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Book Review: The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

Title: The Last Graduate

Author: Naomi Novik

Series: Scholomance #2

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: 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 . . . -Goodreads

The Review:

The Last Graduate was a completely satisfying sequel.

Hearing that the series had been expanded to three books, I got a little cranky and put off reading this second book for almost a year. I was certain it was going to be nothing but filler content and didn’t want a disappointing read after having absolutely loved Deadly Education (book 1). Well, I need to take off my fortune-telling hat and stop being so cynical, because I loved this installment.

It wrapped up the plot I think was originally planned for the duology, but had enough substance and other points of interest to warrant a third book. It doesn’t feel like a cash grab, and in fact had I come to the end of the series at this point with no third book on the horizon, I would’ve been pissed. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

The first book had a lot of great classroom learning scenes and let me explore the school to a pretty satisfying degree. This second book focused more on the bigger picture, spliced up here and there with some great training sequences. The main character, which I hear tell is the most off-putting thing about the series to some readers, remains one of my personal draws to the story. She’s anything but typical, and continues to cause most of her problems with her attitudes and perspectives. I find it completely delightful to read about someone so flawed, especially since she’s still had a pretty good growth arc thus far.

Despite the fact that the book focuses on teens in a school setting, this book does not read YA to me in the slightest. It would be remiss to tell a story with young characters without addressing hormonal complications, but all of that is secondary to the main plot of the story. It also highlights cliques and other typical school-aged drama, but from the standpoint of how one’s social life affects their ability to survive this deadly school rather than from an emotional one. It makes me so happy to find a magic school series with a young female character that doesn’t ring of YA baggage. They’re hard to find.

Overall, this was a great continuation, and I can’t wait to see how the whole thing ends in Golden Enclave this fall.

Recommendations: if you love school settings, appreciate atypical characters, aren’t afraid of an unconventional narrative, and are in the mood for something off the beaten path, this is an excellent pick.

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by Niki Hawkes

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