... a rollercoaster ride of monster attacks, betrayals, unexpected friendships, surprise revelations, and madcap schemes. El is a delightful combination of irascibility and self-sacrifice, insolence and bravery, someone who says all the wrong things and irritates everyone around her but is ultimately willing to die to save them all. She’s her own worst enemy, sabotaging all her friendships, but to the reader, who sees her true nature and can relate to her flaws, she’s intensely likable. A series about a wizarding school can hardly escape mention of Harry Potter, but Novik’s Scholomance series holds up to the comparison. The world is as creative, the characters as likable, the plot as compulsively readable. The Scholomance series may be darker, and at a fraction of the size, it covers less territory, but fans of Rowling’s books will find much to like here. The plot barrels along at an intense pace, straight into graduation and a shocking cliffhanger of an ending. The last line of the novel will leave readers gasping, desperate for the third book of the trilogy to find out what happens next.
... it’s a socialist wizards narrative built entirely on the magic of show, don’t tell—a pretty sharp contrast to the Potter books’ largely aimless optimism ... All this and it features a solid will-they/won’t-they plotline and the same sharp world-building and narrative voice that made A Deadly Education such a delight. Admittedly, the focus on El coming into her power robs some of The Last Graduate of the desperation that made its predecessor so hooky; by rendering the main character’s situation less horrific through personal growth, Novik saps the sequel of some of its, well, horror. But for fans who devoured the first book...her ability to combine pointed commentary with one of the more engaging first-person narrators in recent memory ensures the sophomore Scholomance book will be as refreshing, if slightly less harrowing, as the first.
The Last Graduate is really not the book to start with, should an unsuspecting reader pick it up by accident. For this book to make sense, you need to know how brutal the school is, especially when you are a young wizard with no alliances and a lot working against you, like our protagonist El ... While there are moments where Novik bogs down a bit in the nuts-and-bolts of how the Scholomance works and details about the many mals who can kill, the story is one that rips along like a force of nature. In the abstract, this is a story about relying on others—but in the concrete, it is about how to survive when the odds are against you. As she did with the first book, Novik changes the game again with the very last line.
Sardonic students, gruesome monsters, growing friendships, and a touch of romance create a highly readable story. Some questions remain to be answered in the trilogy's last volume. The end of this installment ensures that book three can't come fast enough.
... what could be a compelling adventure story falls apart...as the novel relies on relentless bouts of infodumping to keep readers up to speed on where the Scholomance's monsters come from and what they can do to unsuspecting students. None of these paragraphs-long blasts of information recount the details of El's last excursion, however, and so readers who have forgotten Novik's previous novel, or who have never read it at all, will find no springboard ready to help them dive into the author's newest offering. Those who stumble upon this volume risk being unmoored, as the narrative picks up immediately following the events of its predecessor, without stopping to introduce anything, including the narrator ... A sequel that repeats the mistakes of its predecessor while failing to break new ground.
... engrossing ... The propulsive plot and high stakes make for gripping reading, but readers hooked on the enemies-to-lovers dynamic established in book one will be frustrated that Orion has so little to do here and so few scenes with El. An extremely abrupt cliffhanger comes on the last page, which will have readers chomping at the bit for the next installment but leave many frustrated, especially as it threatens to undercut the book’s themes of breaking damaging cycles and finding a solution to systemic inequality in collective action. Readers will hope for answers in the finale.