Author: Naomi Novik
Series: The Scholomance #1
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Deadly monsters coming for tasty magical teens
Growing up can be tough, but life is a lot worse when teens growing in their magical abilities become tasty munchies to dangerous monsters. Centuries ago, the great magical minds built a school intended to keep their kids somewhat safer, or at least give them more of a chance. For better or worse, the teens are effectively locked in the school for several years until they Graduate or meet with a monstrous misfortune. They even let in some poor minorities. (Think chess pawns next to more important pieces on the board. Monster fodder.) El is one such grateful but negative, dark, powerful, sarcastic minority student. She’s powerful enough to protect herself from the worst monsters, but to graduate, she’ll need allies, something her sarcasm and negative attitude constantly manages to push away.
Orion is the charming hero. Son of a powerful clan leader, he’s everyone’s savior. When he steps in to save El’s life for the third time, he certainly does not expect her reaction. She didn’t ask for his help, and she lets him know it. So why doesn’t he leave her alone like everyone else does? Why is Orion everyone’s savior? When her circumstances change, El will need to make a few tough decisions regarding her future and try to finally make some allies, perhaps even friends, in the process.
I really enjoyed this book. I’m not a big fan of grimdark or horror books, and while this book has some dark elements, it didn’t fall into either of those categories. This isn’t a horror book, but it does get very dark and grim. Equally, though, are its strong emphasis on goodness and friendship and loyalty, which more than balance out the darker elements. If you like a grim gothic type narrator with lots of magic and near death experiences, excellent deep characterizations with new friendships and complex interpersonal relationships, this is an excellent book. This is only about as dark as Uprooted by this same author, so if you liked that one (and who didn’t?) this is a definite must read.