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The Last Graduate: A Novel (The Scholomance Book 2) Kindle Edition
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Polygon, Thrillist, She Reads • “The climactic graduation-day battle will bring cheers, tears, and gasps as the second of the Scholomance trilogy closes with a breathtaking cliff-hanger.”—Booklist (starred review)
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.
With keen insight and mordant humor, Novik reminds us that sometimes it is not enough to rewrite the rules—sometimes, you need to toss out the entire rulebook.
The magic of the Scholomance trilogy will continue in 2022
“[The Last Graduate] 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 [A Deadly Education], Novik changes the game again with the very last line.”—Locus
“Truly one of the best fantasy series out there right now, and it’s not close.”—Culturess
“[The Last Graduate] is as compulsive a read as [A Deadly Education]. As a warning, it ends on another killer cliffhanger.”—BuzzFeed
“Naomi Novik’s Scholomance series, about kids at a preposterously deadly magical school, stands out in a ridiculously crowded field. Its sheer viciousness, its grim humor, and its complicated interpersonal politics are an immediate draw.”—Polygon
“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.”—Library Journal (starred review)
Praise for A Deadly Education
“Eyeball-meltingly brilliant—Novik is, quite simply, a genius.”—Kiersten White, New York Times bestselling author of And I Darken
“Naomi Novik has written the wizard-school book that we all deserve! Constant peril, a fresh magic system, and a deeper discussion of how educational inequality currently functions than I ever expected to see in fantasy.”—Hank Green, author of A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor
“Novik skillfully combines sharp humor with layers of imagination to build a fantasy that delights on every level.”—Stephanie Garber, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Caraval series
“The Scholomance is the dark school of magic I’ve been waiting for.”—Katherine Arden, New York Times bestselling author of The Bear and the Nightingale
“A gorgeous book about monsters and monstrousness, chockablock with action, cleverness, and wit.”—Holly Black, #1 New York Times bestselling author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Keep far away from Orion Lake.
Most of the religious or spiritual people I know—and to be fair, they’re mostly the sort of people who land in a vaguely pagan commune in Wales, or else they’re terrified wizard kids crammed into a school that’s trying to kill them—regularly beseech a benevolent and loving all-wise deity to provide them with useful advice through the medium of miraculous signs and portents. Speaking as my mother’s daughter, I can say with authority that they wouldn’t like it if they got it. You don’t want mysterious unexplained advice from someone you know has your best interests at heart and whose judgment is unerringly right and just and true. 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. I didn’t even need to think about it. Mum’s note was infinitely well-meant, but it wasn’t long: My darling girl, I love you, have courage, and keep far away from Orion Lake. I read the whole thing in a single glance and tore it up into pieces instantly, standing right there among the little freshmen milling about. I ate the scrap with Orion’s name on it myself and handed the rest out at once.
“What’s this?” Aadhya said. She was still giving me narrow-eyed indignation.
“It lifts the spirits,” I said. “My mum put it in the paper.”
“Yes, your mum, Gwen Higgins,” Aadhya said, even more coolly. “Who you’ve mentioned so often to us all.”
“Oh, just eat it,” I said, as irritably as I could manage after having just downed my own piece. The irritation wasn’t as hard to muster up as it might’ve been. I can’t think of anything I’ve missed in here, including the sun, the wind, or a night’s sleep in safety, nearly as much as I’ve missed Mum, so that’s what the spell gave me: the feeling of being curled up on her bed with my head in her lap and her hand stroking gently over my hair, the smell of the herbs she works with, the faint croaking of frogs outside the open door and the wet earth of a Welsh spring. It would’ve lifted my spirits enormously if only I hadn’t been worrying deeply at the same time what she was trying to tell me about Orion.
The fun possibilities were endless. The best one was that he was doomed to die young and horribly, which given his penchant for heroics was reasonably predictable anyway. Unfortunately, falling in something or other with a doomed hero isn’t the sort of thing Mum would warn me off. She’s very much of the gather ye rosebuds while ye may school of thought.
