The Golden Enclaves
Author: Naomi Novik
Series: The Scholomance #3
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: September 27th, 2022 (Del Rey Books)
Saving the world is a test no school of magic can prepare you for in the triumphant conclusion to the New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate.
Almost singlehandedly – although backed by an increasingly large cadre of genuine friends – El has changed the nature of the Scholomance forever. But now that she is back in the real world, how will the lessons she learned inside the school apply? Will her grandmother’s prophecy come true? Will she really spell the doom of all the enclaves forever?
As the quest to save her one true love ramps up, however, El is about to learn the most significant lesson of all – the dire truth on which the enclaves and the whole stability of the magical world are founded. And being El, she is not likely to let it lie…
El is finally out of the Scholomance, but even though she is back in the real world with her mom at last, she cannot forget that Orion sacrificed himself to face the maw mouth and is still inside the school, his fate uncertain. Meanwhile, the mystery of enclaves being attacked and simply vanishing is continuing to cause a huge panic across the magical world as they don’t know which will be targeted next. Then there is her grandmother’s dire prophecy hanging over her head, the one that claims she will be the doom of all the enclaves. El sets out on a quest to save Orion, but first she needs to find a way to re-enter the Scholomance, and that’s going to take some powerful allies, not to mention a huge amount of mana. And along the way, El is about to uncover some secrets that could shake the very foundation the magical world is built on.
💭 Initial Thoughts: The Golden Enclaves was among my top 5 most anticipated titles for 2022. It has been several weeks now since I finished reading it, and I’ve spent all that time attempting to piece together a balanced review because this book turned out to unexpectedly be something of a letdown. I’m honestly still quite astounded that this book didn’t make my best of shelf for last year when I expected it to be a shoo-in. Nevertheless, let me backtrack a bit and talk a little about the story itself.
🌎 Plot, World building & Atmosphere: This book had a starkly different setting now that all our characters – save one – have escaped the Scholomance. There was finally more information about the enclaves around the world, way more than expected actually, and learning how the existing enclaves have been built proves to be a key piece for El in her quest. All those issues in the wider wizarding world that have been hinted at throughout the first two books now need to be dealt with as they are beginning to get out of hand. The magical world and the nature of the enclaves drew some parallels to our world, the political climate and history in particular that I found to be very interesting. This story moved around quite a lot as El went from enclave to enclave and we got a glimpse of more of this world than I expected to see in this last book.
The change of scenery with this book was abrupt and as a reader, it completely threw me off balance, going from the supremely stressful atmosphere of the Scholomance and the characters working day and night just to survive and get out in one piece to the real world. Sure, the world outside had its share of issues, with enclaves being attacked and destroyed by a mysterious wizard and El and company trying to figure out a way to rescue Orion, but I felt like simply the change of location cut the tension that had been built up throughout – not forgetting book two’s cliffhanger – in half. Bottom line – this book jumped straight into things and from there it was an overwhelming rush of plot, plot and plot, a huge change from the much more leisurely pace thus far.
The other crucial aspect of plot in this book turned out to be the maw mouths. They’ve played a role in the story right from book one, so that they end up being such an integral part of the conflict was not altogether surprising. Their connection to the enclaves and how they are created on the other hand – that reveal was thoroughly horrifying, and the truth behind Orion’s abilities completely heartbreaking. The attacks on the enclaves and who was behind it was something I started to guess at as the story progressed, but the way all these threads that were brought up throughout the series came together here was nothing short of masterful.
✍🏻 Writing & Narration: The pacing was definitely choppy with the first chapters dragging quite a bit. There was also a ridiculous amount of filler such discussions on pocket dimensions that really weren’t necessary and the time would have been better spent on other aspects. That said, the writing was still on point and the need to finally get all those questions answered which have been hovering ever since book one kept me turning the pages. The major difference between this book and the previous ones in terms of narration was that both books covered a six month long period whereas this one was only a handful of weeks, so this moved way faster once things actually got started.
👥 Characters: El was still an amazing character and I loved her arc and how far she has come from the abrasive, unsociable girl we first met. All the characters have grown a lot and despite this being narrated from first person, it was easy to connect to all of them on some level, not just El. Multiple POVs might have been interesting to see in this book, with Orion stuck inside the school, El hopping around the world and Liu with the whole Beijing plotline.
Going back to my point about this book focusing mostly on plot – after escaping a place like the Scholomance, the characters are going to have a level of trauma, and returning to the real world where they are now considered qualified adults and wizards should be a huge adjustment process. Yet the narrative takes next to no time to focus on any of that, which, given the nature of the first two books, I fully expected would be a part of this one. Sure, there were several chapters of El sitting around brooding, The rapid progression of plot also left no room for development for any of the secondary characters such as Aadhya or Liu. Their friendship was easily the best dynamic throughout the series, along with El and Orion’s relationship, yet both were very lacking this time around.
🎬 Ending: The ending didn’t tie everything up in a neat bow, but it was very, very realistic. I did expect a bigger showdown of sorts and a solution to put an end to the mals and maw mouths problem, but the route Novik chose really does make more sense. I’m more surprised at the fact that Ophelia just seemed to get away with everything she did – though perhaps that’s an opening for future books? With how much there was to unpack in those final chapters, this could have easily been another 100 pages long. It may not have been quite the ending I wanted, but it was definitely a satisfying one.
❓ Final Thoughts & Recommendation: The Golden Enclaves was in some ways a bit disappointing where action and tension is considered, but in other ways an incredible finale conceptually that wrapped up all the loose ends. I’m quite shocked at my own rating for this book, but after much consideration, I’ve decided to let it stand at 4.5 stars. And in terms of recommending this book? That would be a huge yes for both this finale and this series! The Scholomance is without doubt one of the most unique fantasy series I’ve ever come across and it has been a truly enjoyable read. It has been quite the journey and I’m going to miss these characters!
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
Other reviews in this series:
Fantasy is not really my genre. But this book sounds cool. I might give it a try. Thank you for sharing your awesome review with me.
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Thanks for reading!
Great book review, it was good that the ending was realistic.
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Thanks for reading!
I haven’t even heard of this book, but you did justice to it in this review. I love your review style.
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Thanks for reading! I’m glad you liked the review style, it’s one I started using just this year!
I’ve yet to begin this series – or read anything by Naomi. However, after reading this, I’m definitely interested. I appreciate your honesty and in-depth thoughts on the story and writing. Great review!
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Thank you Stephanie!