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"The greatest wizards alive can't kill maw-mouths, and they won't even try, because if you try and you don't kill it, it eats you and it keeps eating you forever. It's worse than being killed by a soul-eater and it's worse than being grabbed by a harpy and taken to her nest to be eaten alive by her chicks and it's worse than being torn apart by kvenliks, and no one in their right mind would ever try it, no one, unless the girl you'd started dating a few months ago was going to die, her and someone you didn't even know, not even a person but just a blob of cells that had barely started dividing yet, and you stupidly cared about that enough to trade a million years of agony for theirs."
El Higgins
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The Scholomance trilogy is a Dark Fantasy Black Comedy Coming of Age series by Naomi Novik.

The series so far consists of A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate. A third book, called The Golden Enclaves, is set to be released on September 27, 2022.

The series is set at the 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.

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The Scholomance contains examples of the following tropes:

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    # to D 
  • 13 Is Unlucky: Inverted. As El puts it "13 is a number with distinction".
    • Angel Torres, who came in thirteenth in the class rankings, hasn't done well enough to make it into an enclave. However, his luck picks up when he gets a promised enclave spot in exchange for participating in the repair mission and then proceeds to survive that mission.
  • Academic Alpha Bitch: Anyone aiming for Valedictorian tends to be decisive, ruthless, and increasingly arrogant.
    • What made Clarita different from the usual stock is that she wasn't obvious about it, being careful to keep her head down all four years and even do a few maintenance shifts to make it seem as if she was on the maintenance track. However, after the rankings went up with her name at the top during her last semester, she was sure to post all her top marks outside her room, to make it clear to everyone that she deserved it.
    • The Valedictorian of El's year, Liesel, builds a careful facade of niceness that she drops completely the moment she gets the title. Afterwards, she becomes an Alpha Bitch, though one that El and her friends grudgingly have to admit is still a very useful person to know.
  • Academy of Adventure: The Scholomance is an especially dark version. Not only is it ungoverned by adults and infested by deadly monsters, the school itself is an Eldritch Location that appears to have a will of its own and manipulates the students to feed on their misery.
  • The Ace: Orion is a basically unstoppable monster-killing machine, in addition to being morally upstanding and an all-around Nice Guy. Deconstructed in that this results in absolutely everyone relying on him to the point where he has no friends and doesn't know how to be anything else. Deconstructed further in the second book, where he reveals that he's been a Blood Knight whose sole desire since childhood has been to kill mals, and even having opinions about how people feel about being saved came later.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: Magic is powered by belief. Because mundanes don't believe in magic, mals aren't nearly as threatening around them. El was once attacked by a mal while attending a mundane school; her gym teacher killed it with a cricket bat. She remarks that she would never be able to do that.
  • After-School Cleaning Duty: Played With, since it's not imposed as a punishment (as there are no adults) but theoretically handed out to every student as part of the course load. As the place cares little who actually does that assignment either there's an unofficial "maintenance track" for students who pick up the scut-work for enclavers in exchange for alliances.
  • Agonizing Stomach Wound: El gets one courtesy of Jack. Only the timely intervention of Orion and her mother's first aid healing charms keeps it from killing her outright. In true El fashion, she uses the aftermath to further her own interests. In this case, by subtly suggesting she and Orion just lost their virginity to each other.
  • Alpha Bitch: Chloe is briefly set up as one, but it soon turns out that she's a perfectly nice person who just never thought about the privilege she derives from being born into a powerful enclave.
    • Liesel is closer in the second book. While El more quickly realizes her intentions are good and that she's highly intelligent and motivated, she's not nice or easy to get along with.
  • Ambiguous Ending:
    • At the end of the first book we are left uncertain if the plan to fix the scouring equipment worked, saving the graduating class, or if it failed and only succeeded in riling up the mals, dooming the graduating class and potentially endangering the entire school in the year to come. Not to mention El receives a letter from her mother warning her to keep away from Orion, without any further details. The second book reveals not only did it work, Patience and Fortitude ate everything that survived the mortal flame before trying to eat each other as well, making the Scholomance almost entirely mal free except for the larval ones that were already in the school proper.
    • And then at the end of the second book Orion pushes El through the portal to save her, leaving him behind to face Uncertain Doom.
  • America Saves the Day: In a sense. After the London enclave fell into disarray during the aftermath of World War II, the New York enclave took over management of the school and is responsible for the overhaul of the cafeteria, allowing the students to eat actual food instead nutritious and watery slurp they ate before. It's no doubt part of the reason they're considered the most powerful enclave in the world in the present.
  • And I Must Scream: When a maw-mouth consumes someone, their bodies are dissolved into its biomass, leaving only their eyes and mouth on its surface, and their minds last as long as the maw-mouth lives. Victims can be targeted with communications spells but can only send incoherent screams in reply.
  • Anti-Climax: After nearly four years of training and preparing for graduation, the seniors of El's class discover that the graduation hall is completely empty, having been scoured clean after the climax of book 1. Subverted in that it doesn't remove the danger, but shifts the climax to a proactive mission rather than one of pure survival.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: El's affinity is for death and destruction, which the school is more than happy to nurture and indulge. This does lead to certain drawbacks when she's trying to do more mundane things, such as find spells to clean her room or create water from thin air.
  • All the Other Reindeer: El's powers give off some kind of aura that appears to make her feel wrong—mumdanes naturally dislike her without really knowing why, and wizards think it marks her as an incompetent maleficer. It would be Bullying a Dragon, but she takes pains not to use her Person of Mass Destruction powers and nobody knows about them.
  • Apocalypse Maiden: El. If she were to ever lose control and go off her diet of strict mana, she'd do things too horrible to describe.
  • Bad Bedroom, Bad Life: With no friends or connections in Magical Society and all her own limited resources dedicated to staying alive, El's dorm room has the bare minimum of furnishings, zero decorations, a recurring mal infestation, and an uncovered hole into the Void for one wall.
  • Bad is Good and Good is Bad: Downplayed. El is usually very rude to Orion, so when she finally acts nice for a change, he assumes she must be mad at him.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: El, with the help of her mother, has gone to great lengths to avert the other trope, to the point where it practically defines her as a person, as much as it chafes sometimes.
  • Balance Between Good and Evil: According to the Principle of Balance, anything magical that upsets things too much will cause a countering effect. A coven of evil wizards kills a thousand of their classmates? The next year an evil wizard slaying hero is born. An unparalleled beacon of purity and goodness is selflessly helping all who come to her? Her daughter is prophecized to cause mass destruction and havoc. El notes in the second book that the fact her father heroically died to get her pregnant mother out probably didn't help matters either.
  • Balance of Power:
    • A fairly standard one. To wit:
      • Type A is represented by the New York enclave, which has been the dominant power in the magical world since roughly World War II after they took over the maintenance of the titular school from the London enclave.
      • Type B is represented by the Shanghai enclave, which has been gradually rising to prominence and power ever since it was restored forty years ago by Li Shan Zheng.
      • Type C are the majority of the enclaves of the western world, who are primarily allies of the New York enclave, while Type D are the eastern enclaves, many of which were sponsored by the Shanghai enclave and are thus their allies.
      • Technically, there is no 'E', as there aren't enough independent enclaves to tip the balance towards either of the two, though that position can easily be fulfilled by a once-in-a-generation talent like Orion or El, who are both powerful enough to destroy enclaves entirely on their own given enough mana.
    • The balance of power between the New York enclave and the Shanghai enclave becomes a major plot point during the second book, as the latest allocation for seats at the Scholomance is coming up and everyone predicts a major power struggle between both enclaves over it. The downfall of the Bangkok enclave doesn't help, since an event like that usually precipitates an enclave war with people dying on both sides, though that is only if another enclave is responsible — and as Bangkok was an ally of Shanghai, if an enclave is responsible, they would've only done it with New York's tacit support. As a result, El finds herself targeted by the Shanghai enclavers for most of the book, who mistakenly believe she's been secretly tied up with New York for all her years in the Scholomance and that once she's gotten out, she'll join up with them and end up killing all of their families in the upcoming war.
  • The Bard: Aadhya, who's building an elaborate magical instrument, and who acts as the face of the Trio when they need to make a deal.
  • Barrier Warrior: Clarita has developed her own spell for shielding a group of people. Doubly impressive because it's a technical masterpiece and coming up with new spells at all is exceedingly rare.
    • Alfie in the second book also qualifies. His "spell of refusal," which he developed himself, is selectively permeable, to the point where it can keep out poison gas while still letting in oxygen.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Rather than start a fight with the horde of ravenous mals in the Graduation Hall, the students quietly walk in and start fixing the scouring engine. It buys them a fair bit of extra time before the mals overcome their confusion and attack.
  • The Beautiful Elite: At least in the Scholomance, Enclavers are easy to distinguish on sight. They'll be the ones who are well fed, well rested, bathe consistently, and wear clothes that actually fit rather than making do with whatever they can scrounge. Usually seen surrounded by a crowd of hangers on/human shields.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Inverted. Orion starts hanging out with El because she's the only person who isn't nice to him. Given the intense pressure the guy constantly feels from all the fawning adulation of his peers, it's understandable.
    • Also, El with Aadhya and Liu, who also spent most of school wary of and avoidant of her, but who were also some of the very few people who weren't hostile and would trade favors fairly. When El's star begins rising she extends some largess to them as her closest-thing-to-allies, and they become friends.
  • Best Friends-in-Law: Chloe's father (an indie kid) and her maternal uncle (an enclaver) were allies when they attended the Scholomance together. Her uncle introduced her dad to his sister after they made it out alive, leading to their marriage.
  • Big Applesauce: While the actual location has yet to appear, the city of New York gets a lot of focus in this series. Their enclave is the most powerful in the world, two of the main characters are from that enclave, and a third lives near it and has made it clear that is the enclave she would like to join the most.
  • Big Sister Instinct: As the seventh-highest scoring senior, Maya Wulandari can write her own ticket into any number of enclaves, but has spent her school career trying to cozy up to the Toronto enclave because admission to that group means that they'll take in her whole family and her little brother and sister will have the protection of being enclavers when they attend the Scholomance. She volunteers for the dangerous mission in the climax in exchange for admission to the Toronto enclave, which will extend to her siblings whether she survives or not.