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.
Of course, the most likely option was that Mum didn’t know herself. She’d just had a bad feeling about Orion, for no reason she could’ve told me even if she’d written me a ten-page letter on both sides. A feeling so bad that she’d hitchhiked all the way to Cardiff to find the nearest incoming freshman, and she’d asked his parents to send me her one-gram note. I reached out and poked Aaron in his tiny skinny shoulder. “Hey, what did Mum give your parents for bringing the message?”
He turned round and said uncertainly, “I don’t think she did? She said she didn’t have anything to pay with, but she asked to talk to them in private, and then she gave it to me and my mam squeezed a bit of my toothpaste out to make room.”
That might sound like nothing, but nobody wastes any of their inadequate four-year weight allowance on ordinary toothpaste; I brush with baking soda out of the alchemy lab supply cabinets myself. If Aaron had brought any at all, it was enchanted in some way: useful when you aren’t going to see a dentist for the next four years. He could have traded that one squeeze of it to someone with bad toothache for a week of extra dinners, easily. And his parents had taken that away from their own kid—Mum had asked his parents to take that away from their own kid—just to get me the warning. “Great,” I said bitterly. “Here, have a bite.” I gave him one of the pieces of the note, too. He probably needed it as much as ever in his life, after just being sucked into the Scholomance. It’s better than the almost inevitable death waiting for wizard kids outside, but not by much.
The food line opened up just then, and the ensuing stampede interfered with my brooding, but Liu asked me quietly, “Everything okay?” as we lined up.
I just stared at her blankly. It wasn’t mindreading or anything—she had an eye for small details, putting things together, and she indicated my pocket, where I’d put the last scrap of the note—the note whose actual contents I hadn’t shared, even while I’d passed out pieces with an enchantment that should have precluded all brooding. My confusion was because—she’d asked. I wasn’t used to anyone inquiring after me, or for that matter even noticing when I’m upset. Unless I’m sufficiently upset that I start conveying the impression that I’m about to set everyone around me on fire, which does in fact happen on a not infrequent basis.
I had to think about it to decide that I didn’t, actually, want to talk about the note. I’d never had the option. And having it meant—that I was telling Liu the truth when I nodded to say yes, everything’s okay, and smiled at her, the expression feeling a bit odd and stretchy round my mouth, unfamiliar. Liu smiled back, and then we were in the line, and we all focused on the job of filling our trays.
We’d lost our freshmen in the shuffle: they go last, obviously, and we now had the dubious privilege of going first. But nothing stops you taking extra for their benefit, if you can afford it, and at least for today we could. The walls of the school were still a bit warm from the end-of-term cleansing cycle. Any of the maleficaria that hadn’t been crisped to fine ash were all just starting to creep out of the various dark corners they’d hidden in, and the food was as unlikely to be contaminated as it ever was. So Liu took extra milk cartons for her cousins, and I took seconds of pasta for Aaron, a bit grudgingly. Technically he wasn’t owed anything for bringing the note, not by me; by Scholomance etiquette, that’s all settled outside. But he hadn’t got anything for it outside, after all.
It was odd being almost first out of the queue into the nearly empty cafeteria, with the enormously long tail of kids still snaking along the walls, tripled up, the sophomores poking the freshmen and pointing them at the ceiling tiles and the floor drains and the air vents on the walls, which they’d want to keep an eye on in the future. The last of the folded-up tables were scuttling back into the open space that had been left for the freshman rush, and unfolding back into place with squeals and thumps. My friend Nkoyo—could I think of her as a friend, too? I thought perhaps I could, but I hadn’t been handed a formal engraved notice yet, so I’d be doubtful a while longer—had got out in front with her best mates; she was at a prime table, positioned in the ring that’s exactly between the walls and the line, under only two ceiling tiles, with the nearest floor drain four tables away. She was standing up tall and waving us over, easy to spot: she was wearing a brand-new top and baggy trousers, each in a beautiful print of mixed wavy lines that I was fairly sure had enchantments woven in. This is the day of the year when everyone breaks out the one new outfit per year most of us brought in—my own extended wardrobe sadly got incinerated freshman year—and she had clearly been saving this one for senior year. Jowani was bringing over two big jugs of water while Cora did the perimeter wards.
