Top positive review
Absolutely terrific boarding school fantasy (but that cliffhanger!)
Reviewed in the United States on September 28, 2021
I guess I might have expected it from the way the first book concluded, but this one should have a warning up front about the cliffhanger ending. It is BRUTAL.
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.