  • Big Man on Campus: Orion, at least as he's introduced. It soon becomes clear that despite everyone counting on him for protection, he has no real friends. This combination has turned him into a guilt-ridden child soldier with nascent PTSD.
  • Bigotry Exception: After realizing she really does hate enclaves, El is almost consistently rude to most of the enclavers in the school except for Orion and later Chloe. She does loosen up later on in The Last Graduate after some Character Development, though she still keeps her low opinion of enclaves in general.
  • Bizarrchitecture: The Scholomance's layout is only possible because it was constructed in a pocket dimension. Notable features include floors spaced a 15-minute walk apart, plumbing and air vents wildly miss-sized for their apparent needs, and walls and ceilings made of a featureless void that drives those who enter it mad.
  • Black Comedy: The series wrings a lot of twisted, dry humor of having students die so horribly so often.
  • Black Magic: While Mana is created through personal effort, malia is magic power drained from something else's life force. Wizards can get away with stealing a bit of energy from plants and insects, but the psychic taint from killing "anything complicated enough to have feelings about it" for a bigger boost causes maleficers to go Drunk on the Dark Side and eventually rots them alive.
  • Blob Monster: The maw-mouths are gigantic, amorphous masses of flesh, covered with the stolen eyes and mouths of their victims. They're by far the most feared type of mal because they're notoriously hard to ward against, just shy of impossible to harm, they can easily draw people in with their pseuodopods, and the people they absorb are trapped, alive, forever.
  • Blood Knight: Ever since he was a kid all Orion has ever wanted to do is kill mals. He is perhaps the only non-malificer to ever think being at the Scholomance was fun.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: The Scholomance manages it without having any teachers or bullies, trapping students in a years-long fight for their lives without any supervision or support beyond what they can get from each other. The kids hate the place so much that when they make up a plan to use it to get rid of the vast majority of the mals in the world and it offers itself as extra material, they have absolutely no issue tearing it to pieces.
  • Brick Joke: Early on, El complains about Orion saving her for the second time, but says it would be alright if he had done it "some really extraordinary number of times - about 13 or so". Guess how many he's up to by the end of the book?
  • Cast from Hit Points: Some wizards will burn through their health to produce the needed mana in a crisis situation and the recovery for it is much like that of a long-term injury. Distinct from using other peoples' health to produce mana, which is malia.
  • Cast from Lifespan: Using any significant amount of malia degrades the wizard's body, so most people who go full Evil Sorcerer don't live very long before they rot away from the inside.
  • Cast from Stamina: Not mana itself but the ability to manipulate mana is tied to stamina which is somewhat linked to one's physical fitness but also native ability. Overdrawing at the bank can lead to heart attacks and permenant tremors.
  • Chekhov's Classroom: The entire point of the Scholomance. Not only does it teach young wizards the skills they need to deal with constant mal attacks, but it funnels the mals into a small enough space that the truly horrible ones can't get through.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • El mentions in passing that there were supposed to be scouring machines in the Graduation Hall, but they broke after about 5 minutes and were never repaired. Fixing them becomes the only hope for getting any seniors through graduation after Orion's heroism goes horribly right.
    • The honeypot spell in the second book. Chloe brings it up as a way to draw in mals that Orion can kill for mana near the beginning of the second book, but after numerous failures the group gives up and tries to find an alternative. It later provides the inspiration for Liu's plan to help the Scholomance "protect" the world's wizarding children: by drawing out mals through the induction portals used to send the students home after Graduation Day, trapping them within the school, and then destroying the school itself and sending it into the void.
    • El's spell to set off a supervolcano makes a few appearances in The Last Graduate as well. First to compel a cease fire between two groups of enclavers, and again at the end when its how they plan on destroying the school.
  • Chekhov's Skill: El discovers an extremely rare spell to convert matter from one phase to another with minimal mana costs. This later becomes vital for fixing the broken staircase that's been letting in powerful mals.
  • The Chessmaster: The Scholomance itself.
  • Chest Monster: Ubiquitous, both the shapeshifting variety and the kind that like to hide in chests. Although most of the shapeshifting ones seem to prefer turning into chairs.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Orion suffers hard from this, recklessly throwing himself into danger to protect everyone around him regardless of long-term consequences to himself, his friends, and basically everyone else. In the second book El gets hit by it too, though she's much more sour about it.
  • The Clan: Large, independent wizarding families unattached to an enclave. Sometimes this is because they intend to build their own enclaves, like Liu's family; other times it's because they don't like any of the potential offers and elect to keep their autonomy instead. El's paternal family, the Sharmas, are one such family; they were all invited to join the Mumbai enclave as a unit but refused because the enclave wasn't strict-mana like they were.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Magic requires a fairly strong expectation that it will work to be used reliably. As you might imagine, trying to use magic around mundanes is a losing prospect. The only bright side is that this also applies to the supernatural abilities of mals.
  • Cliffhanger: The Last Graduate ends with Orion throwing El through the gates so he can face down Patience by himself.
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder:
    • El's need to fill in for Orion's badly atrophied sense of self-preservation skirts this level, especially after the revelation that he has been aggravating the mal incursions.
    • It gets even more pronounced in the second book when he falls so far behind in his classes that even the school starts to get annoyed with how little effort he's putting into his assignments.
  • Commune: El and her mother Gwen live with mundanes in a rural New Age commune where Gwen can experience nature and offer free healing. The others aren't any paragons of moral purity, since they deliberately ignored a very young El when they heard her screaming in an emergency, but El generally thinks well enough of the place.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: This is how the series starts and is a recurring theme throughout. Oddly enough, it actually helped El's and Orion's friendship get started since it was clear from the start she wasn't interested in cozying up to him just for a bit of extra safety.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Students get so resigned to the Scholomance's inescapable dangers that it doesn't disrupt the lunch hour to have a mortally wounded senior bleed out at a cafeteria table. Most show no interest in the lives of people outside their own clique, but they'll quickly turn on anyone who actively preys on the others through malia or poaching. It's deconstructed in the second book, after El accidentally repairs the gym and turns it back into its original design of a peaceful Kyoto Cherry Blossom garden. Being in such a nice, normal place and knowing it's not real after being stuck in the Scholomance for years traumatizes everyone except the freshmen and Orion, causing them to either break down crying, flee the gym en masse, or both.
  • Convicted by Public Opinion: Justified. Because There Are No Adults, there is no actual rule system in place beyond whatever traditions and conventions that have been developed and passed down to the students over the years. The only real way to sufficiently 'punish' someone for whatever 'crime' they committed is to convince almost all the students to side against the 'guilty' and mete out the appropriate penalty. Considering that most of the children are operating on a Darwinistic and survivalist mentality, the only times this happens is when the student(s) in question has done something that is, or proves them to be, a legitimate threat to everyone, not just a portion of the school.
  • Crafted From Animals: Magical artificing sometimes uses mal remains, some of which need to be harvested with special spells. It's mentioned that sirenspider parts make good musical instruments, but it's unclear to what extent they're specifically useful and to what extent it's the students needing to scavenge whatever supplies they can get. The second book mentions that the ability to use mal remains as crucial components is rare.
  • Cram School:
    • The Scholomance, as you'd expect. Subverted in that the school doesn't care whether you cheat, as long as the work gets done.
    • The school is an interesting take on this trope in that while it doesn't care who does the work and that it's not important to get particularly high grades unless you're going for valedictorian, it still expects you to pass your classes. If you don't, your work attacks you (either killing you or giving you a major injury) and you're stuck doing remedial work to make up for it. And woe to those who fail their assignments in their senior year, as it's practically a death sentence.
  • Crapsack World: A huge percentage of students who go to the Scholomance never come back out. Yet wizards regularly send their children in there anyway, because all the alternatives are worse. Interestingly, it's only crapsack for the wizards—mundanes are more or less unaffected by the slavering hordes of monsters, since they don't believe in them.
    • There are strong shades of it being A World Half Full or even brighter in the second book especially, as El's Character Development forces her to care more about people and as the students, given more breathing room in a relatively non-awful year and therefore the chance to look beyond their own survival, become much readier to look out for each other, even if that is ultimately still serving their own self interest.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Any strong affinity has the potential to become this, but Galadriel's takes the cake. Hers is so geared toward dark magic that she can't take the normal shortcuts everyone else has access to without risking killing everyone around her. On top of this, she's also geared towards spells meant to destroy armies; while she can cast such spells far more efficiently than most people, they're still so expensive that she usually can't use them at all against the smaller-scale dangers she actually finds herself in.
    • Liu theorizes in the second book that El doesn't just have a hard time getting small spells from the Scholomance; she actually has trouble casting them. It explains why El takes longer than the others to bond with her mouse familiar.
  • The Dark Arts: Pulling malia, aka mana contained in living things. The more complex and self-aware the organism, the greater the potential source of power, the harder it is to drain, and the greater the risk of rotting from the inside out and dying horribly. Meanwhile, El's affinity is so strong that she can siphon a half-grown wizard dry and start in on anyone linked via mana sharing with the same effort and preparation most would need to clear out an anthill.
  • The Dark Side: Anyone who 'cheats' and uses malia risks falling into further and further depravity, until they're completely warped in wickedness and begin shriveling up. This is the reason why El can't use so much as a whiff of malia, as her affinity for The Dark Arts is so strong that even the smallest taste has the potential to send her over the deep end.
  • Deadly Bath: Defied by the students, who only use the showers when they have backup standing guard against mals. El would rather stink for a week than risk her life showering alone.
  • Death Course: The graduation ceremony from the Scholomance involves running through a long hall filled with monsters. Normally, only half of those who make it through all four years to that point survive (or rather ~80+% if the Enclaver kids survive, and rather fewer of everyone else).
  • Decon-Recon Switch: Starts as a brutal deconstruction of common magic school tropes, but as the story goes on, you start to see that it's not as bleak as it could be. Most significantly, the founders of the Scholomance considered the mission statement of "sheltering all wizard children" to be a cynical marketing ploy, since they were always going to give all the spots to kids from their own enclaves. The Scholomance itself did not get that memo. It takes the mission so seriously that it's willing to let itself be literally torn apart if that's what it takes to keep the students safe.
  • Deconstructive Parody: Of Wizarding School type settings, especially places like Hogwarts, showing with dark, twisted glee that they could easily be not a whimsical haven of magic and mystery, but a Death World that at best feel like Military School and the monsters that would occasionally pop up in another setting will hound you every minute of every day and of which even the weakest can kill you instantly and painfully. It also raises a critical eye at the Housing System, portraying it as disgustingly classist and made for Survival of the Fittest.
