A Deadly Education is a YA fantasy and its the first of a trilogy. There has been controversies around Novik’s latest novel, I was even tempted to not review this book. However, considering I received an arc and I was so grateful for it at the time, I figured I’d review it. Also, I’m known for advocating for diverse books and especially for Asian characters. So it seemed right for me to write about my feelings about this book and the misrepresentation of many ethnicities.
I’m going to review the book solely on how I felt about certain characters and world building, in general plot! Just like my usual reviews. Also, the misrepresentation of many ethnicities will play a huge role of my rating. But I want people to come to their own decision whether this book is for them, to see it weighed up as a book as a whole and the diversity Naomi tried to include. But just keep in mind that I am not the only #ownvoices reviewer who feels this way about A Deadly Education – there must be some truth in our words. There are many, many books by POC authors that represent ethnicities correctly in magical schools , please consider supporting these authors!
Diving Into The Controversies Of A Deadly Education
Our main character Galadriel, or El, is biracial (half Indian, half White). What I find odd to start of, is that in the synopsis, it’s never mentioned that El is biracial. To me, this seems like diversity was included as an afterthought and research wasn’t done thoroughly. El doesn’t really express any connection to being Indian, which okay fair enough, her father died whilst her mother was pregnant with El. However there are microaggressions in this book which made me uncomfortable given that I’m British Indian. El is regarded as being unclean and just having a lack of cleanliness which didn’t sit well with me.
It was brought to my attention from Asma’s review that El associates people by the country they’re from and the language they speak. They are only needed when El requires their language for magic reasons. Whilst this didn’t bother me that much as they were side characters, it is to be noted.
Apology And My Opinion About The Misrepresentation
Finally, the misrepresentation a lot of readers might already be familiar with. She incorrectly referred to locs as dreadlocks, a racial stereotype. But know that this paragraph was included after the sensitivity read and to be honest didn’t add any value to move the book forward. Naomi Novik issued an apology and the book will be reprinted.
I had the opportunity to attend a virtual advanced readers event and spoke to and listened to Naomi speak about her book. She was very genuine and it is clear that she wanted readers to feel represented by including diversity. I appreciate this, but if you are White and would like to include diversity, I urge you to thoroughly research ethnic minorities, their culture and stereotypes they may face.
Whilst she didn’t address the microaggression towards Indians, she did acknowledge that her book has flaws and mistakes. Overall, I can see what Naomi wanted to do and I appreciate it, but that doesn’t change the fact that communities were hurt.
Thoughts About A Deadly Education From The Plot, World Building And Characters
This review is getting pretty long, so I’ll sum up my thoughts! I thought the world building was well thought out and interesting! In the virtual event, Naomi said that what she disliked about Harry Potter is that their seemed to be no limitations on magic. She wanted her book to include rules and be specific, which I appreciated! But it came to the point where I felt there was a lot of info dump. Mid scenes, an explanation about the world building would pop up. I wouldn’t have minded information about the world if it was done subtly.
The characters stood out to me the most! In a way, El and Orion are the chosen ones. Orion is what would be a typical YA chosen one and El definitely isn’t! Their dynamics are interesting, with El being grumps and Orion being so sweet! The romance between them developed at a good pace.
As there is a lot of info dump, I found myself getting bored and skimming the book so I wasn’t as intrigued about the book as I was in the beginning. To me, the pace picked up towards the last one hundred pages. Readers are left on a cliffhanger, but I didn’t get that feeling of omg I need the next book!
Overall, this book had a lot of potential but it just didn’t do it for me! My rating will be a 2.5 stars, most of this rating is based on the execution itself as well as the misrepresentation of ethnic minorities.