ARC Review: THE LAST GRADUATE by Naomi Novik

I received an eARC from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in gold on green next to
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 3.5 stars
Series: yes - second book


Book cover for THE LAST GRADUATE: title in gold on green above an elaborate keyhole

The dark school of magic has always done its best to devour its students, but now that El has reached her final year — and somehow won herself a handful of allies along the way — it’s suddenly developed a very particular craving . . .

For her.

As the savagery of the school ramps up, El is determined that she will not give in; not to the mals, not to fate, and especially not to the Scholomance. But as the spectre of graduation looms — the deadly final ritual that leaves few students alive — if she and her allies are to make it out, El will need to realise that sometimes winning the game means throwing out all the rules.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


This is a series of slim books that somehow manage to pack a whole year in and a massive cast of characters. There are even more characters that demand page time this entry, including a lot of new ones, and they all feel fleshed out enough to hold space, despite not getting much. That’s a hard feat to pull off, but Naomi Novik manages it.

THE LAST GRADUATE is also a really good example of setting the reader up to expect one thing, and then springing a twist on you. The title helps ease you into the expectation that builds from about the midpoint for what El is going to do, and then suddenly flips it at about the 67-75% point, twisting the previous actions of the school into a new light.

It’s well done, as it makes sense, once you have enough time to think through it. The one flaw is that it did take a while for it to all make sense and sink in, as it changes a lot of things across the book. However, I loved that the title still held true under the twist – which is clever naming.

There were several places in the middle where I was getting a bit lost at times. The narrative style has El segue into a reminiscence of some vaguely connected fact, or an example of her point. While that is very much how I talk in real life, it does make it hard to follow at times, because by the time we re-join the conversation after a page or so, I’ve forgotten the detail being debated or the argument being had.

This and the running stab-fests of the middle bogged the pacing down a bit, making it tricky to get through it at times. I read this book about an hour slower than I should have, given the page count, and it was because of continually stopping in the middle, either to recall what had happened, or because my attention had wandered. This series so far have managed to pull of really satisfying endings, to make me feel glad I’d got through the bits that I’d struggled through.

This book ends on a real cliff-hanger, so it’s a year to know just who made it out of the school at the very end. You see all of the big action sequence there at the end, except for the crucial last escape – which leaves a big question wide open…

Read my reviews of other books by Naomi Novik:


The Scholomance (this series):


Fairytale Standalones:

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