Graduate or Die Trying

A Deadly Education

By: Naomi Novik

This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I loved Uprooted by the same author so when I heard it was about a school that you either graduate from or die in I had high expectations.

And it was admittedly a bumpy ride.

El is our main character. Short for Galadriel. She’s a witch whose according to prophecy supposed to go hard dark. A fate which she’s trying very hard to make not happen which makes this deadly school a little bit harder for her than most. Because El does have a lot of powers and honestly the “dark” way is one of the most fun.

She gets spells that are especially violent and vicious. Her magic mirror whispers sweet nothings of how she’s going to destroy the world.

I mean honestly I wouldn’t be against her going bad.

And even though her mother’s only in it through flashbacks (El and the other students literally can’t leave the school until they die or graduate- which is one final gladiator like race to the gates with the demons at their heels) it’s a good relationship.

There’s also a theme of privilege and not having it running through the book that’s very interesting. Part of the school belongs to enclaves which helps protect them and keep them safe. It’s a great boon to the younger kids who are “alone” to get accepted into one but usually that requires doing their scut work and putting their asses on the line. El is flagrantly against this and very, very (rightfully) angry about it.

I liked El. I liked the school. They had some good action and attempted to tackle and important theme so yeah I freely admit the bumpiness might have been on me. For me this just read younger than either Uprooted or Spinning Silver and it kind of threw me off. So maybe keep expectations in check.

I must say to the end was rather intriguing or a total contrivance. We’ll have to see how it plays out in book two and I’ll be back for it!

Recommend: Yes.