still drawn into the novel and could not wait to see how everything would unfold. There is always a sense of building tension throughout the novel, which really takes off in the second half. Overall, I really enjoyed A Deadly Education. It was dark and full of magic, set in an interesting time and place, not to mention has a great set of characters. I want to see where life takes them next.
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