Reviews for The Last Graduate

by Naomi Novik

Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A teenage witch with a natural affinity for dark magic prepares to run a deadly graduation gauntlet in this sequel to Novik's Deadly Education (2020). Galadriel "El" Higgins has finally reached her senior year at the Scholomance, putting her one step closer to her ultimate goal: get back home or die trying. After getting a sneak peek at the monster-packed hallway she must survive if she wants to graduate, the witchy teen returns to her classes and cliques with scarcely more insight than before. El knows enough to realize that her mana stores are a fraction of what they should be—come graduation, she will lack the magical juice she needs to kill monsters and make it out alive. Her fake-dating relationship with Orion proves to be a lucky "in," netting her a new string of tenuous alliances as well as access to a wellspring of free mana. But what could be a compelling adventure story falls apart here, as the novel relies on relentless bouts of infodumping to keep readers up to speed on where the Scholomance's monsters come from and what they can do to unsuspecting students. None of these paragraphs-long blasts of information recount the details of El's last excursion, however, and so readers who have forgotten Novik's previous novel, or who have never read it at all, will find no springboard ready to help them dive into the author's newest offering. Those who stumble upon this volume risk being unmoored, as the narrative picks up immediately following the events of its predecessor, without stopping to introduce anything, including the narrator. Ultimately, El's seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of every monster in the school, combined with her continued refusal to enter into any genuine alliance with classmates, leaves readers to wonder what she could possibly have left to learn—or fear—in the Scholomance. A sequel that repeats the mistakes of its predecessor while failing to break new ground. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Picking up immediately after A Deadly Education, Novak offers an engrossing continuation of her dark fantasy series set at the deadly Scholomance boarding school. Galadriel “El” Higgins, a prophesied future dark sorceress and current high school senior, worries she has a target on her back after she and Orion Lake helped wipe out most of the monstrous maleficaria, or “mals,” that prowl the school and prey on students. Then she learns that the school itself has a driving, supernatural need to protect as many magical children as it can, however it can—and it thinks this year’s senior class will be the ones to fix the endemic problems with its system, forcing loner El to work together with her classmates. The propulsive plot and high stakes make for gripping reading, but readers hooked on the enemies-to-lovers dynamic established in book one will be frustrated that Orion has so little to do here and so few scenes with El. An extremely abrupt cliffhanger comes on the last page, which will have readers chomping at the bit for the next installment but leave many frustrated, especially as it threatens to undercut the book’s themes of breaking damaging cycles and finding a solution to systemic inequality in collective action. Readers will hope for answers in the finale. (Sept.)


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A teenage witch with a natural affinity for dark magic prepares to run a deadly graduation gauntlet in this sequel to Novik's Deadly Education (2020).Galadriel "El" Higgins has finally reached her senior year at the Scholomance, putting her one step closer to her ultimate goal: get back home or die trying. After getting a sneak peek at the monster-packed hallway she must survive if she wants to graduate, the witchy teen returns to her classes and cliques with scarcely more insight than before. El knows enough to realize that her mana stores are a fraction of what they should become graduation, she will lack the magical juice she needs to kill monsters and make it out alive. Her fake-dating relationship with Orion proves to be a lucky "in," netting her a new string of tenuous alliances as well as access to a wellspring of free mana. But what could be a compelling adventure story falls apart here, as the novel relies on relentless bouts of infodumping to keep readers up to speed on where the Scholomance's monsters come from and what they can do to unsuspecting students. None of these paragraphs-long blasts of information recount the details of El's last excursion, however, and so readers who have forgotten Novik's previous novel, or who have never read it at all, will find no springboard ready to help them dive into the author's newest offering. Those who stumble upon this volume risk being unmoored, as the narrative picks up immediately following the events of its predecessor, without stopping to introduce anything, including the narrator. Ultimately, El's seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of every monster in the school, combined with her continued refusal to enter into any genuine alliance with classmates, leaves readers to wonder what she could possibly have left to learnor fearin the Scholomance.A sequel that repeats the mistakes of its predecessor while failing to break new ground. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

After helping the entire senior class get out alive (A Deadly Education, 2020), El feels life may finally be going her way. She has secured a guaranteed spot with a powerful magic enclave, managed to form an alliance with two friends, and everyone is convinced she is the girlfriend of Orion, the school's hero-in-residence. The only downside is trying to puzzle out why her mother sent a note warning her to keep far away from Orion. She is not sure how she feels about that advice and is looking forward to a full year of stockpiling energy crystals for her own senior-class graduation. El quickly learns the school has other plans for her final year, including a full load of classes that have her expending energy in rescuing first-year students rather than creating magical reserves. And it appears the school’s entire hoard of monsters is out to get her—and only her. As the semesters pass, El wonders if she will be ready for the fight at the end of the term. The climatic graduation-day battle will bring cheers, tears, and gasps as the second of the Scholomance trilogy closes with a breathtaking cliff-hanger.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

"Keep far away from Orion Lake." Galadriel "El" Higgins knows she should take her mother's words seriously, but she has to survive her senior year in the Scholomance, and Orion may be one of the few allies (friends?) who can help. From day one of the term, El is up against deadly homework, the maleficaria that linger, and her destructive destiny for dark power. She must fight fate, feelings, and monsters to get herself and her allies out of this horrid school alive, and the stakes will only continue to rise. When El's power is made public, she realizes that rules were made to be broken. In fact, throwing out the rulebook entirely might mean her survival. In this second "Scholomance" installment, Novik corrects course on the cultural stereotypes and other issues found in A Deadly Education; more of El's allies are stepping up, and their lives broaden. The setting is inspired by Eastern European traditions, with characters of varied racial identities. VERDICT 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.—Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., Northampton

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