Review | The Last Graduate (Scholomance 2) by Naomi Novik

The trilogy continues with a terrific second installment. 4/5 stars.

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik The Scholomance 2 book cover

Thank you to Random House UK for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

Th dark school of magic has always done its best to devour its students, but now that El has reached her final year — and somehow won herself a handful of allies along the way — it’s suddenly developed a very particular craving . . .

For her.

As the savagery of the school ramps up, El is determined that she will not give in; not to the mals, not to fate, and especially not to the Scholomance. But as the spectre of graduation looms — the deadly final ritual that leaves few students alive — if she and her allies are to make it out, El will need to realise that sometimes winning the game means throwing out all the rules.

My take:

[Short summary for anyone short on time: if you read and enjoyed Book 1- particularly El’s first person narration – you’ll enjoy this. Get it now!]

I’ve been a fan of Naomi Novik’s books for a while. But with the first book in the Scholmance series, A Deadly Education, I was delighted to finally be able to give one of her books a 5-star rating when others have come very close.

And with the fantastic cliffhanger at the end of Book 1, I was really looking forward to Book 2, and I’m happy to say that The Last Graduate didn’t disappoint.

This is another brilliant installment in the series in which El – our snarky first person narrator – and the Scholomance itself are the dual stars of the show. And thankfully we get more background and character development for both.

My mind boggles at how complete a world Novik has created with the Scholomance. She’s really thought of everything. There’s not a plot hole in sight. Also, when it comes to creating disgusting and horrifyingly nasty creatures, her imagination is apparently boundless and I don’t know whether to find that worrying or amazing, so I think I’ll have to settle on a bit of both.

If I have a criticism: like all middle books in a trilogy, at times it felt we were being asked to tread water. And the complicated socio-political shennanigans of the outside world of wizarding sometimes seemed a bit heavy. However, I have an inkling all these details will turn out to be important in book 3.

Without spoiling anything, I was delighted the book ended where it did. I wasn’t quite so pleased with the GINORMOUS cliffhanger, but I was happy overall as I thought it was going to end just before the kids graduated, which would have annoyed me as the entire book had been building up to that. So while it’s painful to have to wait a year to find out what happens next, I think the author left the story in just the right place.

As I mentioned in my review of Book 1, this is a YA series. And in that context, I have to say what a tremendous achievement it is that Novik has managed to write a sex scene in this book which is emotional and clearly a sex scene without actually describing the characters having sex. Honestly, all writers need to study it as a brilliant piece of creative writing.

Overall: another great installment in a brilliant YA fantasy series. However, if you haven’t started the Scholomance yet and can’t stand cliffhangers, you might want to wait a year until Book 3 is out and then binge the whole series in one go!

Claire Huston / Art and Soul

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