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SYFY WIRE fantasy

‘A Deadly Education’ novel to become fantasy film helmed by ‘Ms. Marvel’ alum Meera Menon

Universal dabbles in the dark arts, conjuring a movie from novelist Naomi Novik’s ‘Scholomance’ trilogy bestseller.

By Benjamin Bullard
A Deadly Education; Meera Menon

A school with no teachers teaching black magic to vulnerable students, all of whom face 50/50 odds of either graduating or dying…it doesn’t exactly sound like a place with Hogwarts’ (comparatively) solid safety record, does it? In the strange, mana-steeped world of A Deadly Education and its high-stakes magic academy the Scholomance, well…things are just a little bit more intense.

That darker, more mature brand of magical academics reportedly will form the backdrop for an upcoming fantasy film based on A Deadly Education, the first in The Scholomance trilogy of books from bestselling author Naomi Novik. Deadline reports that Universal Pictures has snagged the rights to the movie treatment, setting Ms. Marvel alum Meera Menon as director.

The quick book-to-screen pickup taps the novel’s still-smoldering success: A Deadly Education first debuted in late 2020 and by the following month had surged to a spot on The New York Times’ bestseller list. It has since been followed by the pair of novels that complete the trilogy: last year’s The Last Graduate and the recently-published The Golden Enclaves.

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At the center of the story is young protagonist Galadriel “El” Higgins, a magically-gifted junior at the Scholomance with a ton of heavy family baggage who enters the oddly isolating institution with a whopper of a doomed prophesy hanging over her head: Thanks to a famously perspicacious seer (who just so happens to be El’s great-great-grandmother), she’s supposedly on a destined path toward becoming a seriously powerful sorceress — and, more disturbingly, an evil one.

Though there’s room for El to socialize with fellow students at the weirdly impersonal school, she’s doesn’t make much headway with her peers — and to round things out, there are no teachers. Instead, the Scholomance itself manifests its own magical curriculum, all while malevolent magic-hungry monsters called maleficaria (or simply “mals”) hover near the mana-rich environment, keeping constant vigil for their next student snack.

El “may be without allies,” as the book’s synopsis teases, “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.”

Now a major creative name thanks to recent directing turns for Ms. Marvel at Disney+, Menon made her first feature film debut in 2013 with the critically-acclaimed small-budget road trip comedy Farah Goes Bang. She’s since raised her profile considerably, directing Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) and James Purefoy (Altered Carbon, Pennyworth) in 2016’s Equity, while directing episodes of major small-screen genre series including The Walking Dead, Westworld, and For All Mankind.

Writers Emily Carmichael (Jurassic World Dominion) and feature film newcomer Shantha Susman reportedly will adapt the screenplay, with Todd Lieberman (Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, Wonder) and David Hoberman (The Fighter, Wonder) producing. So far, there’s no early word on casting or a release date for A Deadly Education’s upcoming magical matriculation in theaters.

Looking for some fantasy content? Click here for our list of the best fantasy films available on Peacock.