Review: The Golden Enclaves

Posted: March 29, 2023 by in Books We Love (4.6/5 single_star) Meta: Naomi Novik, Fantasy, Young Adult

In THE LAST GRADUATE, our hero El and the students from the Scholomance have all survived graduation–except one. I know this is a spoiler, but you had better not come here without having read book 2, because I literally cannot talk about this book without giving spoilers. So go read it. Now. It’s totally worth it.

The impossible actually worked, and the only reason why it happened is because El and Orion were there, the two strongest of their generation. Unfortunately, Orion believed that the only way El could survive was if he stayed while she escaped. This was not in the plan, and at the opening of THE GOLDEN ENCLAVES, El is very angry, sad, and full of guilt–all the feelings. We spend the first part of book 3 dealing with the fallout as El deals with the surprise, suffers the emotional turmoil, and then starts to lay plans to go get him back.

However, she doesn’t have a lot of time. When they cast the spell to send the Scholomance into the void, a small link still connects it to the real world, but once the mana runs out, then Orion will be lost to them forever. But before El can save Orion, she has to get help–namely, mana–and the only places with that kind of mana are the enclaves.

She agrees to help London enclave destroy a mawmouth and in the process discovers that her ability to kill what was once unkillable has only grown. This gives her a new reputation amongst the wizards. And any wizard would be willing to make her an enclaver because of her once-in-a-millenia strength. When she goes to the New York enclave to speak to Orion’s parents and get the help she needs to save him, she discovers that his mother uses black magic, which surprises and terrifies El at the same time. Is it possible that Orion’s ability was manipulated or manufactured by his black magic mother?

As the story progresses, we learn a darker secret the wizards have been hiding for a long time, a secret so dark that they have to spell people into silence to keep it quiet. Unfortunately, it’s tied to the safety of the enclaves, and when El starts unraveling the secret, the foundations of the enclaves literally start to shake. This is when she begins to realize that the prophecy her grandmother said about her breaking the enclaves may actually come true.

El’s character arc reaches its culmination in THE GOLDEN ENCLAVES. When we first met her in A DEADLY EDUCATION she was a loner, cranky, brilliant, and driven. In THE LAST GRADUATE she takes those characteristics and saves an entire school. In THE GOLDEN ENCLAVES, she takes those characteristics and tries to save all of wizard-kind. Like I said before, El doesn’t do anything without going big. Her friends rather take a back seat this time around because El’s story shines so bright. We understand a little more about her mother, learn more about Orion, and more about the kind of people who operate the enclaves. These friendships weren’t as satisfying as they were in book 2, for me–it’s less about building them as it is about how useful they are to the story. Fortunately, the dynamics between Orion and El make up the difference.

Novik does a great job of revealing the mystery of the Scholomance in book 2. Now in book 3, we learn the mystery of the enclaves, why they’re hard to make, why they have to protect themselves from mals, and why the Scholomance is the way it is. And it’s all seriously messed up. The wizarding world is barely functioning anymore. And now El has to break it in order to remake it. Novik unfurls the mystery throughout the series until THE GOLDEN ENCLAVES where it’s reveled what’s really going on and answers all of the questions raised over the last two books.

In THE GOLDEN ENCLAVES by Naomi Novik, El discovers the real reason why wizard-kind is in danger--and decides to face it head-on.

The storyline in this book can feel a little disjointed as El and her friends travel to different points all over the world. But that’s the problem when you have so much world-building to construct. Novik is creating a wizarding world here that stretches from continent to continent, where something that one person does affects every single one of them, and how El becomes the only one able to fix what’s broken. The result is that THE GOLDEN ENCLAVES feels like it comes in two parts: the first part where she goes to try to save Orion, and then the second part where she tries to resolve the issues with the enclaves.

The ending is as gratifying as it is bittersweet. Now that I’ve finished the last book, I really want to go back and read the entire series again to catch all the foreshadowing in books 1 and 2. It’s been 2 years since book 1 came out so I’m sure I’ve forgotten quite a bit. But I’m also sure it’s a series where you could it enjoy it every bit as much the second time through.

  • Recommended Age: 13+ (older if you don't like the sex scenes)
  • Language: A handful of F bombs
  • Violence: A couple bad scenes without blood; peril
  • Sex: 3 scenes without detail; F/F sex scene without detail

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *