Still exercising the glorious flex of how the first book absolutely eviscerated the foundational concepts of the modern education industry, Book 2 delves into the consequences of system correction efforts (and the potential for over-correction), and how such seemingly benign endeavors, at best, swap the disadvantages of one group with the privileges of another, and at worst, further entrench a brand new sort of inequality that can hardly be accurately identified, let alone emolliated.
The inevitable conclusion is just so poignantly visceral that it almost belies the genuine reality of the allegory. The system isn't working. And it cannot simply be 'fixed'. It needs to be entirely torn down and created anew.
This novel also delves into the concept of blame for the entrenchment of inequity. The founders of the system meant it to be far better than they built it to effectively accomplish. Yes, exploitation and inhumanity was present at the conception, but for all their faults they tried to do right by the next generation and it's not fair (let alone productive) to simply castigate them for their failings without both acknowledging their efforts and also doing something to fix what they got wrong. Both within Novik's magical world and within our external reality, the school-system is abysmally flawed and needs to be entirely reimagined if we are to make any more significant strides of advancement as a species. The clear cut allegory of Novik's delightfully satirical explication is GLORIOUS.
I absolutely LOVED this book and HIGHLY RECOMMEND it to anyone over about age 10, though the more frustrated with the education industry you are (ie, high-schoolers, college kids, and their immediately concerned parents), the more viscerally you will react to the commentary presented here. I do however want to smack someone upside the head for allowing that ending to exist prior to the release of Book 3. I anticipate stalking through life like a trapped tiger until September when such misery will be granted absolution.