BOOK REVIEW: The Last Graduate (The Scholomance #2) by Naomi Novik

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Graduate (The Scholomance #2) by Naomi NovikThe Last Graduate (The Scholomance #2)
by Naomi Novik
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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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 . . .

Praise for A Deadly Education

"The scholomance is the dark school of magic I've been waiting for, and its wise, witty, and monstrous heroine is one I'd happily follow anywhere--even into a school full of monsters."--Katherine Arden, New York Times bestselling author of The Bear and the Nightingale

"Novik deliciously undoes expectations about magic schools, destined heroes, and family legacies. A gorgeous book about monsters and monstrousness, chockablock with action, cleverness, and wit."--#1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black

"A must-read . . . Novik puts a refreshingly dark, adult spin on the magical boarding school. . . . Readers will delight in the push-and-pull of El and Orion's relationship, the fantastically detailed world, the clever magic system, and the matter-of-fact diversity of the student body."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

I had friends. Which felt even more unreal than surviving long enough to become a senior, and I owed that, I owed every last bit of it, to Orion Lake, and I didn’t care, actually, what the price tag was going to be. There’d be one, no question. Mum hadn’t warned me for no reason. But I didn’t care. I’d pay it back, whatever it was.

Did I want to immediately jump on here and write a review rather than dive into my next October Spooky Read? No. Did I want to think about this book all day at work and while doing mundane things around my house? No. Did I want to be so out of breath, so insanely drunk on adrenaline and the nerve-wracking peril butterflies borne from pain and panic, thus causing me to stay up all night in a crescendo of feels so inevitably dark, alluring and cataclysmic that I couldn’t help but re-read the same devastatingly amazing scene over and over again until there were undeniable bags under my eyes today? I mean…yes. Yes. Yes to all of this-I totally lied. I am a monster and my monster has been fed THUSLY.

You could ask people to be brave, you could ask them to be kind, you could ask them to care, you could ask them to help; you could ask them for a thousand hard and painful things. But not when it was so obviously useless. You couldn’t ask someone to deliberately trade themselves away completely, everything they had and might ever be, just to give you a chance, when in the end—and the gates were the end, the very end of things—you knew you weren’t any more special than they were. It wasn’t even heroism; it was just a bad equation that didn’t balance.

This is a review that didn’t allow me to start another book, that didn’t allow me to catch up on another review I’m behind on, that didn’t allow me proper sleep even tonight, because the thoughts and emotions and utter helplessness that comes from such an amazing end of a book cannot and will not be contained inside this masochistic cranium of mine. I am bent. I am broken. And I LIVE for the mind-numbingly chaotic chaos that is YA fantasy when done correctly.

Either they’ll tell you to do what you want to do anyway, in which case you didn’t need their advice, or they’ll tell you to do the opposite, in which case you’ll have to choose between sullenly following their advice, like a little kid who has been forced to brush her teeth and go to bed at a reasonable hour, or ignoring it and grimly carrying on, all the while knowing that your course of action is guaranteed to lead you straight to pain and dismay.
If you’re wondering which of those two options I picked, then you must not know me, as pain and dismay were obviously my destination.

And make no mistake, this was done right. It was done well. It was evil, cruel, so satisfyingly macabre that I can’t help but sound like a demon as all I have talked about is my withering sanity that surely went south with this weirdly perfect masterpiece of a series (thus far). Naomi Novik is no novice in writing fantasy-Uprooted remains one of the most surprising favorites of my past to this day. So when I saw she was going a possessed school type route (what even is the Scholomance if not a school that lives and breathes as its own entity?), I was all in.

The Scholomance isn’t exactly a living thing, but it isn’t exactly not, either.

If she won me over with, like, random tree monsters and other such nonsense (I hate this type of nonsense, weirdly), then surely one of my favorite types of tropes ever could be written to utter godly heights by this woman.

Naturally as soon as he dared think about what he might want, surely that made him a monster. But as someone who’s been told she’s a monster from almost all corners from quite early on, I know perfectly well the only sensible thing to do when self-doubt creeps into your own head is to repress it with great violence.

