The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

We’re into the season of dark, stormy nights now that are perfect for stories about witches, wizards and things that go bump in the night, and decided it’s a good time to share my review of the second part of The Scholomance trilogy as the final part is due out at the end of this month.

While the first part, A Deadly Education (reviewed here), covered just a couple of weeks at the end of term, The Last Graduate, covers El’s final year as she, her friends and allies, and her not-quite boyfriend Orion, prepare for the graduation battle they need to survive in order to return to the outside world.

As scathing and bad tempered as she is, El finds herself in demand as she’s sort-of-dating the school hero, Orion Lake, and is a monstrously powerful sorceress in her own right, but one of the main recurring themes of The Scholomance trilogy is who and what are the students (and by extension the Enclaves in the outside world) willing to sacrifice for safety but apparently her hippie-healer mum and heroic-to-a-fault, Orion, have rubbed off on misanthropic El who balks at sacrificing others to save herself again and again, even when it puts her in peril and at odds with the rest of the magical community.

The Scholomance itself is the antithesis of Hogwarts and other boarding schools in fiction as thousands of students are trapped inside with no way of communicating with the outside world, there are no teachers, no holidays (except Graduation and Induction day), the food is scarce and usually past it’s expiration date by years, oh, and the school itself and half the other students are trying to kill you. Yet, despite the loneliness, homesickness and constant risk of death, this is a story about love from familial and friendship to first romances and shared humanity at it’s core.

I really enjoyed the foreshadowing between the first and second parts of the trilogy and there are some interesting hints about what might be happening outside the Scholomance, a strong sense that El and Orion are destined to be star-crossed lovers, and about how the prophecy that El will be responsible for the destruction of every enclave if she survives to adulthood might come to pass. The Last Graduate is a bit less amusing than A Deadly Education, the atmosphere is tense as it builds to a heartpounding cliffhanger that makes the third and final part my most eagerly anticipated book of the year.

Have a lovely week. X

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