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338 pages, Kindle Edition
First published September 29, 2020
You have to ration sympathy and grief in here the way you ration your school supplies.
Nobody gets to live or not live because they deserve it, deserving doesn’t count for a thing.
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.
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.
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.
“I know you’re just waiting for us to put your statue up, but that’s no reason to carry on like a slab of solid rock.”
◈ Galadriel aka El:
“You feel like it’s going to rain.”
But Aadhya was already waving her hands around and elaborating. “You know that feeling when you’re a mile away from anywhere, and you didn’t take your umbrella because it was sunny when you left, and you’re in your good suede boots, and suddenly it gets dark and you can tell it’s about to start pouring buckets, and you’re like Oh great.” She nodded to herself, satisfied with her brilliant analogy. “That’s what it feels like, whenever you show up.”
⤷ I see her as Disney’s Megara ⤵
◈ Orion Lake:
⤷ To me, he’s a total Hercules ⤵
◈ Everyone Else:
Dreadlocks are unfortunately not a great idea thanks to lockleeches, which you can probably imagine, but in case you need help, the adult spindly thing comes quietly down at night and pokes an ovipositor into any big clumps of hair, lays an egg inside, and creeps away. A little while later the leech hatches inside its comfy nest, attaches itself to your scalp almost unnoticeably, and starts very gently sucking up your blood and mana while infiltrating further. If you don’t get it out within a week or two, it usually manages to work its way inside the skull, and you’ve got a window of a few days after that before you stop being able to move. On the bright side, something else usually finishes you off quickly at that point.
“We’re not meant to all survive, anyway. The school has to be fed somehow.”Scholomance is an isolated magical boarding school in the Void that you enter at fourteen and - maybe, possibly, if you are *very* lucky - get to leave four years later. But before you sign up, keep in mind: “Most of the time less than a quarter of the class makes it all the way through graduation.” There are no teachers but the students still study hard - it’s the only thing to do when your choices are learn enough useful skills and maybe live or fall prey to the multitude of monsters living there (and occasionally to your own classmates).
“[…] If you’re an indie kid who doesn’t get into the Scholomance, these days your odds of making it to the far side of puberty are one in twenty. One in four is plenty decent odds compared to that.”
“When the enclaves first built the Scholomance, the induction spell didn’t pull in kids from outside the enclaves. The enclavers made it sound like a grand act of generosity when they changed it to bring us all in, but of course it was never that. 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.”
“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.”
“That might sound extreme, but it’s not explicitly a spell to conjure mortal flame, it’s a sliding-scale spell to conjure magical fire. Most people love those spells, because virtually anyone can cast them successfully and you just get different results depending on your affinity and how much mana you put into it. Even if you’re a fumbling child, you can use it to light a match, and get better at casting it. Or if you’re me, you can suck the life force out of a dozen kids and then incinerate half the school with you inside it. So helpful!”
“Breakfast isn’t half as dangerous as dinner, but it’s still never good to walk alone.”
“I hate this school more than anyplace in the entire world, not least because every once in a while, you get forcibly reminded that the place was built by geniuses who were trying to save the lives of their own children, and you’re unspeakably lucky to be here being protected by their work. Even if you’ve been allowed in only as another useful cog.”
“I’d got used to my ordinary level of low-grade bitterness and misery, to putting my head down and soldiering on. Being happy threw me off almost as much as being enraged.”
“I love having existential crises at bedtime, it’s so restful.”
Q: I love having existential crises at bedtime, it's so restful. (c)
Q: 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. It’s all my mum’s fault, of course, just like my stupid name.Of course.
... when I want to straighten my room, I get instructions on how to kill it with fire. (c)
We’re not meant to all survive, anyway. The school has to be fed somehow. (c)
“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 spiked corners that scraped unpleasantly as it skidded to me across the metal of the desk. The leather 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 suppose they would have cleaned my room if I told them to. (c)
Q:Yeah, I'm persuaded a librarian's salary will pay for that mansion.