I’ll admit the first book shocked me. I knew Novik was an odd writer, for me anyway, but this was….beyond absurd. Weirdly wonderful. And, beyond that absurdity of absurdness I’ve yet to explain, the wordiness is enough to scare anyone off. I used to hate that type of writing, so how Uprooted got through my crusty barriers years ago is beyond me. Don’t get me wrong-I’m all for it now-but I used to not be able to stand it. POINT BEING, this series is so beyond wordy that I’m shocked that so many people got past this book to get to that juicy last chunk of the book. I will admit, even to myself, the beginning was a bit of a chore.

“Sure,” Orion said blithely, and I didn’t literally gnash my teeth because no one does, do they, but I felt as if I were gnashing my teeth. With no justification in the slightest.

I try harder than most-I rarely DNF a book-but I had to push. Look, I am one who really reallyyyy loves those smidgens of romance. One might say they are my driving force. But, when the romance isn’t necessarily…blossoming…I expect other things to keep me occupied. In book one, we got a lot of Orion, but it’s not like he was the star of the show-clearly we are in snarky Galadriel’s head forever and always and it’s an endless rant much like what goes on in my head 24/7, thus why I love her so hard. I swear-the bitchiness is unparalleled. But we got…lots of action. There were so many things that happened with so many different people in so many different areas that it was just so alluring. So gripping. And that ’we’re not dating but are really dating’ storyline remains one of my newest favorite non tropes. In this one, I felt it was a lot of being in her head, and lots of hanging with her friends doing the same-ish things.

I don’t know that I’d have bent my neck the way she did, apologizing to me and even asking to be friends after I bit her head off. I’m not sorry for doing the biting, I had more than enough cause, but I still don’t know that I’d have had the grace.
Oh, who am I lying to? My supply of grace wouldn’t overflow an acorn cap.

Now, okay, I was super sick for book one and lots of book two-I admit I completely scrapped this read when I got to about halfway and there was some serious feels that should have been felt that I most definitely didn’t feel and I knew I was checked out and couldn’t focus-I re read all the first half of the book when I began to feel better and I am SO GLAD I did. The second time around was so much more rewarding-but it still didn’t feel like we got a lot of what I wanted for much of the book.

I’m not some sort of pallid romantic who insists on being loved for my shining inner being. My inner being is exceptionally cranky and I often don’t want her company myself…

Well. Ha ha Novik says, because this book kicked it into overdrive and it never really stopped. The Last Graduate did not go in any direction I would have imagined it to go, and I can’t say I didn’t want things to perhaps follow the school vibes of A Deadly Education a little more similarly but, in the end, I loved how the path the author took showed the journey of El and how she really is a snarky, rude soul that could stand to be nicer to my poor Orion, but what her true self looked like on the inside-who she really was and how she really was deep down-she had more depth in character and personality than perhaps anyone there. It was a very peculiar journey…but I see why the author did it. There was no other way, really, to show just how much El had progressed and changed from the beginning of book one when she was just a miserable outcast who would have blasted pretty much anyone out of the way to secure her place at freedom during graduation to the self-sacrificing martyr anyone would be shocked to see today.

Mum would only warn me off something bad, not something painful. So obviously Orion was the most brilliant maleficer ever, concealing his vile plans by saving the lives of everyone over and over just so he could, I don’t know, kill them himself later on? Or maybe Mum was worried that he was so annoying that he’d drive me to become the most brilliant maleficer ever, which was probably more plausible, since that’s supposedly my own doom anyway.

Much of the book is spent with El and her allies, which was cute, but I’m all for when we began to mingle more as a larger group, more for when Orion got to come out of his shell and we got to actually see some more depth from him, as well. We knew El was deep-but this whole series we were told time and again all Orion knew was fighting mals and that he’d sooner set up a date mal hunting for mana than hanging with friends his age or even show interest in a girl.

