Why did I love this book?
In Naomi Novik’s dark fantasy world, wizarding adolescents are the perfect prey for all the things that go bump in the night: they’re just coming into their power—mana, in Novik’s world—and they don’t have the skills to protect themselves effectively yet. So the greatest minds of the wizarding world create the Scholomance, a school that exists in its own kind of reality, where the kids are portaled in when they enter puberty and don’t leave for four years, and the teachers are enchanted libraries…and the numerous magical monsters that manage to make it through the wards around the school. The main character, Galadriel, is not only focused on survival, but also not giving in to her immense power and talent for destruction.
I loved this book because Novik writes evocatively and transports the reader into the chilling world of the Scholomance. There are elements that evoke a steampunk aesthetic and those that create a more classic fantasy feel. Galadriel’s journey takes all the worst and best parts of high school and college and smashes them full force into an engaging dark fantasy that’s equal parts Harry Potter and Game of Thrones. (I lost track of the body count by the end, honesty, so if you’re squeamish about losing characters it might not be for you.)
I enjoyed following El’s transformation from outcast to slowly finding her purpose and her group of friends and realizing that what she viewed as her “weird” talents are actually a strength after all. As a creative writer, high school definitely wasn’t the best time of my life, so I found value in relating to El’s struggle and reflecting on my own journey.