The Last Graduate

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik is the well-awaited sequel in the Scholomance. El is in her final year at the Scholomance, and she may shake things up enough to make it out alive.

All quotes are from an advanced reader copy, and may or may not reflect the published edition.

From Goodreads:

A budding dark sorceress determined not to use her formidable powers uncovers yet more secrets about the workings of her world in the stunning sequel to A Deadly Education, the start of Naomi Novik’s groundbreaking crossover series.

At the Scholomance, El, Orion, and the other students are faced with their final year—and the looming specter of graduation, a deadly ritual that leaves few students alive in its wake. El is determined that her chosen group will survive, but it is a prospect that is looking harder by the day as the savagery of the school ramps up. Until El realizes that sometimes winning the game means throwing out all the rules . . .

“You don’t want mysterious unexplained advice from someone you know has your best interests at heart and whose judgement is unerringly right and just and true.”

The Scholomance and its students has returned. As has the stream of consciousness narration that did the first book many, humorous favors. Unfortunately, it did not do the same in the sequel. As El becomes more likable or attempts to be, her narration becomes more unlikeable. It dampened some of the more extreme events in the book and made it hard to understand fully what was going on. In a book that is, conceptually, a bit confusing on its own – this wasn’t a great experience.

“But if I took my first wrong step onto it, who knew how far I’d go? No one could stop me flying down it at top speed once I got started.”

I wanted so badly to enjoy this story, but the narration made it very difficult. However, the character growth stayed true to who they all were originally. I appreciated the development between El and Orion, but the development of friendship for El really sold this for me. I liked seeing her learn to navigate having people t care about, and how it raised the stakes. The ending of this was truly the best part of the book and has me invested enough to want to read the next one.

“Poor him: the greatest hero in generations and no evil monsters for him to fight.”

As a series continuation, I enjoyed this and it answered many questions I had. It also left things open-ended enough that I am curious about what happens next. From an enjoyment reading-only perspective though, I really struggled with this. The narration hurt it deeply, unlike in the first book, and made it difficult to follow. I would have liked it to be a little more punchy than it was, and this caused exciting things to feel less than important.

“They were saving me, and I was going to save them. It felt more like magic than magic. As though it could make everything all right. As if the whole world had become a different place.”

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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