Review of The Golden Enclaves (Scholomance #3) by Naomi Novik
The more somber tone of book three and the focus on logistics feel appropriate as the recent graduates of the Scholomance desperately try to save everyone, friends and foes alike.
A Deadly Education is the first in Novik's Scholomance series, which begins the story of a magical high school with two routes out: a grueling path to graduation and beyond or, just as likely, death. Danger and darkness lurk around every corner for grumpy, powerful El and her classmates.
The second book of the Scholomance is The Last Graduate, which builds on book one's dark humor, dangerous forces, and the irresistible attraction between El and Orion. I loved it so much, I really tried to slow down and savor it.
In The Golden Enclaves, the third installment of the series, an allied force of students faces the aftermath of their ambitious book-two plan to save the world.
Getting out of school alive was meant to be the solution to all their problems. But El and Orion's plan didn't exactly go off without a hitch. Now El and Orion are separated; greed, power plays, and corruption are as present in the worldwide magical enclaves as ever; and El is afraid of the boundless dark power within herself, even as she recognizes a similar danger in another key character.
With everything going wrong, El and her friends must do the unthinkable yet again: they must find their way back into the school they fought desperately for years to escape.
The fractured nature of the fight in The Golden Enclaves meant that I didn't get to spend extended page time with some of my most favorite aspects of the series--the Orion/El relationship, El's grumbly reflections, and the dark-playful tone of the effortless power El and Orion wielded in prior books.
Much of the book is spent with El trying to figure out what's going on--who is behind attacks on the enclaves? Who might be allies for her, if anyone? What can be done about the enclave structure--and what can upend the evil holding up the enclaves' power, without making things worse? This didn't make The Golden Enclaves the most darkly fun, deeply emotional, or captivatingly paced book in the series for me.
But I'm fully invested in this series. And Novik offers touching moments when surprising truths about El's, Orion's, and their parents' histories and motivations are continually revealed. The largely somber tone of the third book in the series appropriately reflects these kids' growing up and facing challenges more complex than they could have imagined. The young people feel the weight of the world on their shoulders--and it really does seem to be up to them to save everyone after all.
Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?
Novik is also the author of other fantasy novels featuring main protagonists I love: Uprooted and Spinning Silver as well as the first two in this Scholomance series, A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate.
I feel compelled to also mention that Novik has a series of nine books about dragons, the Temeraire series. The dragons talk and are haughty and greedy and intensely loyal to their riders, Novik explores world politics and the intricacies of nations' relationships and airborne dragon battles within the books' alternate history, and the human protagonists are wonderfully faulted and fantastic.