The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I really can't overstate this: I love this book. I loved the one preceding it, too, but I REALLY loved this book.
Because it was fun all the way down to the deepest levels, with all the eldritch horrors clawing their way into the school, with only a reasonable expectation of 1 in 4 kids making it out alive.
Because it had all the magical charm of Hogwarts without any of the sappy sweet. It was a fight and die with every last bit of your strength, casting the most deadly, mana-consuming spells non-stop whether you're trying to sleep, go to the restroom, trying to eat monster-infested slop, or trying to read in a library that had books that could eat you -- or consume your soul.
So wait, these books are horror? Action? With so much blood and gore slopping down the gymnasium that you can reasonably expect to go on a date AFTER killing hell-worms, and have a picnic in the fleshy ruins?
Well, yes. But it's also TRAINING. Magic use calls the evil. Puberty is when the magic comes strong and when the highest death count happens among the youth. The school DOES make the survival rate BETTER. Nominally. In a walled-off dimension of its own, surrounded by shivering horrors in the void. :)
Suffice to say, this next book takes the next step and shows us what GRADUATION is all about, with some surprising twists, an absolutely jaw-dropping action sequence, and an end that made me scream and want to throw the book across the room.
Ahem. Am I slightly upset? Maybe. But that doesn't diminish my utter enjoyment.
Easily one of the best fantasies I've read this year.
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