  • Defusing the Tyke-Bomb: Gwen has spent most of her daughter's life teaching her how to be a moral person and not abuse her natural affinity for dark magic. So far it seems to be working.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Maw-mouths do have Too Many Mouths, but the redundant name likely has more to do with the fact that every wizard is rightly terrified by the thought of them.
  • Destructive Savior: Orion has the bad habit of acting before considering the consequences of his actions, especially how inconvenient the aftermath will be. Given that swift action is usually justified to save lives, no one is too upset about the clean up... except when he does it in the lunch line. However, he's also indirectly responsible for the climactic conflict of the first book. Turns out he's been so effective in his time at the Scholomance that the school population is getting above capacity and kids are starting to go hungry. To make things even worse, this also applies to the mals. Without a steady trickle of mana to sate them between graduations, the larger mals are starting to come up themselves and wreak havoc.
  • Detect Evil: All wizards have Supernatural Sensitivity that allows them to detect the auras of other wizards, with maleficers having particularly dark, ominous auras. Most maleficers can usually hide their auras from other wizards (unless they're neck-deep in malia and already rotting) and go about their lives with people none-the-wiser to what they are. However, someone with a strong affinity for dark magic, such as El, can bypass that and sense them. That's how El is able to identify Jack Westing and Liu as maleficers, which caused her to avoid the former as much as she could without tipping him off to the fact that she knew what he was. Ironically, this also works against El; because her affinity gives her such a strong, ominous aura, most of the school was under an assumption she was an incompetent maleficer that was unable to hide what she actually was.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Maw-mouths are one of the scariest mals of all. A group of ten adult wizards with months of preparation would be lucky to kill one after days of constant effort, and would almost certainly lose people. El takes one out by herself on the fly in under an hour.
  • Didn't Think This Through: The Hands of Death (or whatever they called themselves) from the year before Gwen Higgins' slaughtered their entire class on Graduation Day for a massive dose of power, which (obviously) allowed them to survive the run through the Graduation Hall. As lampshaded by El, it was "stupidly obvious" what they'd done, because they didn't even spare the enclave kids. Once the families of the other students figured out what happened, all twelve would-be maleficers were hunted down before Gwen could even graduate herself.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The enclave system is a clear analogy for economic and social inequality; as the books take place primarily in Scholomance, it's focused on how those inequities manifest in real-world education. Yes, everybody is going to the same school, but some are given benefits others are not. The enclavers are vastly better prepared due to generational wealth. This gives them a disproportionately high survival rate, to the point where some, like Chloe, think of mal attacks as something that mostly happens in the brochures.
    • A (perhaps) slightly more subtle analogy is the similarities between the enclave system and malia, and the exploitation necessary for the luxuries of the developed world. No, enclavers don't use malia, exploiting others directly; but they do ultimately exploit others, down to using lives of others' children as shields for their own to survive Scholomance. They're just able to do it at a remove that allows htem to think they're doing nothing wrong—and indeed there's no necessary malice on their part, it can simply be a system most had no hand in building working as intended. This is why Gwen Higgins decided to be shot of the whole system. El reflects in The Last Graduate how it's similar to why a bangle bought at a ridiculous markup made from metal mined by an indentured worker in a colonized country will never bring you inner peace.
  • Don't Ask, Just Run: In a variant, the instant Orion's attention moves over her shoulder during a conversation El casts the strongest defensive spell she has because something sneaking up behind you in the Scholomance is never good and normally fatal.

    E to I 
  • Easily Forgiven: Liesel answers El's insult with a potentially deadly Booby Trap, but changes her mind at the last moment and pulls El to safety. El lets it slide, musing that being angry enough to kill but held back by conscience is very relatable.
  • Eating Lunch Alone: In a school where cafeteria seating arrangements are literally a matter of life and death, nobody is allowed to do this unless they've committed a truly heinous crime.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Liu's minor use of malia is implied to have had this effect. When she's healed of its influence, characters notice that highlights appear in her black hair and her complexion gets more tan (and less undead). And then that long, lovely hair starts tangling, three years of bad hair days all at once.
  • Eldritch Abomination: An actual category of mal. Thankfully, they're mostly mental effects and don't have much in the way of a physical presence to back up the incomprehensible horror they generate.
  • Embarrassing First Name: El is short for Galadriel. As someone who grew up in a British hippy commune, she's heard all the jokes.
    Just think about the 'love me and despair' version.
  • Energy Donation: Wizards can transfer their mana to each other voluntarily; enclavers use "power sharers" to pool and distribute their spare mana. When Orion thinks El is having a Heroic RRoD, he gives her a solid year's worth without warning, forcing her to burn off the excess with some quick magic.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: People thought for years that El was an incompetent loser maleficer. In reality, she's strict-mana, the daughter of renowned healer Gwen Higgins, and quite possibly the most powerful student the school has ever seen.
  • Equivalent Exchange: The basic rule of magic in the setting. No spell can be cast without something being spent in return.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The first time we meet El, she's trying to find a simple spell to clean her floor, instead receiving hundreds of spells for laying waste to her enemies.
  • Everything Is Trying to Kill You: Between the horde of mals and the school's seemingly deliberate efforts to prey on the unwary, it's no wonder three quarters of those who enter die. And it's still better than being a child wizard outside of Scholomance.
  • Evil Is Sexy: In-Universe, Galadriel says Black Magic tends to make people look great, right up until it rots them from the inside out. Of the two known maleficers, one looks like a handsome All-American Boy and the other has a Raven Hair, Ivory Skin aesthetic until she goes clean.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Anyone who specializes in pulling malia will inevitably end up as one. Not only is a maleficer's minds corrupted by the act of drawing malia, but making themselves the enemy of all other wizards tends to push them to ever darker acts in the pursuit of power. In the second book, El reveals that this doesn't stop people from going down this route anyway. The freshman handbook has warnings about it and even statisticsnote . However, few get very far as they usually don't plan and prepare for it like Liu and her family did for her; most usually do it out of desperation, like Prasong did after his enclave went down.
  • Eyes Do Not Belong There: Maw-mouths are covered with the stolen eyes of the people they've absorbed.
  • Familiar: Wizards bond animals as familiars by spending time with them and imbuing them with mana, after which they'll act independently on the wizard's behalf, and are apparently much clever and more insightful than normal animals. Liu does this with her mice when she swears off Malia, and starts giving them to her friends. Gwen Higgins, meanwhile, is such a Friend to All Living Things that animals show up and volunteer as familiars now and then.
  • Fan Disservice: An in-universe version; one student's mother told her to be wary of male students' "secret pet mal." To El's amusement (and mild exasperation) it seems to work; in fairness she wasn't terribly interested to begin with, but after hearing the phrase once, she can't even contemplate the relevant anatomy of a particular character who had indicated their attraction to her without having to fight down laughter and killing ''any' chance her would-be suitor might have had. At least at the time. It comes back as a Brick Joke when El and Orion finally take off each others' clothes; fortunately, he thinks she's laughing at how she can't get her belt undone.
  • Fantasy Character Classes: Everyone in the main cast fits into one.
    • El is a Wizard, with an affinity for arcane languages and a focus on extremely powerful evocation spells.
    • Orion is a Paladin, with combat-focused magic and a compulsion to go around saving people.
    • Aadhya is a Bard, with a magical instrument and the best social skills of the group.
    • Liu is a Druid, deriving magic from living animals she keeps under her care.
    • Chloe is an Alchemist, specializing in brewing magical concoctions to enhance her teammates' abilities.
  • Fantasy Contraception: It's attempted but noted to be quite unreliable. Because magic is so affected by belief, fearing that contraception won't work opens it up to not working.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Getting eaten by a maw-mouth. No one's sure exactly what happens, but it's thought that the victims don't actually die, they just...give up after awhile, and stop screaming. "New" eyes blink and roll constantly, older ones stare blankly, glazed.
  • Food Chain of Evil: Mals don't have a problem eating each other and over time a fairly stable evil ecosystem has developed around the school. Normally, small mals that can get through holes in the school's wards will be responsible for most student deaths and act as the bottom layer of the food chain. Those mals then get eaten by larger ones, and so on and so on, until the mana eventually makes its way to the hoard in the Graduation Hall. This slow but steady trickle of energy keeps the larger mals sated in between graduations when they can gorge themselves on the leaving students. This had been working... not well, but more or less stably for a few hundred years until Orion showed up and killed all the mals he could find.
    • This eventually reaches its logical conclusion when a starved Patience eats the slightly smaller Fortitude.
  • Foreshadowing: Despite the prime opportunity Orion's friendship offers her, El still can't find it in herself to be polite to the enclave kids and instead develops a reputation as an enclave-hater. Later on, this (along with a few other self-revelations) helps her realize that she actually doesn't want to join an enclave at all and that she legitimately hates them and everything they represent.
  • Friendless Background: El and Orion. It's just about the only thing they have in common, even if their reasons for it are very different.
  • Friend to All Living Things:
    • El's mother, Gwen Higgins, is so kind to animals that she keeps picking up familiars by accident.
    • Liu managed to keep ten mice alive in the Scholomance for three years. El notes that Liu's animal affinity must have made it even more painful for her to pull malia from them, but when she goes clean, she starts to make them into Familiars.
  • Gate Guardian: Patience and Fortitude flank the Scholomance's main gates and eat a large number of the mals that make it into the Graduation Hall each year. Without them to thin the horde, it's likely even more mals would get into the school than already do. Unfortunately, they're able to do this because they're two of the largest maw-mouths to ever exist and have no problem picking off any wizards who try to come in to fix the school.
  • Genius Bonus: El references Thucydides's Trap when the students from the Shanghai and New York enclaves are about to fight. Thucydides's Trap is named after the idea that Athens and Sparta were destined to fight because they'd both grown too powerful, but it was actually coined in the modern age to describe a potential for war between the United States and China.
  • Genius Loci: While the exact degree of intelligence is up for debate, there is something in the school's design that lets it judge circumstances and change itself to suit the needs of the moment... however it might see them. As it turns out, however, it's not exactly as malevolent as it seems, as in the end it still seeks to fulfill the purpose it was originally built for: "to offer sanctuary and protection to all the wise-gifted children of the world". And it's willing to do that, even if it means it'll be destroyed itself.