Most wizards don’t bother with mundane work—it’s considered a bit low—or if they do, they hunt themselves out an empty sack of a job. The person who retires from the firm after forty-six years and no one quite remembers what they were doing, the befuddled librarian that you occasionally glimpse wandering the stacks without seeming to do anything, the third vice president of marketing who shows up only for meetings with senior management; that sort of thing. There’re spells to find those jobs or coax them into existence, and then you’ve provided yourself with the necessities of life and kept your time free to build mana and make your cheap flat into a twelve-room mansion on the inside. (c)
Q: Doing magic in front of someone who doesn’t believe in it is loads harder. (c)I'm pretty sure this applies to anything. Not just magic.
I already know ten times more spells for destruction and dominion than the entire graduating class of seniors put together. You would too if you got five of them every time you wanted to mop the bloody floor. (c)
What is it with you, are you actively trying to meet new and exciting mals? ...
“Don’t you like practicing your affinity?” ...
“My affinity is laying waste to multitudes, so I haven’t had much opportunity to try the experience,” (c)
It’s not that I’m ugly; on the contrary, I’ve been growing increasingly beautiful in a tall and alarming way, as befits the terrible dark sorceress I’m meant to be, at least until I presumably collapse into a grotesque crone. Boys often think for about ten seconds that they might want to go out with me, and then they look into my eyes or talk to me and I suppose get the strong impression I’m likely to devour their souls or something. (c)
I did notice him seething, but I was too busy seething myself to care. (c)
As I wasn’t myself a noble hero with a limitless store of mana and all the sense of an unvarnished deck chair, I went down slowly and cautiously. (c)
was I starting to feel evil? Yes, now I was worrying I’d be turned to the dark side by too much crochet. (c)
What right did I have to take that for myself, eight times and counting? Why did I deserve to live more than them?
But I had an answer now: I hadn’t pulled malia even with a knife in my gut, and I’d gone after a maw-mouth to save half the freshmen instead of running away, and meanwhile Magnus had tried to murder me because Orion liked me, and Todd had destroyed Mika because he was scared, and because I had that answer, I couldn’t help thinking actually I did deserve to live more than them. And I know nobody gets to live or not live because they deserve it, deserving doesn’t count for a thing, but the point was, I now felt deep in my heart that I was in fact a better human being than Magnus or Todd, and hooray, all the prizes for me, but that wasn’t helpful when what I actually needed was reasons why I shouldn’t just wipe them out of existence. (c)
I know how to stop being angry. I’ve been taught any number of ways to manage anger, and they really work. What she’s never been able to teach me is how to want to manage it. So I go on seething and raging and knowing the whole time that it’s my own fault, because I do know how to stop. (c)
“Why are you being this nice?” he said. “Are you mad at me for something?” (c)
We went in for a round of staring around at each other with equal degrees of what sort of moron are you expressions, and then I said, “Does that ever actually work for you?” (c)
I know you’re just waiting for us to put your statue up, but that’s no reason to carry on like a slab of solid rock.” (c)
Q:What's about her desk?
I stood up and hurled the latest crumbling ancient scroll back into the impenetrable dark on the other side of my desk (c)
Q:Now, that's digs to dream of. Maybe as in having nightmares.
You’d think that any smell would clear out quickly, since one whole wall of the room is open to the scenic view of a mystical void of darkness, so delightfully like living in a spaceship aimed directly into a black hole, but you’d be wrong. (c)
“You know, it’s almost impressive,” he said after a moment, sounding less wobbly. “You’re nearly dead and you’re still the rudest person I’ve ever met. You’re welcome again, by the way.”
“Or if you’re me, you can suck the life force out of a dozen kids and then incinerate half the school with you inside it. So helpful!”
“Clarita’s shield spell was fundamentally designed to be cast by multiple people, to cover a group. It wove between English and Spanish, and read almost like a song, or a play with different roles for each caster: there were lines and verses that we could cast either solo or together, chaining them together one after another, so we could all take a breather now and then, and the lines weren’t even nailed down-”
“Predictably, an Arabic worksheet appeared on my desk the instant I sat down that morning. There wasn’t a single word of English on it; the school didn’t even give me a dictionary. And judging by the cheery cartoonish illustrations next to the lines—most notably a man in a car about to mow down a couple of hapless pedestrians—I had the strong suspicion that it was modern Arabic, too. I should’ve got a book on Classical Arabic out of the library before going to class.”