The Golden Enclaves (The Scholomance 3) by Naomi Novik

Stars: 3 out of 5

This book, even though it was a satisfactory conclusion to the trilogy, felt less well structured than the previous two. Also, it dragged. Hence the 3 star rating where the previous two books were solid 5 stars for me. 

I think my biggest problem is that this book spends too much time spinning its wheels. We pick up right after the awful events at the end of book 2. El is safe. El is back home with her mom, but El’s world has crumbled. She is traumatized by the events of the graduation. She doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. She is depressed. So she spends a lot of time mopping around. Granted, that was very true to El’s character, since she tends to overanalyze everything to death and circle around the drain, but it makes for rather boring reading. 

I also felt that the middle part of the book dragged and lost its focus a bit. Yes, we learned some big revelations, especially about the correlation between mawmouths and enclave creation, but it felt like we were retreading the same ground again and again after the attack on London. The whole middle part could easily have been condensed and made more fast-paced and exciting without loosing any of the impactful reveals and character development. This is the first time in this series that I was tempted to skip forward and just skim through the pages. 

I loved the confrontation at the gates of the Scholomance. It really felt like this was the culmination of all the threads so carefully set up in the previous books. This was the culmination of Orion’s story. Of the mawmouths and the enclaves, and of the Scholomance itself. I think it would have been a better book if the author had decided to end it right there and then. Unfortunately, she didn’t…

I understand that she wanted to leave her character for a happy-ish ending, but it felt rather forced and shoehorned into what was a rather bleak story at times. I liked how Orion’s arc was resolved at the gates of Scholomance. I would have been happy with him being bound to the school, because that’s what El and all of the wizards had asked of him and the school itself – stay and protect our children. The fact that suddenly he can travel freely everywhere he wants and still has his ability to “eat” mals even though El killed the mawmouth inside him… it feels like a cheep copout. It cheapens the sacrifices and hard decisions both had to make during the battle of Scholomance. 

I also wasn’t completely happy with the solution they found for the enclaves. It’s not sustainable in the long run. After all, El is not immortal. One day she will be gone and there will be nobody there to kill the mawmouths. And yes, people will always choose the path of least resistance if they can. Building Golden Enclaves is harder than normal ones and requires more mana investments from the builders. So give it a generation, and wizards will revert to building modern enclaves again. 

In order to get rid of that practice, there needs to be a huge shift in how people think. Unfortunately, I don’t think the ending of this book laid a good enough foundation for that. So this is a hollow victory, because nothing has really changed. Which is a little disappointing.

It was still a good read though. All in all, I liked El’s growth and emotional journey and the fact that she finally found a modicum of peace.

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