  • The Gift:
    • As explained in The Last Graduate, as insanely talented as both El and Orion are, they aren't actually all that special in terms of being gifted. People with gifts like theirs tend to appear once in a generation, as a counterbalance to whatever major event that happened the generation before. The only thing noticeable about them is how extreme their gifts are, and how they appeared in the same year as each other.
    • The only other once-in-a-generation talent mentioned thus far is Li Shan Zheng, the current Dominus of the Shanghai enclave. He's a powerful artificer with an affinity for large-scale construction, who got offers from every major enclave in the world before deciding to reject them all in favor of restoring his family's ancestral enclave. He's also the only known wizard to have killed a maw-mouth until El did it her junior year, and again her senior year.
  • Good All Along: In The Last Graduate, El spends half the series thinking that the Scholomance is out to either kill her or drive her into embracing The Dark Side (which means she ends up killing a lot of people), only to realize that it's trying to force her to save everyone in the only way it can.
  • Good Is Not Nice: El is incredibly cranky and cynical, and so prone to self-sabotage she can't even pretend to be polite to enclave kids—but she also actively chooses, over and over, to be pure mana instead of using malia to make her life much easier. In book 2, she goes from caring only about herself to refusing to let any of her friends die, and then from there to refusing to let anyone in her year die. She eventually comes around to trying to fixing the Scholomance so kids don't die, period.
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • Orion's one-man quest to kill every mal he possibly can has two unintended consequences. First, the Scholomance operates with he expectancy of a sizeable student mortality rate and doesn't have the mana to provide adequate food for all the students with him saving so many, meaning some are starting to go hungry. Similarly, the mals aren't used to getting so few meals between graduations—either of students or of malsa that are themselves better-fed on students—and are growing increasingly desperate to get into the school by whatever means necessary.
    • In a more light hearted example, there's El's attempts at social engineering. Early in the first book she comes up with the idea of parlaying Orion's apparent infatuation with her into an advantageous graduation alliance. In the end nothing really comes of it since she makes an alliance with her pre-existing acquaintances, and about all she manages to accomplish is to convince the stuent body that the two of them are screwing like suicidal rabbits.
  • Grade Skipper:
    • Defied. While it's possible to graduate early, simply by being in the senior dorms when graduation starts, no one dares as senior year is when your powers really begin to bloom and you get your best classes, along with time to practice with the school's obstacle courses to help you survive your run through the Graduation Hall on Graduation Day. Not to mention, being fully-trained is also important to survive life outside the school, which is why kids are sent to the Scholomance in the first place. Even El realizes she's outclassed if not exactly outgunned when a couple of seniors confront he in the first book.
    • Played straight in The Last Graduate. As the plan to decrease the mal population in order to protect the world's wizarding children involves the school's destruction, that means everyone, not just the seniors, is required to graduate that year. The younger students are even allowed to go first, because in case things go wrong, they're the least likely to survive the incoming incursion of mals.
  • Granola Girl: El's mother, Gwen Higgins, is a magical version of this - an all-loving pacifist with incredibly powerful healing magic and crystals that can store mana incredibly efficiently. She could easily get a seat in one of the powerful covens that rule the world, but doing so would be wrong, you see? Instead she lives in a commune with muggles and freely gives her healing to anyone who visits.
  • Growing Up Sucks: In addition to the normal unpleasantness of adolescence, sorcerer children have to contend with monsters that think they would make a delightful snack. This trope gets exploited by the Scholomance as a way of generating power.
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: Orion and El. He gleefully charges in close to rend mals apart at melee range and drain their energy to fuel his might. She is at least as powerful and far more versatile, but goes for ranged and area-effect horrifying slaughter when given the choicem, and doesn't have his knack for draining mana from slain mals.
  • Had to Be Sharp: Anyone who survives the Scholomance will be an industrious hard worker with a multitude of practical skills, and able to cope with general privation inculuded but not limited to sleep deprivation, lack of food, and poor hygiene. And, not least, be a fully-trained wizard. As El notes, the reason the mals come after wizard children is that for the most part, a grown wizard is the apex predator of the magical world.
  • Held Back in School: Also defied. It's impossible to be held back in the Scholomance, due to the allocation of the school dorms. Once you're assigned a room at the school, it remains your room for the next four years. However, after your class is dumped into the graduation hall, your room is no long your room and is instead allocated back to freshman residence hall for the incoming freshmen. So even if you weren't in the senior residence hall for graduation, you no longer have an officially assigned room and can no longer be assigned classes because you've technically already graduated. Instead, you're stuck staying in the school trying to survive until either the next graduation day or until one of the mals get you — if the school doesn't actively try to get rid of you instead, since you don't belong in its halls anymore.
  • Heroes' Frontier Step: When someone tries to murder El, she refuses to use malia even though it's the only way she could save her own life. Not only does this win Orion's trust on the spot, it leads her to realize she's a better person than she credited herself for and inspires her to greater actions later.
  • Heroic BSoD: El completely breaks down sobbing from delayed stress and fear after killing a maw-mouth. It takes quite a while before she can even manage to speak, and for days after, thinking of the experience is enough to make her Stress Vomit; the trauma even lingers into the next year.
  • Heroic RRoD: After it's revealed that he's inadvertently been riling up the graduation horde, Orion is so wracked with guilt that he starts patrolling all night without sleep. It nearly gets him killed before El slaps him out of it.
  • Hero Killer: Maw-mouths. Even with the smallest ones, the best advice for dealing with them is "be somewhere else," followed not particularly closely by "die before it gets you."
  • Hero of Another Story: Plenty of students at the Boarding School of Horrors who barely interact with El have interesting backstories and struggles. Notable examples are Luisa being stuck there without preparation due to being a Mage Born of Muggles, Clarita using a Beneath Notice strategy while working to become valedictorian, and Maya Wulandiri putting all of her efforts into trying to gain admission of herself and her family to the Toronto enclave.
  • Hero-Worshipper: Most of the students are in awe of Orion due to his Chronic Hero Syndrome, especially Ibrahim, who pesters El for details about Orion's heroics and is stunned to hear Orion admit any weakness or failure.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Due to her childhood and Evil Sorceress magical tendencies, El has more than a few insecurities and self worth issues. It basically takes Aadhya spelling out their True Companion status for her to accept that she actually has friends who will look out for her without expecting something in return.
  • High-School Hustler: Every student at the Scholomance will keep an eye out for a good deal, but Aadhya excels at it. She often brokers deals between others, and is the one El calls upon to arrange an auction for the MacGuffin she's just acquired.
  • Hippie Name: Galadriel "El" Higgins was named by her mother, a White Mage Granola Girl who lives in a rural Welsh Commune. El wryly observes that her own affinity for destructive magic makes the "love me and despair" connotations more apropos.
  • History Repeats: A few months before El was born, her father gave his life to save her pregnant mother from a maw-mouth and get her out of the Scholomance. In The Last Graduate, Orion, the boy El loves, does the same thing with her; pushing her out the gates of the Scholomance so he can face down Patience by himself.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Prasong, after the flaying hex circle he was going to use on Sudarat and her freshman classmates in the library seminar is turned against him by El. He promptly loses all his skin, and dies in agony from the massive blood loss and shock.
  • Hufflepuff House: There are dozens of enclaves of magic users with representatives in the Scholomance, but only the New York enclave (where Orion and Chloe come from) gets much description or prominence.
    • The London enclave (the one closest to El's home) is frequently mentioned, and some of its members have names and dialogue. It's later revealed that El owes her attendance at the Scholomance to them, due to an extra seat they decided to offer to her thanks to her mom's own ties to them. They also took over maintenance of the Scholomance after the Manchester enclave's fall from grace, but had to give it up to the New York enclave after World War II.
    • El helps the Dubai enclave kids fix a broken chair in one scene.
    • The Toronto enclave lets new recruits bring their entire families, but has ridiculously high standards.
    • The Shanghai enclave is talking about making their own Scholomance, and El reads a historical account of their fight with a maw-mouth. They get even more prominence in the second book when the outside power struggle between them and the New York enclave spills into the school's dynamics, and introduce two major supporting characters who each end up as potential love interests for Liu.
    • The Manchester enclave built the Scholomance, but fell into obscurity after losing their best and brightest people while futilely trying to keep it safe.
    • Some seniors from the Seattle enclave get into a fight with the main characters.
    • The Berlin enclave kids promise guaranteed admission to anyone who helps out with the climax and persuade the other enclaves to agree.
    • The Bangkok enclave is given prominence in the second book, but only after it's been mysteriously destroyed, much to the shock of everyone, and making current students within the school from that enclave some of its only survivors. Now that it's gone, the enclavers are now like the rest of the 'loser' kids and are bargaining everything they have left for alliances with the other enclavers to get out. The implications of its destruction also drive most of the plot, as it increases the ongoing tension between the New York and Shanghai enclaves.
    • The Zanzibar and Johannesburg enclave kids get along with El's friend Nkoyo.
    • The Salta enclave hires Clarita's mother to do maintenance work. The Salta students impress El by not protesting their unfavorable placement during the school wide evacuation in The Last Graduate, and she saves one of them from being eaten by a maw-mouth during the climax.
    • Santa Barbara and the other California enclaves are a bit resentful toward New York, and one of their seniors has a short-lived Commander Contrarian moment in book two.
    • Aadhya's aunt married a Kolkata enclaver, giving her some minor family ties to them.
    • Mumbai once offered El's paternal family admission to their enclave but they refused because Mumbai isn't strict-mana. In The Last Graduate, El mentions that she does her best to avoid being noticed by the Mumbai enclavers because they know something is dangerous about her if the pacifistic Sharmas wouldn't take her in.
    • The Kyoto enclave was strong when the Scholomance was built and has gotten stronger since then, but was relegated to building the gymnasium by the Manchester enclave. They made the gym into an indoor garden, but it has since fallen into disrepair.
    • Everyone else is lucky to warrant a single passing mention that reveals what city they're in but gives no other details.
  • Hunter of Monsters: Orion's affinity and temperament make him ideally suited as one. He is even able to pull mana from his recent kills.
