In Wisdom, Shelter. That’s the official motto of the Scholomance. I suppose you could even argue that it’s true—only the wisdom is hard to come by, so the shelter’s rather scant.
Our beloved school does its best to devour all its students—but now that I’ve reached my senior year and have actually won myself a handful of allies, it’s suddenly developed a very particular craving for me. And even if I somehow make it through the endless waves of maleficaria that it keeps throwing at me in between grueling homework assignments, I haven’t any idea how my allies and I are going to make it through the graduation hall alive.
Unless, of course, I finally accept my foretold destiny of dark sorcery and destruction. That would certainly let me sail straight out of here. The course of wisdom, surely.
But I’m not giving in—not to the mals, not to fate, and especially not to the Scholomance. I’m going to get myself and my friends out of this hideous place for good—even if it’s the last thing I do.
I received a free copy of the book from the publisher & can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Ok, so this book broke me and if you thought the cliff hanger ending to book one was bad then this book will destroy you! The Last Graduate picks up pretty much straight after the ending of A Deadly Education. With the help of her allies, El managed to fix the equipment in the graduating hall, meaning for the first time in years a good portion of the class would have survived. Only now the school seems to be punishing her for it. Sick of using up her hard earned Mana fighting off all the Mals the school has been sending her way, El decides to do the one thing she hates… asking for help. But what El doesn’t realise is that the school has been sending the Mal’s her way for a reason, one that when it comes to light, will shake up the Scholomance and the world of magic forever.
I really enjoyed seeing El’s character growth in this book. She’s still the grumpy, standoffish person I fell in love with from the first book, but Novik did a wonderful job of showing her lowering her defences, while still ensuring she stayed the unapologetic, take no prisoners, kick ass female we all know and love. She forms some long lasting bonds in this book, and though she was always prepared for the worst, that her friends would abandon her, realise she wasn’t worth the risk, seeing her come to realise that they trusted her, valued her insight (crazy as it can be), that they wanted to be her friend made El (as well as me) a little emotional in parts.
Similar to the first book this is told completely from El’s POV and contains a whole hell of a lot of introspection, which would make you assume that there would be little to no secondary character growth… well you would be wrong. Noviks unique writing style manages to bring to life a whole host of secondary characters, some you love and some you strongly dislike, and even though they are solely seen through El’s eyes they each have their own personality, styles and they all leap off the page. As well as our ‘human’ side characters, the Scholomance itself became one in this book, we see it’s mood changing, showing it has it’s own personality, and we learn that although the school may do it’s absolute best to kill the students, that’s not it’s goal.
Fans of the first book will no doubt fall in love with The Last Graduate, but similarly, if you weren’t a fan it might be worth giving this one a pass. The writing style is the same as the first book, incredibly detailed and descriptive, and though we don’t see much action until further on in the book, I still found myself engrossed in the day to day life in the Scholomance. We get daily dangers in the form of Mals, almost political intrigue with the kids from different families/enclaves constantly at each others throats, as well as a smattering of romance, and all told from El’s POV give’s it a witty, if not sometimes overly morose hue that had me cackling in parts. The action does significantly pick up in the second half ( though not a lot I can mention without spoilers) but suffice to say there are plenty of – on the edge of your seat – moments, and a cliffhanger ending that had me screaming at 2 o’clock in the morning.
We get an even greater deep dive into the magic system in this book, and one thing I love about this series is how Novik lets us know that to use Mana (magic) there is a cost. It’s not something that can be grabbed out of fresh air, but instead something the students have to put effort into making whether through physical exercise or in El’s case knitting. As well as this she gives us a deep dive into the different types of magic, as well as how the school decides who takes which classes, how they assign languages etc. Again from El’s perspective this all takes on a rather humorous light, especially when she accidentally reads something in a different language and then gets set an essay on it. The specifics of it are well thought out, and though there is a lot to take in, Novik uses her words and time wisely, never really info dumping, but spreading the information out throughout the books.
I’m going to mention the ending again because holy hell I was shocked. There are cliff hanger endings, and then there are the ones where you want to scream at the author for making you wait a whole year to find out what happens, and this is most certainly the latter. Suffice to say I will eagerly be anticipating the last instalment.