It was odd, walking through the cafeteria over to join them. Even if we hadn’t been offered an actual invitation, there were loads of good tables still open, and all the bad ones. I’ve occasionally ended up with my pick of tables before, but that’s always been a bad and risky move born of getting to the cafeteria too early, usually as an act of desperation when I’d had too many days of bad luck with my meals. Now it was just the ordinary course of things.
- ASIN : B08K7KY8Q7
- Publisher : Del Rey (September 28, 2021)
- Publication date : September 28, 2021
- Language : English
- File size : 9252 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 389 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,148 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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After spending most of her time in the deadly dangerous Scholomance trying to survive all alone, El enters her final year on a positive note. She’s got friends now, as well an offer of a helpful alliance with other powerful student wizards that might allow all of them to make it out alive on graduation day. El even has a boy who likes her, Orion Lake, and she can’t help liking him back, despite her mother’s warning to stay away from him. But then the school gives El terrible course load and allows the monstrous maleficaria to target her rather than the other students, and she starts to wonder whether she’ll make it through the rest of the year, much less survive graduation. The Scholomance seems to have it in for El, but why?
Well, there is a reason, but to find out, you’ll need to read the book. 😉
The worldbuilding in this series is masterful. In my opinion, it blows Harry Potter and Hogwarts out of the water as a fantasy. The Scholomance is absolutely insane, but Novik makes it seem almost plausible. (Why shouldn’t every student’s room have a way for them to fall into a mystical void, really?) The magic system is extremely complicated, but it’s very well thought out and consistent, which makes the fantastical feel more real.
I just love El, too. She fights so hard against her natural bent toward evil magic, but she can’t quite master being (horrors) nice. Grumpy El doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and unfortunately for El, she’s attending the Scholomance with far too many of those. That includes Orion, and El being El, she doesn’t hesitate to let him know when he’s being an utter idiot. She castigates herself just as often, though, because El’s own behavior is growing ever more idiotic, as she finds herself increasingly looking out for others rather than own survival. For a wizard with seemingly unlimited power and a gift for destruction, El might just turn out to be as much of a hero as that numptie Orion.
So, I’m glued to the page through the entire story, entranced by El and her world and her adventures and rooting for her and the others to make it out alive, and then—that final line. WHY??? You had me on the hook for the last book anyway! It’s just wanton cruelty.
Highly recommended, but you should brace yourself for the ending. It’s a doozy.
A copy of this book was provided through NetGalley for me to review; all opinions expressed are my own.
It ends about where you'd expect.
Overall, I'm happy to have the second entry in the series, and I look forward to seeing where the graduates go from here.
My only question is: Did they lose an editor along the way?
The initial book had to world build because it was a new world and had to introduce characters and setting. The second book had to restate some of the previous world building for new readers. Unfortunately, it then gets carried away with restating the same information over and over and over again. Did you hear that Bangkok enclave got destroyed and China and the US were looking at going to war over it? It seems that the book really really really wants you to remember this info. It's a book and the info isn't even relevant to THIS story. If we forget, we can always go back and reread. And it's not even restated in new and interesting ways to try to reach people who might retain information differently. It's part of the endless narrative world building globs that keep me from rating this book higher. An editor really should have struck this info out in red pen when it reappeared. Or at least requested the author reframe it in dialogue to vary the presentation and make it relevant to someone even as a lesson. We're even given a great set up for that, as El is shut into a room with 8 freshmen every Wednesday, and they could talk and explain things to each other and give opinions.
But no. It's spoon fed world building globs for you, dear reader.
