T10T: Favorite School Settings

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is Back to School/Learning Freebie.

In honor of school starting back up soon, come up with your own topic that fits the theme of school or learning! Books that take place at school/boarding school/during study abroad, books you read in school, […] etc.)

I choose “favorite school settings” because school settings have been my favorites since… forever, basically, but the first series in which I noticed this was (of course) Harry Potter. And that’s also why I won’t put Harry Potter on this list, we all love Hogwarts so much that I don’t feel like I need to repeat it.

In no particular order:

The Little Palace


The Little Palace from Leigh Bardugo’s The Grisha Trilogy is at the same time the Darkling’s palace and Ravka’s Grisha school. Half of the first book and most of the second book are set here, and I loved everything about it, from the magic lessons to the library and the hints of intrigue. Atmospheric school settings are my favorites.

Gabadamosi Preparatory


The Gabadamosi Preparatory from Nicky Drayden’s Temper is the premier boarding school in this alt-history fantasy Cape Town. It’s the school where privileged people from the city study to go to university, and also the school the main characters – who are not rich – infiltrate to investigate demonic possessions. This is one of the weirdest fictional schools I’ve ever seen, but the rest of the book was weirder, so I didn’t even notice it that much. The library with the flying, acrobatic librarians was definitely memorable, though.

Shuos Academy


This academy from Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee is the place were the people who will be part of High Faction Shuos are trained – spies and assassins, but also some analysts and bureaucrats. It’s the kingdom of backstabbing, and you’re praised for the pranks as long as you’re not the one that ended up in danger (…or died). It’s a horrible place we get to know only through flashbacks, but I loved every time it came up because it’s a mess.

Sweet Mercy Convent


Mark Lawrence’s Red Sister is mostly set in the Sweet Mercy Convent, a place where girls train to become assassin nuns. This book has one of the coolest magic systems ever and great action scenes, which made every lesson interesting. I also loved most of the teachers. Sister Apple and her girlfriend Kettle, and Abbess Glass (a wonderful political intrigue chessmaster) are some of my favorite characters in the series.

Sinegard Academy


[I actually didn’t like this book, but that’s another story]
My favorite part of The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang was the beginning, set in Sinegard Academy, an elite military school Rin – a peasant from the Rooster province, a nobody – managed to get in through hard work and sleepless nights. It’s a very competitive place, there are rivalries, the teachers are… odd, and that always makes school settings more entertaining.

American Ballet Conservatory


Another very competitive school, this time not completely fictional, the American Ballet Conservatory from Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton’s Tiny Pretty Things is the background for an incredible amount of drama, backstabbing – and, surprisingly, great character development. This series starts out very trashy and it ends up not being so, not as much. I loved its representation of chronic illness and anorexia, and it also features a racially diverse cast – one main character is black, another is biracial Korean/white. (I have to mention, though, that the bisexual representation wasn’t that great).

Black College


Yoon Ha Lee’s short story The Shadow Postulates from the collection Conservation of Shadows made me fall in love with the setting in just a few pages. It’s set in Black College, where the main character is studying shadow math and shadows can become dangerous if you don’t respect curfew. There are mysterious historical documents about math, there are… shadow postulates, as the title says, and worldbuilding that blurs the line between magic and science is my favorite kind of worldbuilding. As a place, Black College is atmospheric and also kind of terrifying? I loved it a lot, for a story so short. The fact that its main character, Kaela Navus, is a lesbian who is learning sword dancing made me love this story even more.

Colton Academy


While I loved the beginning of Victoria Schwab’s This Savage Song, which is set in the Catholic boarding school of St. Agnes, it wasn’t because of the school but because Kate was burning down one of its chapels. However, I loved the scenes set in Colton Academy, in which Kate and August meet and also almost get murdered. Fictional schools are great.

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children


Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children from Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire is for sure one of the most imaginative school settings I know. It’s a place where children who got lost in portal fantasy worlds and had/were forced to go back to the real world try to readjust to life on ordinary, boring Earth.
Except there’s murder.
I loved reading about this place and the way the many portal fantasy worlds the children visited were categorized was really interesting.

Bates Academy


Bates Academy from Dana Mele’s People Like Us isn’t actually that memorable as a school. It wouldn’t be, if not for the fact that the people who study there are rich backstabbing mean girls. It starts as a normal school (in which a girl was just murdered, so maybe not that normal, but it gets worse) and then it becomes more and more creepy as the story progresses and you realize that everyone has secrets.
Also, almost everyone was queer!

Do you like school settings? What are your favorite fictional schools?

13 thoughts on “T10T: Favorite School Settings

  1. I like your take on this topic. I wouldn’t have thought of The Little Palace even though I loved that setting as well. Usually when I think of school settings my mind automatically goes to realistic contemps.

    I’m sad to hear the bi rep in Tiny Pretty Things wasn’t that good. I’ve been wanting to read that one for a while. Hopefully other parts of it will be good enough for me to still enjoy it.

    Great list!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I thought about the Little Palace immediately because I chose “favorite fantasy schools” as a theme at first, but I didn’t know enough of them.

      I loved Tiny Pretty Things – it’s one of my favorite contemporaries and I recommend it to anyone who wants to read about competitive teenagers – but I prefer to warn people as one bisexual character cheats and another bisexual character is a bully.


  2. I loved this post! I’ve only read Shadow and Bone out of these and I can’t wait to reread before Nikolai’s duology comes out (I………….didn’t even remember about the school setting lmao)

    As for my favorites, I know mentioning Hogwarts is obvious but I can’t help it, I grew up with it and I think I only love school settings because of it. Other school settings I like are the Carry On one (though it’s more of an excuse than a big part of the plot), the Nevernight one (school for assassins………yes) and I’m currently reading The School for Good and Evil and while I’m not sure what I think about it yet I do love the school (but in a very love-hate way). I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot but these are the ones I can think of right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I plan to reread both The Grisha and Six of Crows before King of Scars comes out (so, probably in December/January) because I need all the details.
      The school aspect (…and the gay) are the main reasons I want to get to Nevernight.
      And I have read The School of Good and Evil, but it was so long ago – maybe even before I started reviewing, I don’t know, I don’t own it anymore – that I remember nothing about it, but I think I did like some aspects of the setting (mainly the way in which it used/subverted fairytale tropes).

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s difficult to find a fictional school in which the main character didn’t almost get murdered, but that wouldn’t be an interesting place to read about.
      If you do not mind mystery books being a bit on the “trashy and dramatic but really entertaining” side, I really recommend People Like Us! It’s set in an all-girl boarding school in which the major girl characters are explicitly queer and many of the minor characters are implied to be.

      Liked by 1 person

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