“They’re freaked out over Orion.”
“After you’ve only been dating two months?” Liu said.
“We’re not dating!”
Aadhya made a dramatic show of rolling her eyes heavenwards. “After you’ve been doing whatever you’re doing that is not dating but totally looks like dating to everyone else, for only two months.”

And that goes back to what my friend said when she told me I needed to read it: Orion has a hero complex, but it’s so much deeper than that-and, although I didn’t think we’d see it at all in this series seeing as how he is talked and alluded to-we finally got a glimpse into his tortured soul. YES. You heard me right- We have a bonafide tortured hero, here , and damn if I didn’t have to work for it, but I unearthed him and he has a permanent place in my heart. He was an adorable cinnamon roll, sure, but now he is…he’s just…he’s more. And I suppose that goes without saying, doesn’t it, as Novik doesn’t really write one-dimensional worlds or characters. But, I’ll admit, I thought she was going for intentionally flighty here, and I’m so so so glad she cracked open the shell that is Orion Lake and proved my assumption wrong (It only took two whole books but okay).

At least they had certainly stopped worrying about doing any killing of their own. Even Orion had got over being enraged and was just standing gawking at me—in an infuriatingly starry-eyed way, in his case, demonstrating his continuing total lack of judgment and sense.

El is a wonderfully diverse character who says it like it is-she’s selfish, she knows what she has to do to survive, and not much stands in her way as far as distractions go. But what happens when you make friends, find a guy you [won’t admit it but we all know it] would take a bullet (or a mal) for, and see that things just aren’t right, that you can do more. What then? We get to see what humanity means to El when she’s really backed into a corner, when she sees the school isn’t going to settle for one of the most powerful students in history just coasting through and graduating like a ’normal’ person. And that’s where we get to see the El we knew was hiding all along. She did a good job pretending she didn’t care, acting blasé at the most horrendous things…but in each rude remark, each turn of phrase, each knee to Orion’s groin, we saw through it (or at least I did) and, in the end, the school got to see the true El, too.

And yeah, hey, speaking of that before I go, she is just so mean to Orion. I love it, I always did, especially in book one, but wow my heart cringed for the poor guy. Dude’s obviously obsessed with her and she can’t help but glare and put him off at each and every turn-when, clearly, she is just as obsessed with him as he is her. Honestly, if I didn’t say it before (I did), her inner monologues about him were enough to power me through my day. The simple way she’d glare at him if he wanted to run off and hunt mals, how she lectured him to do his homework, how she would glare and coolly dismiss him with a British flair of iciness to make it clear he wasn’t getting to anybase was the much needed dark humor that fanned the flames of their weird passionate non-relationship and, at the end of it all, it paid off so spectacularly that the wind was stolen right from my lungs, my knees taken out from underneath me, and the floor disappeared out of seemingly nowhere. That’s exactly what epic is, in case you were wondering.

…and then the bastard looked down at me with his entire heart crammed into his eyes and his face and said, barely a whisper, “Galadriel.”

All in all I did love book one more, just because I’m a book one kinda gal, mostly. They almost always speak to me in unsung ways that are unable to be fulfilled once my heart is full of those puppy love moments, the first dregs of death and destruction, the way the battlefield is set and the story could literally go anywhere from that moment. Second books rarely stand a chance with me, to be honest. But, I’ve found second books have a great little weapon in their arsenal: The end. Book one may be the strongest nine times out of ten, but the second book in a series generally packs a punch so agonizing that book three can’t come soon enough. Alas, that generally leads to a wimpy book three…but I’d like to think Novik is better than that, better than such mortal worries-but I guess we’ll see, won’t we?


Ohmighod I just…I can’t….I want…



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  1. Theresa

    OMG!! This sounds like exactly what I need to read. But looks like I need to read book 1 first
    Theresa recently posted…Blog Tour – Excerpt + Giveaway – ANGELFIRE (Angelbound Lincoln Series) by Christina BauerMy Profile

    • Chelsea (Peril Please)

      It’s an AMAZING series…but yes, I’d definitely start with book one lol

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