Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.
I'm just trying to light up the world as much as I can one SciFi/paranormal/fantasy/space opera/time travel book at a time.
A Deadly Education was one of my most highly anticipated books of the year and...
The premise: a dangerous magical (sentient) school populated by young (sometimes cut throat) magical kids (that live Lord Of The Flies style, policing themselves due to a lack of adult presence), the magical objects the students build and wield as well as the other school residents... a cornucopia of vicious monsters called Mals. There are magical groups, all over the world, like the Enclaves in Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments also called Claves. The school kids fight for spots in the Claves (or simply to survive) because the Claves have nearly limitless magical juice to share AND when fighting the things that go bump in the night, it's just common sense to travel in magically gifted packs.
I listened to this on Audible and the first thing that stood out was the narration. I wish I could gush or wax poetic about it but the truth is that the narrator, Anisha Dadia, was just Meh (and that's being generous). Her bland cadence nearly put me to sleep... frequently... and although it felt like the narration was the cause for the book's slow trudge uphill, it isn't fair to place the blame squarely in her lap. SO I'll have to blame Mrs. Novik for the book's lackluster tone/tempo... which doesn't feel good to say BUT by the end, the narrator did start to grow on me... so there's that.
The technical: Sadly, I have to admit that this book, with such high expectations placed upon it, was a bit of a letdown. The world building was grand. The characters were interesting and the writing was good but the pacing was slow slow sloooow. Then there was the unholy mother-load of info dumping. The copious amounts of info dumping Novik did (especially in the beginning) was borderline overwhelming. Now, this gal can stand (or even appreciate) an info dump here and there BUT, like everything else in life (except for an abundance of Love or cash), it's only good in moderation. Mrs. Novik is usually a lot more subtle with how she integrates all of the technical aspects (writing + character development + world building + pacing) BUT this book felt like all tell and no show. I expected this to be action packed and unfortunately I was sorely disappointed... especially during the first half. The next 1/4 was better but it still was a bit of a slog. The last 1/4 ratcheted up the intensity nicely, managing to save what looked like an imminent crash and burn. That would have made me sad because it would have been the first Naomi Novik book fail for me. It felt a bit like a take 'em or leave 'em kind of situation but I'd definitely take a weak beginning ---> a strong ending over the reverse any day of the week. The very last 5 minutes were both satisfying and had a slight plot twist... two great attributes that were instrumental in jump starting the slow paced Little Novel That Could.
The first half of this highly anticipated read felt like taking Benadryl before bed. I nearly chucked it into the DNF pile, a grievous act for a Novik book, but I persevered and I'm happy that I did. For me, the narrator nearly ruined the entire experience. SO, not only do I think you should give this book a go, I also suggest enjoying this one the old-fashioned tactile way.