Killing November by Adriana Mather is like Deadly Class if the main character was a part of one of the main families and just didn’t know. The setting is a boarding school unknown to the world that trains children of highly influential political families dating back a millennium. Being a descendent of these elite families doesn’t guarantee entry. Only the most elite of strategist are permitted entrance at fifteen years-old. These highly competitive students are out to form allegiances that are fiercely loyal, help their family climb in status and undermine students of rival families, if not outright kill them.
Academy Absconditi is cut off from the rest of the world, with no internet, electricity, phone (cell or landline). Neither the students nor their families know its location and visits are strictly prohibited unless approved by the headmaster.
Thank you to NetGalley and KnopfByr/Penguin Random House for the ARC in return for a fair review.
The curriculum doesn’t consist of reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead it is more along the lines of poison, deception and knife skills. Discipline is simple. An eye for an eye. You punch someone? They punch you back. You kill someone? The headmaster and her guards take you out. Simple. No mess. No fuss. Should you not “not make the cut?” It really could be the end of your world. This isn’t a teenager being dramatic at the end of the semester, but real life or death.
After a break-in at her Aunt Jo’s house, the main character and heroine November is dropped into this boarding school for assassins, spies and master impersonators, pleading with her to trust him and that is for her own safety. After arrival she is informed that it is unheard of for a seventeen-year-old to be taken in mid-semester and given a specific set of rules that she quickly realizes everyone breaks. The first being that no one is to talk about their personal life. Not their family, not where they are from, who they are in any way. It will put them and others in danger.
November has no idea why this is, where she is or what she is doing at this school. All she knows is her dad says to trust her and so the mystery begins.
You can’t quite call November an unreliable narrator because she doesn’t know who she is, and we know that from the start and are on the journey with her to discover the truth. This is unlike an unreliable narrator where you are led to believe is telling narrating from a point of omniscience through 90% of the book until either the narrator has broken the third wall and has been lying to the readers the entire time (think Gone Girl) through their narration or the narrator, themselves has been led to believe mistruths about themselves throughout the story (think Girl on a Train).
The pace of the book is quick and exciting. The writing quickly brings you into November’s journey. You can feel her frustration. It is difficult to authentically not have any clue what is going on while everyone around you thinks you are either a complete fool or trying to play them in order to get information. Yet you have no idea what anyone is talking about. Meanwhile, everyone seems to know more about you then you do.
The surrounding cast of characters have their own agendas, some more hidden than others. Due to family status, reputation, alliances or what they already know about November, they make their disdain clearer than others. At times their emotions get the better of them and clues will slip. This will frustrate November further as she realizes that not only do students and faculty know more about her than she does and aren’t willing to tell her any information. Some wish her ill will. Yet her father sent her here to keep her safe. Nothing makes sense and she has no idea how to navigate any of it.
Other than a few predictable moments and one major plot hole that would spoil a major part of the book if I gave it away, this is a very enjoyable read. Most of the book keeps you guessing. The big reveals at the end of the book are quite stunning. I couldn’t have guessed them at all. There were a couple of pieces to the puzzle I that I gave me pause. However, the big shocks I didn’t see coming at all and was a real gut punch.
If the one major plot hole had been addressed earlier in the book, I would have given this book a higher rating than four stars. It was nonsensical and frustrating as a reader that November wouldn’t have acted right away on this point. Once she does, she receives much of the information she is searching for and to the author’s credit even within that there was a lot of twists that I didn’t see coming. I just wish it would have happened sooner.
Overall it is a fun, read that is full of intrigue, murder mysteries, family secrets and suspense that is highly enjoyable. Ending on a cliffhanger that leads you to believe there is a book two coming, I look forward to seeing where November’s story goes next.
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