A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

★★☆☆☆ (2/5)

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

  • I decided that Orion needed to die after the second time he saved my life. I hadn’t really cared much about him before then one way or another, but I had limits. It would’ve been all right if he’d saved my life some really extraordinary number of times, ten or thirteen or so—thirteen is a number with distinction. Orion Lake, my personal bodyguard; I could have lived with that. But we’d been in the Scholomance almost three years by then, and he hadn’t shown any previous inclination to single me out for special treatment.
  • If I did give in and start using malia, I’d be sailing through here borne on—admittedly—the hideous leathery bat wings of demonic beasts, but at least there’d be some kind of wings.
  • my great-grandmother took one look at me and fell down in a visionary fit and said I was a burdened soul and would bring death and destruction to all the enclaves in the world if I wasn’t stopped.
  • I would instantly trade in my room for the yurt in the woods, even after two full weeks of rain when everything I own is growing mildew. It’s an improvement over the sweet fragrance of soul-eater. I even miss the people, which I’d have refused to believe if you’d told me,
  • I’d explain what the void is, but I haven’t any idea. If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to live in the days when our cave-dwelling ancestors stared up at this black thing full of twinkly bits of light with no idea whatsoever what was up there and what it all meant, well, I imagine that it was similar to sitting in a Scholomance dorm room staring out at the pitch-black surroundings. I’m happy to be able to report that it’s not pleasant or comfortable at all.
  • the problem with living in a persuadable space is, it’s persuadable in all sorts of ways. When you end up on the stairs with six people rushing to the same classroom as you, it somehow takes you all half the time to cover the distance.
  • there’re only three academic tracks here: incantations, alchemy, or artifice. And of those three, incantations is the only one you can practice in your own cell without having to go to the lab or the shop more than the minimum. Alchemy or artifice tracks only make strategic sense if you’re someone like Aadhya, with a related affinity, and then you get the double advantage of playing to your own strengths and the relatively smaller number of people going for it.
  • One of the girls once told me I was the color of upsettingly weak tea, which isn’t even true but has occupied a niche in my head ever since, as persistent as a vilhaunt.
  • People seem to have no trouble convincing themselves that I’m dangerous and evil even when they aren’t actively looking for reasons. Of course, I could have killed him just by draining his mana, but I didn’t want to actually become a maleficer and then go bursting out of this place like some monstrous butterfly hatching from a gigantic chrysalis of doom to lay waste and sow sorrow across the world as per the prophecy.
  • There’s no such thing as a sick day in here. Staying in the residential halls all day just means that whatever things are making their way up from below for the nighttime feasting get a midday snack. No one stays in unless they’re all but dead anyway.
  • If you happened to look too long at a sliver of papyrus while going past, the school might decide you were now studying that language, and good luck figuring out the spells you’d get then. People can end up spell-choked that way: you get a dozen spells in a row that you can’t learn well enough to cast, and suddenly you can’t skip over them anymore to learn any new ones, even if you trade for them. Then the spells you’ve already learned are all you’ve got for the rest of your life.
  • If an aisle is taking longer to walk, there have to be more bookcases on the same subject, and the more books the library has to dredge up out of the void to fill them. If you’re going slow enough to look at all the spines, you’re almost sure to find a really valuable and rare spellbook among them. So the school is almost sure to let you make progress instead.
  • It’s not that she thinks he’s the product of irresistible historical forces or anything. She says it’s too easy to call people evil instead of their choices, and that lets people justify making evil choices, because they convince themselves that it’s okay because they’re still good people overall, inside their own heads.
  • Scholomance decides how to reshuffle the walls to hand out the extra space. The only way you can deliberately change to another room is if you take it, and not by killing someone. You have to go into their room and push them into the void.
  • The unwritten rule is, if you fix a broken piece of school furniture, you get dibs on it for the rest of the term. The rule goes out the window often enough when there’s someone more powerful on the other side,
  • And this time was worse, because I couldn’t make excuses for them. All these years, whenever someone took advantage of me, shoved me out of the way, left me exposed, for their own benefit, at least I’ve been able to do that. To tell myself that they were only doing what anyone would do.
  • That’s all that magic is, after all. You start with a clear intention, your destination; you gather up the power; and then you send the power traveling down the road, giving the clearest directions you can, whether it’s with words or goop or metal. The better the directions are, the more well-traveled the road, the easier it is for the power to get to where you want it to go; that’s why most wizards can’t just invent their own spells and recipes. But I can blaze a trail to Mordor anytime I want,
  • We’re cannon fodder, and human shields, and useful new blood, and minions, and janitors and maids, and thanks to all the work the losers in here do trying to get into an alliance and an enclave after, the enclave kids get extra sleep and extra food and extra help, more than if it was only them in here. And we all get the illusion of a chance. But the only chance they’re really giving us is the chance to be useful to them.
  • It felt strange to have that thought, like it didn’t belong in my head. It’s always mattered a lot to me to keep a wall up round my dignity, even though dignity matters fuck-all when the monsters under your bed are real. Dignity was what I had instead of friends.
  • when a construct goes malicious, one of the first people it heads for is its maker, and anyone around them who might have contributed to its creation. It creates a tidy vulnerability that helps the construct suck out their mana.
  • Oh, how I’d enjoyed all that sweet crisp righteous anger, my favorite drug: I’d nearly ridden the high straight into murder. This sensation felt murky as sludge by comparison, thick with exhaustion.
  • There were a thousand spells in my mouth ready to go: I could have killed all five of them with a word, or for variety’s sake I could have imprisoned their minds and made them my helpless slaves.
  • If someone’s giving you a hard time, that’s your problem; if you’re giving someone a hard time, that’s their problem. And everyone else will ignore any situation that’s remotely ignorable, because they’ve all got problems of their own.
  • And all of that was what induction meant to everyone. A tiny infusion of hope, of love and care; a reminder that there’s something on the other side of this, a whole world on the other side. Where your friends share whatever has come to them, and you share back.

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