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: Attempted on a strategic level early in The Last Graduate, when El concluded it was vanishingly unlikely she could recharge her Power Crystal stashnote  to the point of pulling her weight when she and her allies Aadhya and Yi Liu made their desperate dash for the exit at the end of the term, she confesses the situation to them and tried to talk them into 'ditching' her in time to throw in their lot with groups likely to survive Graduation Day.
    (Aadhya had) already taken half a dozen chances on me that anyone else would have called a bad bet. I did't want her to drop me, but — I couldn't be the reason she didn't make it out.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...:
    • After El, well, makes it clear to him she could drain him of his magic and life like a proverbial juice box at will, Orion freaks out. El then notes that they had gone to a store-room alone together less than an hour ago, and had she been a secret maleficer, she could have killed him there and passed it off as a mal attack. This has the opposite effect of convincing Orion that she isn't a secret maleficer.
    • She pulls the tactic again in the second book to convince the Shanghai enclavers she's not out to kill any of them, by building up the power for her supervolcano spell. This time, the message sticks and the Shanghai enclavers stop antagonizing her.
  • I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: El's attempt to use Orion's apparent infatuation with her involves the line, "He can't really like me, though."
    • A completely serious (albeit nonromantic) example: graduation alliances. El spends a lot of time scheming to make herself look good to Aadhya, and spends several pages explaining to the audience why Aadhya is a much better potential graduation ally than she herself is, and that she's going to have to work really hard to get Aadhya to take her—at the end of which Aadhya asks El to form an alliance.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Gwen Higgins, El's mother, is famous for her healing and protective spells, her generosity, and her near total refusal to commodify her talents and abilities. She doesn't even think less of the wizard who comes by once a year and makes a profit distributing the spells she's come up with since the last time he visited.
    The one thing [my mother] will never go for is the lesser evil.
  • Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality: Poor El got bitten by this trope hard. She's excellent at casting massive devastating spells; having a huge, and unwanted, repertoire of them that she has to consciously ignore or miscast them to not kill anyone. Her only venture into spell creation gave her the world-wrecking supervolcano spell instead of the cleaning spell she was actually going for.
    • Confirmed in the second book where Zixuan intuits the issue and confirms it via Liu. This gets El and her allies to review her school struggles in a entirely new light.

    J to N 
  • Jerkass Realization: Chloe's last scene in the first book has her apologizing to El for treating her so coldly earlier on and for taking the protection of her enclave for granted.
    Chloe: That day Orion introduced us, I acted like all I needed to have you be my friend was let you know that I was willing to let you talk to me. Like I'm so special. But I'm not. I'm just lucky.
  • Kill It with Fire:
    • The Scholomance handles its recurring mal infestation with a biannual scouring of "mortal flame", a Magic Fire that consumes anything containing mana, whether it's human or mal. The scouring is automated, so any student not in their dorm room when it begins is out of luck.
    • Strangely enough, Incarnate Flames are killed by overloading them with more fire, not by extinguishing them.
  • The Lancer: Orion is El's, although the students would probably say it's the other way around.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In the second book, Prasong, a Bangkok enclaver who found himself shit out of luck when his enclave was destroyed, decides to go maleficer to keep his current lifestyle and tries to drain malia from a group of unsuspecting freshman kids (including one of his fellow former Bangkok enclavers) taking this weird, isolated library seminar using an incompetently-made flaying hex circle. Unfortunately for him, also taking that weird library seminar is El, who has a far stronger affinity for The Dark Arts and can do a better hex circle in her sleep. Needless to say, it does not end well for Prasong.
  • Living Battery: Orion can pull mana out of the mals he kills. Most of it goes into the reserve for the New York enclave, which everybody else is happy to draw from.
  • Living is More Than Surviving:
    • A consistent theme across the series. Everyone in the school is doing all they can to survive, but the biggest struggle is learning how to do that while still staying true to themselves and keeping what morals they have. This is most evident with El; she wants to survive (hence her initial interest in joining an enclave), but at the same time doesn't really understand what she wants. Discovering that is an important part of her Character Development in the first two books.
    • A poignant part of Aadhya's backstory. One of her grandparents practically locked up their entire family inside their home and refused to let anyone go outside so that way none of the mals could get them (or more specifically, their children). Aadhya's older sister (who was eight at the time), didn't understand this and grew frustrated with all the restrictions, which led to her escaping home to finally see the outside world. By the time any of the adults found out, it was already too late and a mal had already gotten to her. The entire experience forced Aadhya's parents to accept that keeping their children locked up away from the world to protect them wasn't something they could do forever and wouldn't be doing the kids any favors when they were gone, so they took Aadhya out of the home and tried to give her as much of a good life as possible before she had to attend the Scholomance.
  • Living with the Villain: The Last Graduate reveals that two mals have been living in Chloe's room for years, disguised as cushions. They've spent that time eating anyone else who's ever been alone in the room, while leaving the owner alive to avoid suspicion and draw in more victims (students coming early for study group sessions, etc.) The whole scene is pure Paranoia Fuel.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: As there are no holidays at the Scholomance, the only news of the outside world any of the kids get are from the freshmen that come in at Induction every year. That usually isn't an issue unless there's an especially big piece of news, like the downfall of a major enclave. As that's usually a prelude to an enclave war, many of the students' parents could be at war with each other right at this very moment and they wouldn't even know it, which is not conductive to the already fragile school solidarity.
  • Long-Dead Badass: Sir Alfred Cooper-Browning founded and built the Scholomance in 1886 and personally led an expedition attempting to repair the scouring device to make it safe for graduating classes four years later. They completed enough repairs to save the next three years worth of graduating classes before Sir Alfred was eaten by a maw-mouth. He isn't technically dead, but he might as well be, and would be a lot happier if he was.
  • Lovecraft Lite: Sure there are hoards of monsters roaming the halls, and even more on the outside picking off the occasional magic city-state, but if you keep your wits about you there's a decent chance you can find friends and lead a decent life. Assuming you survive childhood, anyway.
  • Love Triangle: Liu finds herself with two suitors during The Last Graduate.
  • Made of Magic: "Mals" are the diverse supernatural monsters that form out of magic and feed on wizards' mana (and on wizards themselves). They range from tiny but lethal pests to titanic Blob Monsters and are varied enough that wizards only bother to name a few of the common varieties. Though some reproduce through pseudo-natural means like laying eggs, others appear to manifest spontaneously.
  • Mage Born of Muggles: Wizard children can be born to mundanes but rarely survive to adulthood because Magic Is a Monster Magnet and elitist Magical Society is generally disinclined to help them. The one named case in the series is a Posthumous Character because she didn't know about the Scholomance or its life-threatening dangers until it teleported her into a dorm.
  • Magical Gesture: Gestures aren't shown to be a common element of spells, but one of the nastiest spells in El's arsenal requires a fiddly hand gesture and kills the user if it's performed incorrectly.
  • Magical Incantation: Each spell has a spoken incantation, which can range from three words to an ongoing semi-improvisational group dialogue. There's no Language of Magic, so spells can be cast in any language, with some preference for dead ones.
  • Magical Library: The Scholomance's library is even more of an Eldritch Location than the rest of the place, rearranging itself according to dream logic and its own desires for what the students will find within. Then there are the shelves upon shelves of Spell Books, each of which has its own power and autonomy.
  • Magical Sensory Effect: Some people manifest little effects when they cast spells. El's tend to cause light to shine through her skin and levitate her off the ground if she's given enough mana. This is frequently far more menacing than she prefers.
    • There's also talk about how Mana feels and tastes depending on its source.
  • Magical Society: The upper crust of wizards are "enclavers", who have the resources to create a private Pocket Dimension for their community and are by far the best-connected and best-equipped. There's also some coordination and communication across enclaves and with non-enclavers, but for the most part, communities appear to look out for themselves almost exclusively.
  • Magic Eater: Mals form out of magic and are drawn to wizards to feed on their mana. Unfortunately for the wizards, this generally means feeding on their flesh too.
  • Magic Fire: "Mortal flame" is a blue-hot fire that burns through matter and magic alike, making it especially deadly to mals and wizards. It can consume any protective spell except a firebreak of more mortal flame.
  • Magic Mirror: El has to make a magic mirror from scratch for an artificing assignment. It's tricky work, requiring help from two friends, and they're all quite annoyed when it comes out cursed to dispense prophecies of doom instead of helpful advice.
  • Magic Is a Monster Magnet: The entire reason why the Scholomance exists is to give its students a fighting chance of seeing adulthood without getting eaten by a passing mal. The survival rate for students without an enclave might only be around 1 in 4, but that beats the 1 in 20 odds of anyone not lucky enough to get in.
  • Magic Knight: Orion Lake fights with a magic sword and other accessories, a suite of efficient offensive spells, the power to tear mals apart with his bare hands, and a unique affinity that generates mana from his kills.
  • Maker of Monsters: It's noted that many of the mals that prey upon wizards today were bred by their ancestors for various purposes (e.g. Cheyenas, Quattrias, etc.). That's why most modern-day wizards take a dim view on breeding mals, because that rarely ever ends well.
  • Malevolent Architecture: Downplayed - most of the time it's more like Obnoxiously Inconvenient Architecture. Being built in a pocket dimension makes the school's layout somewhat suggestible, and one of the easiest ways for the structure to reinforce itself is to make sure the students focus on how miserable it is to get from place to place.
  • Mana: One of the two forms of magical energy that's needed to cast any spell, mana is generated through personal effort. This is a subjective measure — El suffered diminishing returns building mana with push-ups as she became fitter, but can make a fair amount by crocheting because she finds the work difficult and unpleasant. Wizards have a limited personal capacity for mana and can store extra in "sinks" like Power Crystals. Or they can use malia instead...
  • Mana Drain: The main trick of malificers is to take mana against their victim's will. Methods vary based on the malificer's talents, but the go to options are either tricking someone into voluntarily sharing mana and draining it all, or gruesome rituals with lots of pain and screaming. Part of what makes El so dangerous is that she doesn't need to go to such lengths and can just yank the power out directly, using about the same amount of effort as an average wizard would need to drain an ant colony.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Like her namesake from Tolkien's Legendarium, Galadriel has tremendous personal power and is challenged to avoid the lure of easy Black Magic that would corrupt and destroy her.
    • Gwen's name means "White" or "Holy", and she's a White Mage and probably the most morally pure character in the series.
  • Men of Sherwood: Minor characters from the larger student body are willing and able to help with the plans to keep mals from killing graduating seniors in the climaxes of the first and second books, doing a lot of work the heroes couldn't do alone and suffering few casualties in the first book and none in the second.
