Can one live in luxury on a rotten foundation? Can a person enjoy the fruits of power when the means of obtaining it are wrong in every way? Naomi Novik‘s third and final book in the Scholomance series, The Golden Enclaves, is all about foundations – of people, of societies and of living spaces.
Last week we reviewed the first two books in the Scholomance the series which we had read earlier. The second book ending on a killer cliff hanger had us tearing out our hair and wanting to fling things at the author. We even scrounged about on the net and found a free download of the first chapter of book three but it did not do anything to alleviate the suspense. Fortunately The Golden Enclaves was released at the end of September and we managed to get hold of it and finally read it.
Warning – This review is going to have spoilers for the first two books!
At the outset, we have to say we are in awe of Naomi Novik’s imagination. How does one think up a world like this? It is so detailed and so different. The characters, both good and bad are so unusual, as are the horrific mals. Like most fantasy there is a clear line drawn between good and evil but there is also a compromise which is derived from practicality and how much evil does good have to put up with for the sake of accepting the inevitable. After all people are people. We loved the writing style and the book stayed with us long after we finished it.
El had managed to band together her friends at the end of book 2 and gotten everyone out of the school safely except for Orion who had pushed her out at the end and remained to fight the mawmouth ( the biggest, ugliest and hideousest type of mal around). El comes back into the real world, reeling from the loss of Orion and is pretty much immediately thrown into the deep end with enclaves being targeted, destroyed and on the verge of war. Much of the storyline from the earlier books comes together and Novik manages to explain many things which had been bothering us as readers in the first two books. There is a lot about how the magical community live in the enclaves, the questionable choices made by the privileged to maintain their lifestyles. Those who are on the outside are aspiring to get into the enclaves no matter how they are treated and how creepy the whole set up is. El’s mother was one of the few who knew she couldn’t live in an atmosphere like that. For a very good reason!
Usually the stories which captivate a reader the most, are the stories of sacrifice. They are the ones that last and stay with you for the longest time. Harry Potter’s mother’s sacrifice in saving him resonates through seven books. El’s father’s sacrifice in saving her and her mother is a recurring theme in this trilogy. There is something about the ultimate sacrifice that makes for a strong corner stone of a story. Like Aslan said, sacrifice invokes deeper magic from the before the dawn of time.
The book was wonderful. We know a lot of readers have had a problem with the whole El – Liesel relationship but we just put it down to Novik pandering to the requirements of publishers by belatedly inserting something which just doesn’t fit into the flow or the narrative. It is so unnecessary that it was obviously done under pressure. We just wish publishers would stay away from storylines and not insist on ‘requirements’ that jar the reading experience. A book like this will sell regardless.
The Golden Enclaves is a wonderful conclusion, fast paced, emotionally moving, about friendships and family that stand by you in your hour of need. More importantly it is about doing things the right way without causing harm. El’s upbringing by her mother stands her in good stead. El also finally acknowledges that it is because of the discipline instilled by her mother that she constantly pulls back from misusing her immense power.
We will definitely be reading this series again as they are not the kind of books which can be easily set aside. But please can we get an edition of The Golden Enclaves with the unnecessary bits deleted?
2 thoughts on “The foundation matters”
Despite the spoilers the fact that you were so frustrated in having to wait for book three and were not disappointed with it says it all.
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It was worth the wait. Thank you Mr. Knight.
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