The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the third book in the Scholomance series, which is basically Harry Potter's Hogwarts turned inside out and into a horror story. In this one all the cards are laid on the table, all the hints and portents revealed, and we find out who and what Orion Lake is, how the wizard enclaves were founded, and exactly why the extradimensional Scholomance school to protect (however imperfectly) the wizard children was necessary.
It's a lot. But it's also the best book of the series. This is first and foremost due to the fact that the protagonist, Galadriel Higgins, is grown up, knows what she has to do, and will let nothing stop her from doing it. She first sets out to rescue Orion from the monster-filled school before it drops into the void (if you've read the second book, The Last Graduate--and you had better; this one won't make any sense without having read the previous books--you know it ended on a breathtaking and maddening cliffhanger, and this story picks up immediately after). This happens about halfway through, and we still have many more revelations to go. Galadriel, or El, is reunited with her father's family and finds out the secret of her great-grandmother's prophecy, which has hung over her head all her life. She sets out to unravel the wizards' way of making enclaves once she realizes the blood and lives of murdered children it has been built on, and the climax takes place in the broken shell of the Scholomance. El, as the only wizard who can kill the monstrous maw-mouths, has to go up against (of course) Orion Lake, who has some rather horrifying revelations of his own in this story. It's a tense, wonderfully written ending, and I could not put it down.
The themes running through this story include the power of community and found family, as at the end it takes a great many people--friends El has made and accepted into her life--to help her defeat Orion's inner maw-mouth while also sparing his life. Even afterwards, when she still has a lifetime's worth of work ahead of her to restructure the enclave system, there are many others who will come along to assist.
One note on the book's structure. The only knocks I had against the previous two books were the way they were written: many fat paragraphs mostly holding the protagonist's inner monologues. That is still true here to some extent, but in this book we have dialogue! And actual conversations! It made the story much easier to read.
This entire series could be summed up as "HP told from the viewpoint of a dark, angry and immensely powerful Hermione," but it goes to some unexpected places and winds everything up in a most satisfying manner. As far as I'm concerned, it's a keeper.
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