Book Review

The Last Graduate

The Last Graduate

  • Author: Naomi Novik
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: September 28, 2021
  • Publisher: Del Rey Books
  • Series: The Scholomance #2

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am offering my honest opinion voluntarily.

CONTENT WARNING: gore, murder, blood, mention of death of a child, mention of suicide

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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 know when read a book where by the time you get to the end, it feels like the author has come to your house, ripped your still-beating heart straight out of your chest, taken the keys to your own car, driven it over your heart multiple times, and then drove off in your car shouting “have fun waiting a year for the sequel, sucker!” Because that is exactly how I felt after reading this book. But I honestly wouldn’t do anything differently because yeah, it was really good.

To start with, if you didn’t like the first book, you’re probably not going to like this one. I reread the first one to prepare for this one, and listened to the audiobook version. As I listened, I picked up on some nuance that I maybe didn’t notice last time, or perhaps just forgot in the last year. And while El isn’t exactly the easiest character to empathize with in the first book, she has a bigger glow-up in this book than cauliflower has had in recent years. 

Don’t get me wrong — she’s still prickly and determined to not be likable, and always hovering on the edge of fulfilling her dark prophecy of becoming the ultimate dark maleficer that her family predicted she would ultimately turn into. And the school seems determined to force her hand this year. But … she’s working her hardest to prevent that. And it earned her major points in my opinion. Over the course of the year, she works really hard to change her destiny and rose ever higher in my esteem. She went from being one way at the beginning of the year and did a complete 180. I can’t tell you much more about her own arc because … spoilers, but trust me when I viewed her completely differently by the end of the book, and actually grew to respect her a hell of a lot more than I did at the beginning of the book.

The side characters grew a lot as well. Even the Scholomance itself turned into a major side character. Rather than just being a setting, it has a personality all its own and becomes a major player in the story. Orion was a little whiny in the story, and his character arc was strange to me, although he was struggling with his own issues. He was hard to figure out, but he also kind of faded into the background a bit in this story. 

I loved how everything developed, and the unpredictable nature of the story thus far made it difficult to predict what was going to happen around the next corner. There’s nothing better to me than a story that isn’t predictable. There’s so much going on in this story: the daily struggle of staying alive in the Scholomance, as well as trying to form alliances, figuring out your future, the political alliances of enclaves, and the conflicts both within and outside of the school were all major factors in the workings of the story, all combining to create a fascinating story that kept me entranced from page 1 until I finished the story.

And speaking of the ending — if I thought the cliffhanger ending in book 1 was a killer, it’s got absolutely nothing on the ending of this book. Thankfully, Becky @ Becky’s Book Blog posted her review just as I finished reading so I had someone to vent to and organize my thoughts. On that note, when you finish this book, feel free to reach out and process with me if you need to. Because I guarantee that you’ll need to process it with someone. But it’s a good one, and I’ll be impatiently waiting for the next book to find out what the hell is going to happen now.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 11

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