Goodreads: The Last Graduate
Series: The Scholomance #2
Age Category: Adult
Published: September 28, 2021
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 . . .
I loved the first Scholomance book, A Deadly Education, with its depiction of a mysteriously dangerous school and a protagonist with edges who secretly wants to do the right thing, even with the time it spends on info dumps. The Last Graduate continues in much the same vein, with a few minor changes in tone, so I was once again captivated by the world of the Scholomance.
I admit that while I defended the info dumps in book one because I just found them fascinating, I found them slightly more off-putting this time around. I would have expected that, since so much stuff had been explained in the other book that it wouldn’t be so necessary in The Last Graduate, but Novik is still going all-in on world building and making sure readers know every bit of it. Every time anything is introduced, a new mal, a new classroom, a new student, a new school tradition, etc., it gets paragraphs of background and explanation. It’s still interesting, but I can see how it’s not for every reader. And due to the ending of The Last Graduate, I know we’re going to get even more info dumps in book three.
But I did still love the book! Novik throws in new challenges for El and her friends to fight as they prepare for graduation, not exactly sure what they’ll be facing even with the cleansing mechanism in the graduation hall supposedly fixed, and as the school seems to change its modus operandi. El thought she knew how the Scholomance functions and how the mals target students, but everything she learned in three years gets turned on its head, and she has to adapt to continue to survive.
I do have slightly mixed feelings about the fact El seems genuinely nicer in this installment. I get its character development, but since so much of book one showcased her harsh exterior, her isolation, her instinct to mainly look out for herself even as she was kind of looking out for others by refusing to use her powers for evil, it’s weird to see her become basically the most altruistic character in the book. She’s still brusque, but she’s so often looking out for other people at her own expense that it’s a little jarring.
The romance is, as ever, meh. The nature of the school is, of course, that relationships are a distraction and getting pregnant (since there’s basically no birth control) is like a death sentence, so of course El tries to avoid the situation. But it’s hard for me as a reader to buy into any chemistry between the characters when El keep avoiding the love interest or insulting him. At least he’s interesting as an individual character.
Still, this is an amazing story. It still feels like something I haven’t read before and like something I desperately want to read more of when it comes out. If you got through book one because the info dumps weren’t a turn-off, you’ll enjoy this one, as well.