Thank you so much to Del Rey Books for providing an ARC so that I might write this The Golden Enclaves review!
As I said in my review of A Deadly Education, I was pleasantly surprised and had my socks knocked off by this amazing series.
As soon as I finished The Last Graduate, I knew I needed The Golden Enclaves immediately. Thankfully, it was releasing in less than 2 months so acquiring an ARC was possible and I jumped straight into it.
There was a huge cliffhanger at the end of The Last Graduate and The Golden Enclaves picks up immediately where it left off.
A Deadly Education was touted to me as a darker Harry Potter, and now that the series is complete, I can confirm that it is as good as Harry Potter and better in every imaginable way.
The Golden Enclaves Review
I have to tell you, I was concerned going into The Golden Enclaves.
I don’t usually read other people’s reviews before reading a book, but I wanted to know if anyone else had gotten an ARC yet. The one I came across was a 2-star, which made me nervous.
Without reading the spoiler section, I saw them say the conclusion to a beloved series was disappointing.
I’m happy to tell you that is absolutely not the case. The Golden Enclaves is a breathtaking, whirlwind adventure that exceeded my expectations in every possible area, with the exception of one.
I’ll share my one disappointment in a spoiler section below. For now, this review of The Golden Enclaves is spoiler-free.
As you can imagine from the title, the main focus of the book is really about El taking her sutras and building Golden Enclaves just as she’s always dreamed. However, she isn’t do it the way she wants.
As soon as she escapes the Scholomance, she discovers that the evil malificer attacking enclaves has struck again, and this time London is falling apart. Liesl contacts El for help when the weakened enclave comes under attack from a maw-mouth.
And so starts a string her swooping in to save failing enclaves as more come under attack from the mysterious evil-doer.
The Golden Enclaves is Full of Surprises
One of the great joys I find from reading is guessing things. I like to anticipate the plot twists and character motivations and predict what’s going to happen.
Most of the time I’m right. I’ve written a few books myself, and my brain is hardwired to dissect a story and understand plot devices.
So when I say The Golden Enclaves completely floored me, I want you to understand how massive a deal that is.
In both of the previous books, I was so engrossed in the story that I had no predictions whatsoever.
The characters and events just carried me along, and all the while Naomi Novik was laying the groundwork for the most ultimate of plot twists in The Golden Enclaves.
I didn’t even know she was doing it to me!
The realization that hit me about a full 60 pages before El towards the end of The Golden Enclaves was like a Mac truck hitting me at 75 miles and hour.
As soon as the theory formed in my brain, I scoured my mind for hints of it throughout the previous two books and they were there!
It’s a rare author that knows where Book 3 is going before they event start Book 1. Only two other authors I know are capable of such deep foreshadowing: Brandon Sanderson and J.K. Rowling.
I haven’t felt the emotion that washed over me upon my understanding of this crucial moment since Harry Potter.
The Golden Enclaves Spoiler Section
If you don’t want spoilers, I highly recommend that you skip to my final thoughts below.
This is your final warning.
I can’t delay the inevitable any further.
What Happened to Orion?
The Last Graduate left us with Orion shoving El out of the Scholomance and staying inside all by himself.
So as you can imagine, a significant portion of The Golden Enclaves is devoted to getting back to Orion.
Of course, when El left, Orion was staring down the maw-mouth Patience. And considering the only one capable of defeating a maw-mouth is El, she rightly assumes he’s dead.
So El’s goal is not to save Orion, but rather to kill Patience and end Orion’s suffering.
During this time, Liesl hooks up with El and in a moment of frazzled stress, El and Liesl have sex in an extra-dimensional space at Heathrow airport while waiting for a flight to New York.
Okay, this was a shock to the system. Orion’s last words to El were “I love you,” and this occurred not 7-10 days earlier. Most of that time she spent bawling her eyes out.
Fastest rebound ever.
The Twisted Romance
Okay, okay. She believes that Orion is dead.
But about halfway through the book, they rescue Orion because, surprise (or not), he’s not dead. He managed to kill every single mal in the Scholomance, including Patience.
A few pages later, she’s having “I missed you” sex with Orion in the Woods near her yurt in Wales.
The real moment of anger about The Golden Enclaves’ romance comes a few chapters later when El once again has sex with Liesl. This time on an airplane.
Some may call me old fashioned, but this seems like a blatant disregard for the sanctity of a relationship between two people. In other words, she cheated on him.
I can excuse the first time.
She thought he was dead…
…but he’s not.
I just felt that this plot point was totally and completely unnecessary. The only purpose it served, as far as I could tell, was to endear Liesl to El so that El would accept her help, without which she would have be unable to save Orion.
Besides that, Liesl plays absolutely no further part in the story. Sure, she’s there, but she’s not necessary. She doesn’t do anything crucial. Nothing that needs her to have had sex with El, twice, anyway.
Oh, and did I mention that Orion is basically a shell of his former self the whole book. Or should I saw for like a quarter of the book, because Orion is absent for the entire first half and missing (or zombified) a good chunk of the second half, too.
The End of the Romance
Orion never finds out about Liesl, and that doesn’t really seem to matter because the ending of The Golden Enclaves makes it very clear that Orion is staying in the fixed Scholomance as a protector of the children for all time.
I liken this to Will Turner being aboard the Dutchman while Elizabeth Swan is forced to only see him on certain days of the year where he can come on land.
Because that’s exactly the deal El and Orion make.
El is going to travel the world fighting maw-mouths with her ragtag band of heroes, and the only time she and Orion will see each other is between school terms, which apparently will be a thing now.
The end of the book, and the end of their romance.
It’s a satisfactory book ending, as book endings go. We have a vision of the future and can imagine it ourselves.
But the lack of a Happily Ever After somewhat puts a damper on the mood of an otherwise fantastic book.
Final Thoughts on The Golden Enclaves (Spoiler-Free)
The Golden Enclaves is action-packed from cover to cover. I had a hard time putting this down, and certainly didn’t want to.
El is an exquisitely fantastic character as always. The witticisms are as great as ever and I just love being in her head.
While The Golden Enclaves lacks any sort of massive world-ending battle like we saw in The Last Graduate, the stakes are no less intense and the story absolutely amazing.
The plot twist, or revelation, is one of the greatest I can remember reading in recent years, and instantly catapulted The Scholomance to my top 5 series of all time.
I rated the previous two books 5 out of 5 stars without hesitation, and unfortunately I couldn’t do the same her despite all the good things I’ve said (check out the spoiler section).
I have to knock off a star for the way the romance was handled in this book.
The Golden Enclaves receives 4 out of 5 stars for me.