  • Meta Power: A wizard's "affinity" might let them use certain magic more easily and efficiently or even change how magic works for them. Orion's unique affinity lets him create mana by killing mals; El's affinity for dark magic gives her a massive power boost to destructive spells, a Supernatural Sensitivity for malia and maleficers, and other dubious perks.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Played with, but ultimately subverted. There are over a thousand kids that are inducted into the Scholomance each year, and by their senior year that crowd is usually winnowed down to a little bit over half the class surviving. Of those survivors, only half usually make it through Graduation Day, meaning only a fourth of the class survive overall. It's horrible, and everyone acknowledges it as horrible, but since they can't think up of a better alternative, they're forced to accept it as a fact of life. Everyone except the school, which has never forgotten its original purpose of protecting all wizarding children. To the point that when it sees El's potential, it deliberately focuses on her and encourages her Character Development so she'll accept the same and try to save everyone as well.
  • Miracle Food: Possible, but with some caveats. It's easy enough to make something taste good, but making it nutritious is prohibitively mana intensive, even for enclavers. The school gets around this by starting with a healthy but unappetizing gruel and transforming it into things people actually want to eat just before being served. By the time the sensory illusions end, it's past the point it matters.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: "Cheyenas" are cheetah-hyena hybrids with a dash of water buffalo and rhino mixed in, first engineered to be trophy animals for Great White Hunters in colonial Kenya. The local alchemist took offense and added a paralytic bite, which eliminated the hunters fairly quickly. Despite this, they're Non Malicious Monsters if raised properly and have some popularity as guard animals.
  • Muggles Do It Better: Zigzagged, scientific understanding protects them from mals and as just one example modern medical tehnology provides much better birth-control options. But wizards, assuming they survive puberty, still have magic powers and an extended lifespan so they have their own benefits.
  • My Greatest Failure: Luisa's death serves as one for Orion.
  • Mysterious Parent: Invoked. El is very set on keeping her relationship to her mother a secret from her classmates.
    Orion: Gwen Higgins is your mother?
    El: Yes, and I don't mind the massive incredulity at all, really, it's why I make a point of telling everyone.
  • Mystical White Hair: Orion Lake, Kid Hero of the Scholomance, has unique silver-white hair and a special magical affinity that makes him a hugely effective mal-slayer.
  • Never Heard That One Before: Inverted when Galadriel quotes her namesake's "love me and despair" line from The Lord of the Rings herself and is thrilled that Liu doesn't get the reference.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Orion's one-man quest to kill every mal in sight has been so successful that the mals in the Graduation Hall are starting to starve and have decided to try their luck at breaking into the school.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: A fairly transparent attempt to get Orion out of the way of the senior class's plans quickly transforms into a feasible plan to fix the mal scouring equipment in the Graduation Hall, potentially saving everyone for years to come.
  • No Periods, Period: Justified - there is an easy to brew potion to stop one as soon as it starts. It's perhaps one of the only forms of misery the Scholomance doesn't utilize for its own ends.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Agglor grubs are one of the most benign mals in the Scholomance. They ignore or will even retreat from the students, preferring to nibble on bits of enchanted metal and scavenging cast off debris to decorate their shells. El even says they can be useful at times thanks to this trait. They're also what's been breaking the scouring equipment in the Graduation Hall. The best efforts of thousands of wizards across two hundred years have been unable to solve the problem, with armor only lasting a few unpredictable years before being eaten through, exposing all the vital artifice. Trying to breed a mal that would only go after the grubs isn't even tried, as those schemes have a distressing tendency to produce really nasty mals.
  • Not the Intended Use: Given the nature of the spells the Scholomance throws at her to learn, El is obliged to do this a great deal. Need a high-pressure environment to properly cast a magic mirror for a project? Some Roman composed a way to efficiently crush a pit full of sacrificial victims to paste and it works like a champ if your Latin's good.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: At the beginning of the second book, it's revealed that the Bangkok enclave has been destroyed. This in itself would be bad enough, but what makes it worse is that no one knows what did it. Sudarat, one of the freshmen that El befriends, was the only survivor of her age group and she did so by complete happenstance, having been outside to walk her grandmother's dog when it happened. When she came back to return to the enclave, it was already gone, indicated by how she was unable to open any of the entrances. During Graduation Day that year, a massive naga hauls itself into the school from one of the Bangkok induction portals, and El suggests that it might be the one responsible, but obviously she can't confirm it either way.
  • Now or Never Kiss: Orion responds to an onrushing wall of Mortal Flame his powers are useless against by kissing El, who interrupts him with a knee and casts a firebreak.
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    O to S 
  • Obviously Evil: The more malia malicefers take and use the harder it is to conceal resultant tell tales, until everyone can sense it. That's why everyone thought El was a maleficer, because her strong affinity for The Dark Arts gave her the aura of one (and her lack of displayed power only meant that she was bad at it).
  • Odd Couple: Galadriel and Orion. She's an independent loner who lives in a yurt in the middle of nowhere and whose magic is trying to make her the most vile dark wizard in living memory. He's an enclave kid whose mother is next in line to lead the most prestigious enclave in the world and whose magic makes him an ideal dark wizard/monster slaying hero. Just about the only thing they have in common is wishing people would judge them for themselves and not their preconceived notions of what they are.
  • Out with a Bang: Sexual consent is one way to bypass a wizard's personal defenses and drain their life energy for Black Magic. El guesses that Jack killed Luisa this way, since he wasn't powerful enough to drain her by force. And given the way he tried to coerce El, what qualifies as "consent" isn't particularly strict.
  • Pent-Up Power Peril: Some people have a limit for how much mana they can hold at any one time and need to bleed it off otherwise they might pop. El doesn't have nearly the trouble that others have dealing with large amounts of Mana and Orion seems to outstrip her even in adolescence if his ability to hold the whole New York Mana supply is accurate.
  • Person of Mass Destruction:
    • Galadriel "Spells that only affect one person at a time are a bit beneath me" Higgins.
    • This is implied to be yet another reason Gwen was resistant to joining an enclave. At best any enclave she joined would see El as a strategic weapon to discourage attacks from other enclaves. At worst they would give her all the malia she could stomach and point her at their enemies.
  • Please Get Off Me: Orion causes this situation in the first book coming to the rescue of Aadhya, El and Chloe only to crash into them instead. Is the recipient Of this from Chloe in the second book when she flees a mimic mal that was hiding as one of her couch cushions.
  • Pocket Dimension: With powerful magic, locations like the Scholomance are "coaxed loose from the world and into the void", where they can only be accessed through discrete gates and their local reality is a bit malleable. This lets the elite of Magical Society live in extradimensional "enclaves" which are safer than elsewhere.
  • Popularity Cycle: Usually with the exception of enclavers, everyone's popularity varies depending on how capable they prove themselves to be and what connections they have. Ironically, the biggest example of this involve the Bangkok enclavers in the second book, whose popularity dropped exponentially after the recently-arrived freshmen revealed that the Bangkok enclave had been destroyed, making them no longer enclavers.
  • Popularity Food Chain: A very interesting case. Due to the nature of the Scholomance and the magical world in general, popularity is dependent on utility and merit first and foremost, before taking into account the usual factors. Usually, the biggest deciding factor is whether or not the person in question can get you through Graduation Day. In short, the chain goes like this:
    • Once-in-a-generation talents (e.g. Orion and El), with things like approachability and perceived willingness to help/harm other wizards making the difference between fawning adoration alloyed with efforts to curry favor and openly terrified deference punctuated with desperate assassination attempts. What makes El realize the fact that she doesn't actually want to join an enclave is that she could've shown off her power any time she wanted, with or without a mal present. Yet, despite telling herself for three years that she would do such a display, she never actually went through with it. Which is why it takes until her senior year, when the school is explicitly forcing her to show off how strong she is to everyone, for her to take her proper place at the top of the food chain.
    • Enclavers, aka students who are from an enclave. They're popular not just because of the advantages they have, but also because most of the students (should they survive) want to join an enclave after they finish their schooling, as that means their children will have those advantages too when they attend the Scholomance. How popular an enclaver is relative to other enclavers depends on how powerful the enclave they come from is. Among enclavers from the same enclave, it depends on skill and likability.
    • Indie kids, or 'loser' kids, aka kids from independent wizarding families that managed to luck into a seat at the school. They form their own sub-chain, and are cherrypicked from those higher up the chain to join alliances depending on their skill and likability.
      • Valedictorian stands at the top of this chain, because they've proven themselves to be the smartest, most skilled, and most ruthless student of their year. Becoming the valedictorian guarantees you a spot at whatever enclave of your choice.
      • Valedictorian candidates. The top ten or twenty students after the valedictorian. Might not get guaranteed spots at enclaves, but will still be heavily considered and courted by enclavers.
      • Kids from powerful independent families. They come from families within shouting distance of setting up enclaves themselves, and if they do not have the resource base/mana reserves of full-on Enclavers they have some level of connections by default. More to the point they are in positons where they need not latch onto the first Enclave willing to take them for the sake of long term survival.
      • Kids with great magical skills and social skills. They're both useful and likable and usually have a lot of connections, so if an enclaver can't get one of the valedictorian candidates, they go for these ones.
      • Kids with great magical skills or social skills. They're either useful or likable, so they can help you survive through their own skills or through their connections.
      • Maintenance track. They did all your maintenance shifts for all four years of your schooling, so you pay them back with a spot on your alliance.
      • Minion track. They lack the skillset for the Maintenance track so they make themselves useful to enclavers as gophers, servants, (in all honesty) human shields, and so forth in return for whatever consideration they have left.
      • Stragglers. Everyone else that doesn't fit into the above categories, who are usually left to sort themselves out once everyone else is locked down.
      • Maleficers. Usually avoided by everyone. While minor maleficers like Liu can usually bypass this and find a place higher up the chain, powerful maleficers like Jack are ostracized if not outright hunted down and killed should they be exposed, because they usually become a danger to everyone - at least one alliance of malificers was able to take out the entire graduating class in the past. It's revealed in the second book that the majority of the school thought El was an incompetent maleficer due to the ominous air around her, until she started hanging around Orion, who would've never tolerated a maleficer's company.
