By David Canfield
February 07, 2020 at 11:00 AM EST

Learning has never been this deadly.

EW can exclusively announce that best-selling author Naomi Novik (Uprooted) will publish A Deadly Education this fall, the first in an epic new trilogy that publisher Del Rey calls “a twisted, super dark, super modern, female-led Harry Potter.”

A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets. There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere. El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students. Sold yet?

Novik, also behind books including Spinning Silver and His Majesty’s Dragon, has sold more than 2 million books in print and is a winner of both the Nebula and Locus awards for fantasy writing.

If the above summary isn’t enough of a tease for you, we’ve got more: EW has a first look at the official cover, as well as an enticing excerpt, which you can check out below. A Deadly Education publishes this October and is available for pre-order.

Penguin Random House

Excerpt from A Deadly Education, by Naomi Novik

Chapter One: Soul Eater

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.

Selfish of me, you’ll say, to be contemplating with murderous intent the hero responsible for the continued survival of a quarter of our class. Well, too bad for the losers who couldn’t stay afloat without his help. We’re not meant to all survive, anyway. The school has to be fed somehow.

Ah, but what about me, you ask, since I’d needed him to save me? Twice, even? And that’s exactly why he had to go. No one was going to let me explain that he’d only had to save me the first time—along with half a dozen other students—because he had set off the explosion in the alchemy lab fighting that chimaera, or that the second time around, the soul-eater was running away from him when it came into my cell. You could get away with one explanation like that, at best, and after that, no one cared. I had just fallen into the general mass of the hapless warts that Orion Lake had saved in the course of his brilliant progress, and that was intolerable.

Our rooms aren’t very big. He was only a few steps from my desk chair, still hunched panting over the bubbling purplish smear of the soul-eater that was now steadily oozing into the narrow cracks between the floor tiles, the better to spread all over my room. The fading incandescence on his hands was illuminating his face, not an extraordinary face or anything: he had a big beaky nose that would maybe be dramatic one day when the rest of his face caught up, but for now was just too large, and his forehead was dripping sweat and plastered with his silver-grey hair that he hadn’t cut for three weeks too long. He spends most of his time behind an impenetrable shell of devoted admirers, so it was the closest I’d ever been to him. He straightened and wiped an arm across the sweat. “You okay—Gal, right?” he said to me tiredly, just to put some salt on the wound. We’d been in the same lab section for three years.

“No thanks to you and your boundless fascination for every dark thing creeping through the place,” I snapped icily. “And it is not Gal, it has never been Gal, it’s Galadriel,” —the name wasn’t my idea, don’t look at me— “and if that’s too many syllables for you to manage all in one go, El will do.”

His head had jerked up and he was blinking at me in a sort of open-mouthed way. “Oh. Uh. I—I’m sorry?” he said, voice rising on the words, as if he didn’t understand what was going on.

“No, no,” I said. “I’m sorry. Clearly I’m not performing my role up to standard.” I threw a melodramatic hand up against my forehead. “Orion, I was so terrified,” I gasped breathily, and flung myself onto him. He tottered a bit: we were roughly the same height. “Thank goodness you were here to save me, I could never have managed a soul eater all on my own,” and I hiccupped a pathetically fake sob against his chest.

Would you believe, he actually tried to put his arm round me and give my shoulder a pat, that’s how automatic it was for him. I stepped deliberately on his foot and jammed my elbow into his stomach and shoved him off. He made a choked noise like a whoofing dog and staggered back to gawk at me. “I don’t need your help, you insufferable lurker,” I said. “Keep away from me, or you’ll be sorry.” I shoved him back one more step, and slid the cell door shut—with the big melted hole where the doorknob and lock had used to be, for which thanks—bare centimeters away from his face, enjoying the look of perfect confusion as it vanished away.

However, the soul-eater was still bubbling away on the floor of my cell, hissing as it deflated the rest of the way, and the putrescent stink was completely filling the room.

I was so angry that it took me six tries to get a spell for cleaning it up. When I stood up and hurled the fourth ancient scroll back into the impenetrable dark on the other side of my desk and yelled furiously, “I don’t want to summon an army of scuvara! I don’t want to conjure walls of mortal flame! I want my bloody room clean!” what came flying out of the void in answer was a horrible tome encased in some kind of pale crackly leather with dark-stained spiked corners that scraped unpleasantly as it landed on my metal desk. It had probably come off a pig, but someone had clearly wanted you to think it had been flayed from a person, which was almost as bad, and it flipped itself open to a page with instructions for enslaving an entire mob of people to do your bidding. I’m sure they would have cleaned my room if I told them to.

I had to actually take out one of my mother’s stupid crystals and sit down on my narrow squeaky bed and meditate for ten minutes, with the stench of the soul-eater all around me and getting into my clothes and sheets and papers. You’d think that any smell would clear out quickly, since one whole wall of our rooms opens to the scenic view of a mystical void of empty darkness, so delightfully like living in a spaceship aimed directly into a black hole, but you’d be wrong. After I finally managed to walk myself back from the incoherent kicking levels of anger, I pushed the pig-skin book off the far edge of my desk back into the void—using a pen to touch it, just in case—and said as calmly as I could manage, “I want a simple household spell for cleaning away an unwanted mess with a bad smell.”

Sullenly down came thump a gigantic volume entitled Amunan Hamwerod packed completely full of spells written in Old English—my weakest dead language—and it didn’t open to any particular page, either.

That sort of thing is always happening to me. Some sorcerers get an affinity for weather magic, or transformation spells, or fantastic combat magics like dear Orion. I got an affinity for mass destruction.

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