So if you liked the first book, definitely read the second. The overall story and concept is still entertaining. But expect to feel kind of tired and bored at various points as the narrative constantly digresses in ways that are repetitive and apropos of nothing.
I loved how the last half of the book built toward the final. I still don’t think that the motivation for the final action is fully fleshed out (a bit too much self-righteousness for that), but there is a sense of inevitability about the final that the entire series so far has been hinting toward. We don’t have a lot of answers at the end (if anything, the plot thickens), but we have romance, acceptance, noble deeds, and collective strategizing. That will have to last us until the third volume.
Top reviews from other countries
And then you're left wondering about some of the open questions such as the prophecies around the female lead, and how exactly she brings about the end or destruction of the elite enclaves something her great-great-grandmother interpreted as bringing death and destruction on a horrendous villainous scale. But what if it isn't that obvious? What if she brings the elite enclave to an end by destroying the reasons for building enclave in the first place, by making the world outside of them safe for everyone? And if they have finally rid the world of the monsters, then maybe there's no place for the main male character out in that world anymore because what good is a monster killer without monsters? SO maybe this is the final book.
But I so want there to be another ending. I want the female lead to get her own vision come true, to make the protection of enclaves available to everyone, by using what she's learned and sharing it with the people outside of the elite enclaves? I want her to find a way for the male character to keep learning, to want things other than monster killing, or maybe to keep killing the monsters that are still left in the world, the human ones, the maleficers.
And a little bit desperate went to check on the author's site & looked for confirmation another book was coming - YES!!!!
I was thrown by Amazon listing this as book 2 of 2 in the series but it’s listed as a trilogy on Naomi Novik’s website with the final book due in 2022.
The concept was engaging and I devoured each of the books in one sitting. The odd spelling or usage glitch did not detract from my enjoyment.
Sadly it seems this is the end of the story though there are some intriguing loose ends … destroying the Scholomance surely does not remove all the mals in the world and someone (El?) is going to need to find a way to save Orion. Possibly room for a follow up?
El isn’t such a hardcore, in-your-face character this time around. For starters, she now has a loyal group of friends, and other alliances with a handful of enclave kids who have far more resources and protections than those without that kind of advantage. And it’s just as well she’s got more going for her as this year, as the School has become a lot more aggressive – with El apparently a prime target. Novik writes action scenes really well and has a glorious suite of delightfully revolting monsters that squish satisfyingly when they meet their messy end. This series would make a wonderful TV series.
However, if you were one of those who found the descriptions of the magic and the world outside a tad tedious in A Deadly Education (I didn’t…), then you won’t fare any better in this offering. El has a lot to say about the political situation, the history of the school and the very complex magic system, particularly in the first half of the book. It didn’t bother me, partly because we need to know all the information, partly because I found it fascinating anyway. I’m a huge fan of El, who has a natural talent for horrific destruction but has had it dinned into her by her adorable mother, that she can’t afford to give into those instinct at all. And Novik manages to depict her absolutely following the rules without her coming off as sickeningly good.
El is bad-tempered, overly cynical, far too touchy and apt to push away those who genuinely want to befriend her – but despite that, she is rigid in trying to avoid doing harm. I really like the fact that she isn’t the overwhelmed, put-upon victim doing the best she can in awful circumstances, either. She’s far too powerful for that. That doesn’t stop her from becoming increasingly trapped in a terrible situation, where the right thing to do is plain terrifying. I also enjoyed the humour, albeit a tad dark-edged, that runs through this story. And I am impressed with Novik’s successful portrayal of a Brit main character, complete with the sardonic street-wise dialogue.
While there is plenty of action throughout, the pace and tension really picks up in the second half of the book, which was difficult to put down once it hit its stride. I was glad Himself had warned me about that ending, though – otherwise I think it would have gone flying across the room. Which is why I’ve passed the warning on. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining read – and I’m very much looking forward to the third book in the series. The ebook arc copy of The Last Graduate was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.