  • Power Crystal: When properly enchanted, small crystals are a highly efficient "power sink" for storing Mana for later use, optionally at a distance via Sympathetic Magic. El has a staggering fifty courtesy of her mother, who makes world-renowned mana crystals, but is stuck with the grueling task of filling them herself.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: The Scholomance is powered in part by the collective misery and gruesome deaths of its students.
  • Power Incontinence:
    • Orion is bad at keeping track of how much mana he's using. If left to his own devices, he'd draw down the reserve for the whole New York enclave, so he needs someone else's permission to activate his mana-sharing device. He's reluctant to admit this, with good reason, since it's basically the magical equivalent of wearing an adult diaper.
    • El has her own problems in this area. She is so magically focused on large-scale complicated spells it's hard for her to manage delicate small-scale effects. In addition her "knack" for draining malia is sufficiently over-clocked that if she ever cast anything she did not have enough readily accessible mana for she would automatically rip the lives out of everyone within a radius of several meters (or more if it were something major) to make up the difference. To say nothing of what would happen if she tried to "cheat" with intentional low-end (bugs, etc.) malia draining.
  • Pre-Climax Climax: El and Orion have their first time right before the climax of The Last Graduate.
  • Properly Paranoid: Every student is constantly on the lookout for mal attacks — from every room they enter, from the wardrobe, from their lunchtime pudding. Between mals, maleficers, and the school itself, paranoia is practically a requirement if you want to experience adulthood as a wizard. The only notable exception is Orion, and the only reason he can get away with it is because he's The Hero with an affinity geared toward mal slaying.
  • The Prophecy: We don't get the specifics, but apparently there is one about El that is so terrifying it causes an entire family of Actual Pacifists to think killing a five year old is acceptable. Later information suggests that El is supposed to destroy all the enclaves in the world, though how she's supposed to do that is not clarified, and in a rare moment of optimism she daydreams that it means she'll destroy the enclave system by travelling the world and helping people build modest, safe enclaves, vastly reducing the power of the big ones.
  • Psychic Nose Bleed: The main downside of pulling malia (besides the inherent ethical and moral problems) is that most people don't like being murdered for their mana and try to resist the process. This taints whatever power the malificer gets and damages them in a way that accumulates over time. A smart, careful malificer can eke out a career of it, but anyone less restrained tends to rot from the inside out within a few years.
  • Realpolitik: Discussed.
    • This is the entire reason why the enclaves opened up the school to children of independent wizarding families in the first place. By doing so and giving these children a quality education, they increased the potential number of recruits to help enrich their enclaves — and more importantly, provided Cannon Fodder for the mals that reside at the school to chomp at while keeping their own children safe. When El realizes this for herself, it puts her off the idea of ever joining an enclave, just like her mom.
    • As the Scholomance was built by western enclaves and has only ever been maintained by them, a disproportionate amount of seats are allocated towards wizards in the western world, to the point the nearly every indie kid in the UK, including kids who don't even know they're magic, gets a seat at the school. Compare that to the east, where the enclaves only have just enough to send their own children (and even that is a recent development) and a handful of seats for their own indie kids to compete viciously over. As there is a stark divide between the western and eastern wizards with minimal overlap, that means the eastern enclavers have less potential allies and recruits to choose from for graduation and thus lower survival rates than their western counterparts. This has become a major point of contention in the recent decades and drives much of the conflict of the second book.
  • Red Shirt: When El and Orion embark on a dangerous mission without most of the other named characters, and with a bunch of people we met in the same chapter, it's not hard to piece together that some of them aren't coming back.
  • Reduced to Dust: In the stairwell fight, El hits a giant mal with a disintegration spell so efficiently that her friends miss it and even the mal doesn't immediately notice its own collapse. Only later does one of El's friends clue in on what that means about her destructive potential.
  • Rescue Romance:
    • Actively defied by El when it comes to Orion, literally since the very first sentence of the series. Not that the rest of the school will believe her.
      I decided that Orion needed to die after the second time he saved my life.
    • Played straight by Orion at the end of the first book when El saves him from mortal flame. El is not amused.
  • Restoration of Sanity: When El overclocks her mother's meditative exercise for "making the choice to put yourself right" with a huge amount of mana, it cures Liu of the physical and mental corruption from her malia use. Downplayed in that it only works because Liu was using the bare minimumnote  and hadn't gone completely Drunk on the Dark Side.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Luisa is a Posthumous Character who, as a Mage Born of Muggles, didn't stand a chance in the Scholomance and eventually fell prey to a maleficer. Orion keenly feels what he considers his personal failure to protect her.
  • Sadistic Choice: The Scholomance is fond of these. In the second book, El is assigned to a study period packed full of freshmen and all of the surviving mals get shunted into that room. El then has to choose between gathering power for herself and leaving the freshmen to fend for themselves, or protecting the freshmen with the mana she's generating during the class, all while being taunted with how defenseless they'd be to her if she so desired.
  • Safety in Muggles: The best bet for anyone not lucky enough to get into the Scholomance is to find the largest concentration of muggles they can and stay there. The collective disbelief of normal humans might prevent magic from being used reliably, but it also negates the majority of a mal's powers.
  • Secret Test of Character:
    • This is one of the popular explanations for how homework is graded in a school that very explicitly doesn't have teachers to do the grading. Since the Scholomance sees everything that happens at all times, it's able to judge not only how much time and effort a student puts into their work, but can also tell how confident they are about it. The more work and the greater the confidence, the higher the grade. This system isn't as terrible as it might sound, because magic is largely fueled by belief and effort anyway.
    • As with all things in the Scholomance, this system subtly favors enclavers. Enclavers are told that they're better because they're from an enclave, so they genuinely expect to get better grades, so they do get slightly better grades on average despite being in line with indie kids in terms of magical ability and intelligence.
  • Seers: El's paternal family, who specialize in divinatory magic and are famous worldwide for it. Unlike other practitioners of this branch of magic, they're able to predict things that will actually make people happy. The most famous of these is El's several-great-grandmother Deepthi, who Dominuses of struggling enclaves spend millions just to have a five minute chat with. El's own great-grandmother, another seer of renown, was the one to give the dark prophecy about El that has haunted her all her life.
  • Senior Year Struggles:
    • Taken Up to Eleven. If you don't have strong magic skills and a solid group of friends by the end of senior year, you'll get torn apart by monsters on graduation day.
    • Oddly subverted during El's senior year... for everyone except El. The Scholomance seems to be out to get her directly and funnels all the mals towards her. Within the first two months or so there's only been twenty-three deaths, with only one being an upperclassman that El herself unknowingly killed by reversing his flaying hex circle and throwing the backlash back at him. El initially believes that it's either out to kill her so it can prey on the rest of the school unimpeded or trying to turn her maleficer. It's actually deliberately encouraging her Character Development so it can convince her to help it with its original purpose of protecting the world's wizarding children.
  • Shop Class: And if you don't finish by the deadline, the assignment comes to life and tries to kill you.
  • Single Girl Seeks Most Popular Guy: Inverted. El has no interest in dating Orion and assumes he feels the same way. It turns out he's been the one crushing on her, though the first book ends before El truly has her feelings sorted out.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Believe it or not, more towards the idealistic side. It's hard to notice amid the constant fatal attacks from nightmare beasts, but finding moments of true kindness and decency in the Scholomance isn't hard. Special mention goes to the final scene, where all the school's current students gather in the cafeteria to help the incoming freshmen adjust. And to the second book in its entirety.
  • Small, Secluded World: The Scholomance is built in the Void Between the Worlds and completely isolated, except for freshmen being teleported in and seniors trying to survive Graduation Day. All other communications are blocked because they could let monsters in — not that it has any shortage of those.
  • Sole Survivor: While Sudarat isn't the only survivor of the downfall of the Bangkok enclave, she's the only survivor of her age group.
  • Solo Mission Becomes Group Mission:
    • In A Deadly Education, the climax of the book involves turning a desparate Scuicide Mission to clear out the Graduation Hall that Orion Got Volunteered for into a school-wide effort to fix the hall's cleansing machinery.
    • Most of the plot of The Last Graduate revolves around the Scholomance gradually forcing the graduating class into working together rather than continuing the century old system of free for all alliances.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Gwen Higgins' lover Arjun Sharma saved her from a maw-mouth on their graduation day, going into it's gullet in her stead as he told her he loved her. Galadriel was born six months later, and favors her Mumbai-born father greatly.
  • Soul Eating: "Soul Eaters" are a breed of mal, though how their feeding differs from other mals' Magic Eating isn't explained apart from that it involves an impressive light show (from the soul eater) and a lot of screaming (from the wizard).
  • Spell Book: Books with spells recorded in them are a bit at odds with reality and tend to vanish and reappear, unaged, in another Magical Library. El has a hard enough time coaxing useful spellbooks out of the Void that when she finds an ancient and extraordinarily valuable book, she lavishes it with flattery and special treatment to entice it to stay.
  • Spell Crafting: A rare non-video game example. It's entirely possible to craft your own spells, and learning how to do so at the Scholomance is called the creative writing-track. Liu is on the creative-writing track, and one of her assignments includes translating a spell from Mandarin to English (essentially recreating the spell in another language), which would make it more accessible for trade. El tried that track early on in her education — and ended up creating her supervolcano spell. As once a spell is created it's out there for anyone to use (no matter how much you try to destroy any evidence of its existence), El understandably decided to switch permanently to the incantations-track, lest she fulfill her dark destiny by helping some other future dangerous maleficer with her own spells.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Chloe Rasmussen gradually proves to be this over the course of The Last Graduate. By the time the book ends, El and her end up reasonably good friends.
  • Spiders Are Scary: Sirenspiders are an arachnid variety of mal that likes to strike from ambush and enthrall its victims for leisurely consumption.
  • Starter Villain: Jack Westing, a student who turned maleficer and started taking human victims. He becomes a personal concern for both Orion and El, but Orion quickly puts him down when he makes a move against El.
  • Statuesque Stunner: El has inherited her late father's considerably above average height, and admits that she is growing to be quite beautiful "in a tall and alarming way." Even with her barely-adequate-even-for-there grooming standards a number of other students have tried to chat her up before a few moment's eye contact sets off a she's-gonna-eat-my-soul Gut Feeling and they bolt.
  • Stress Vomit:
    • El throws up violently when reminded of her fight with the maw-mouth.
    • The "induction" for freshmen at the academy is so intense that it causes many of them to vomit.
  • Supernatural Sensitivity: Galadriel's affinity for malia and destructive magic also lets her sense when someone is a maleficer, even in the very early stages.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Just because the students of the Scholomance are stuck in a Small, Secluded World does not mean the ongoing events of the outside world don't affect what happens inside the school, as seen in The Last Graduate, whose plot is partially driven by the ongoing tensions between the western and eastern enclaves.
    • While wizards are generally more 'enlightened' than mundanes, that doesn't mean classical forms of bigotry such as homophobia doesn't exist among them.

    T to Z 
  • Take a Third Option: For over a hundred years, every wizard on Earth has assumed that the options for their kids are the Scholomance (1 in 4 survival rate) or going it alone (1 in 20). El's class figures out a solution that, for the first time in a century, saves absolutely everyone - or at least should get the odds up to around 50/50 for the indy kids.
    • Except possibly Orion Lake.
  • Tarot Troubles: One of the many frustrations caused by El's Black Magic affinity is that when she tries to play a friendly tarot card game, she keeps drawing the Tower and Death cards, even after Liesel takes them out of the deck.
  • Teenage Wasteland: Averted. Despite being entirely made up of kids aged 14 - 18 with no adult supervision, things generally stay civil in the Scholomance. It helps that the school is dangerous enough on a normal day that no one is particularly eager to add fellow students to the list of things openly trying to kill them. There still might be students secretly trying to kill them, but they're more of an occupational hazard.
  • Tell Me About My Father!: Getting the answer to this marked the end of El's childhood for her, asking what had happened to her father and what the interesting scar on her mom’s ankle was. Little did she know that they're related, as Arjan sacrificed himself to get free Gwen from the Maw-Mouth that grabbed her leg.
  • There Are No Adults: The Scholomance is built in the Void, powered by magic, and autonomous enough not to need adults on-site. Students are teleported in at the beginning of their freshman year and left to their own devices until graduation... hopefully to survive the monsters that stalk its halls. The original plans for it weren't quite as isolated, but wizard students are so attractive to mals that mawmouths showed up, and no adults dared take that risk to come in.
  • Those Two Guys: Ibrahim and Yaakov, who are nearly always seen together. Ibrahim is an inveterate suck-up to enclave kids while Yaakov is quiet and restrained. Unusually for this trope, it's romantic.
  • Three Plus Two: El, Aadhya, and Liu form the main trio of indie kids, while Orion and Chloe are the outliers as New York enclavers. While Chloe later officially joins their alliance and essentially joins their friend group, Orion mainly sticks around because of El.
  • Too Many Mouths: Maw-mouths are covered with the stolen mouths of everyone they've absorbed. When El fights one, she has the awful feeling that they're still trying to speak.
  • Tsundere: El starts off the novel half-jokingly thinking of killing Orion and chews him out after he saves her by blowing up a monster all over her room, and only gets slightly softer on him from there. That ends up being the reason Orion becomes drawn to her because she's the first person he ever met that didn't worship and depend on him and treats him like a regular guy. When El finds this out, she keeps up the act of needling him, just to avoid him thinking she pities him, despite the fact that she actually cares for him and wants to help him move on from his life in the enclave.
  • Ultimate Final Exam: The only way to leave the Scholomance is to get past the legion of monsters that infest the Graduation Hall. Students work throughout their academic careers to develop the alliances and personal resources to survive the run, and a substantial fraction still die in the attempt.
  • Unknown Rival: Clarita to every other student going for Valedictorian. While vying for the top spot at the Scholomance typically involves a lot of bluster and posturing, Clarita quietly outpaced all her rivals without drawing attention. After the class rankings are announced, she posts all her marks on the wall outside her room, daring anybody to suggest she doesn't deserve it.
  • Unreliable Narrator: El routinely tells the audience things that turn out to be false—it starts in Chapter 1 of the first book, when she's sure that Orion was the one to chase the soul-eater into her room. More significantly, by the end of the second book, it's clear that the Scholomance didn't want to make her go maleficer, and pretty clearly didn't want the mawmouth to eat half the freshmen in the first book.
  • Unusual Pop Culture Name: Protagonist Galadriel (named by Hippie Parents) goes by El, and she even wryly compares herself to her namesake.
  • Upsetting the Balance:
    • Justified by the balance being the self-contained ecosystem of the Scholomance's Pocket Dimension. Orion has saved over 600 students' lives, meaning the Scholomance has to support more people with less mana, the mals' Food Chain of Evil is starving from the bottom up, and the most powerful mals are getting riled up.
    • As El explains, the Principle of Balance doesn't just account towards good and evil, but anything involving magic that requires a balance. For example, when influence over the magical world tipped too much towards the western enclaves, an extremely talented Chinese artificer was born. Despite being offered spots from all the major enclaves in the world, he instead restored the Shanghai enclave and was made its first Dominus. Forty years later, his enclave is one of the two most influential in the world, to the point that they've been splitting off into creating newer Asian enclaves they can influence to side with them as allies, and can even threaten to make a new school to rival the Scholomance if they don't get a better allocation of seats and classes that favor their children — which is why a Chinese-track had been added to the school in the eighties.
  • Utility Magic: Any spell ever written by a wizard can manifest in a Magical Library, which is how El gets stuck memorizing 99 Old English housecleaning charms for a reading assignment. Only the well-off in Magical Society can afford to burn Mana on work they could just as easily do by hand, but it's sometimes a matter of life and death, like when El has to repair a monster-repelling barrier. Sometimes played for Serious Business: people are willing to pay a mint to learn a low-energy spell to shift matter from one state to another.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Orion and El settle into this dynamic fairly quickly. It gets to the point that Orion's first reaction to El being overtly nice to him is to ask if she's mad at him.
  • Wham Line: The final line of the first book. What could possibly be so dangerous about Orion that Gwen Higgins thinks he poses a threat to El?
    My darling girl, I love you. Have courage. And stay far away from Orion Lake.
  • What Does She See in Him?: Orion and El provide an (initially) platonic version. The other students (especially the kids who grew up with Orion in New York) are stunned and baffled by how much time Orion starts spending around surly loner El, when he's spent his entire life ignoring everyone else except when acting on his Chronic Hero Syndrome. The real reason is that Orion finds all of the attention everyone else gives him unsettling and considers El's annoyance at his rescues as a sign that he can be more open with her, plus, he's a Blood Knight and until connecting with El literally the only thing he wanted to do is kill monsters. It takes a while for anyone else to figure this out.
    Chloe: I've known him since we were born, and the only reason he knows my name is that his mom drilled him with flash cards in the second grade ... We all knew he was special, we were all grateful. But it didn't register. He wasn't being a snob or anything, he's never mean or rude. I just —didn't matter to him. Nobody ever mattered to him before. Then he talks to you once, and all of a sudden he's making excuses for following you around ... We've only been arguing about whether or not you're a maleficer who's doing something to him.
    • Humorously, the dynamic is inverted within the circle that actually knows both of them fairly well, especially in the second book; El is the talented, beautiful, capable young sorcereress leading the charge to get them then later their entire class, and finally the entire school out of graduation safely, who's going to be their generation's dark horse star once her talents are found out, while Orion is, past his also obvious talent, an antisocial weirdo with a shaky grasp on hygiene, academic rigour, and self care.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The magic mirror El makes disturbs her sleep for one night, then seems to disappear entirely. It does get another mention in the second book, so it's still there.
  • What You Are in the Dark:
    • Despite the fact that she is dying from the Agonizing Stomach Wound Jack has given her, El still can't bring herself to use malia to save herself.
    • El's decision to go after a maw-mouth on its way to the first year dorms, rather than show off to the enclave kids during a mass mal incursion firmly cements her status as Bad Powers, Good People.
  • Wicked Stepfather: El's maternal step-grandfather, who is a practiced maleficer. El is fairly certain he murdered her actual maternal grandfather (the timing was too much of a coincidence) to prey upon her maternal grandmother, who was also a renowned healer like El's mother, to have her take care of him. He's still alive, and even tried to trap Gwen into doing the same for a while before El accidentally opened one of his letters and sent one of his mind-tugging spells back at him.
  • Willfully Weak: El is a strict mana user, because if she ever risked tapping malia, even on the fry-insects-or-rot-out-wood levels only absolute saints think twice about, she likely wouldn't be able to stop herself from killing everyone around her.
  • Will They or Won't They?: El and Orion. She hasn't decided what she wants by the end of Lesson One.
    • Complicating matters is the fact that all the students think they already have, and El's nature to be contrary to expectations makes her reflexively shoot the idea down whenever it's brought up.
  • Wizard Duel: Only one in the first book, since they spend most of their time fighting mals instead of each other. El and her friends go up against a group of seniors who are trying to thin out the graduation horde at everybody else's expense. Subverted in that the good guys win by finishing their repair job, not by deploying superior magic.
  • Wizarding School: The Scholomance is a much darker take on the trope than the average, but is in line (more or less) with the real life legends about the Scholomance. Given the in-universe timeline, the Scholomance the series is set in took its name from the legends, rather than being their originator.
  • Wizards Live Longer: If Galadriel's offhanded comment is anything to go by, wizards can easily live to 150 if they don't fall to using Black Magic and rot from the inside out. They show no sign of being physically different from mundane humans, but can heal themselves with magic. Eventually, cancer or dementia get to be too much.
  • Words Do Not Make The Magic: Averted, incantations don't need to be actually said if you have the intent and the power to make something happen. Spells can be recognized by their effects even if they aren't voiced, a spell can even work if you don't use the exact words despite if you have the power and intent already queued up.
  • Worldbuilding: A significant portion of the series is dedicated to fleshing out life in Magical Society. The first book centers on the average life a wizard, both independent and enclave, and explains why the Scholomance exists and why El is bothering to attend it. The second book dives into the political landscape of Magical Society and how those dynamics relate to the students of the school.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Clarita, the valedictorian, proposes that Orion save them from the insurmountable number of Mals who are amassing to overwhelm the next graduating class by fixing the scouring equipment. If he succeeds, great, if he fails, then he won't be around to stop the seniors from sacrificing some or all of the younger students to save themselves, and the bloody path he'll have carved through the mals down there in the attempt will significantly reduce their number. El quickly figures out what Clarita is doing, calls her out for it, and makes her come up with a different plan.

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