A College of Magics (A College of Magics #1) by Caroline Stevermer
Published: Starscape (2002), Paperback, 480pg
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Urban Fantasy
Teenager Faris Nallaneen is the heir to the small northern dukedom of Galazon. Too young still to claim her title, her despotic Uncle Brinker has ruled in her place. Now he demands she be sent to Greenlaw College. For her benefit he insists. To keep me out of the way, more like it!
But Greenlaw is not just any school-as Faris and her new best friend Jane discover. At Greenlaw students major in . . . magic.
But it’s not all fun and games. When Faris makes an enemy of classmate Menary of Aravill, life could get downright . . . deadly. (from Amazon)
I’ve never read a Caroline Stevermer book before, but I’ve heard good things. I actually remember trying to read this book when I was 12 and I hated it, so I was a little wary of reading it now, about 10 years later. But! After I got past the bumpy beginning, I actually liked it a lot.
I found the beginning bumpy mostly because I had to adjust to the writing style. It’s somewhat old fashioned, and it’s somewhat…unwieldy? All I know is that it took me a while to get into it, but once I did I rather liked the way the words flowed and how the language sounded. (I suppose I’ve just spent so much time reading modern-sounding books that the difference threw me off for a while.)
Anyway, the plot was somewhat disjointed. I really liked the part where Faris actually goes to Greenlaw, because it reminds me a lot of those movies set in the 1950s boys schools, like Dead Poets Society or something, and those sorts of things always fascinate me. And I really liked how Faris and her friends did more than just sit around and bake cookies (or whatever)– they went on adventures and tried not to get killed by school work, etc.
However, despite my fondness for boarding schools and stories set in them, I do think the second half of the book was much stronger than the first part. I don’t understand the point of having a school of magic where a) you don’t actually do any magic, b) the sorts of magic you can do there can only be done at Greenlaw and nowhere outside of it, and c) doing magic is outlawed. I suppose I can see what they were getting at regarding magic and responsibility…kinda. But it makes for a very dissatisfying fantasy book and I’m not even sure what the point was when Faris can do magic outside of Greenlaw and doesn’t get in trouble for it. What’s the point of all that Greenlaw-specific magic stuff when it doesn’t even apply for the rest of the book? Am I missing something?
Anyway, because of that whole thing I enjoyed the second half of the book much more than the first. It’s exciting, and things actually happen. I liked the political intrigue, and the romance, and the travelling, and the interesting psychedelic sort of thing that happened near the end. Menary was a good villain, though he was obviously insane and I felt a little bad for her.
Faris is an interesting character. I didn’t really like her at the beginning of the book because she was so brash and cynical and bitter. But she gets better, more passionate, and though she’s still a little bit bitter I think she has the potential to change even more in the future. I’m not entirely sure if I ended up liking her or not, but I do appreciate her sort of person (because they’re so different from myself!).
Anyway, the second part still seems like a different sort of book than the first part. It’s got a different sort of feel to it. The rhythm is a little bit different, and that threw me off. Maybe because Faris herself is changing, and so the book changes with her? Or…I don’t know. I think I am missing something, so if someone could explain it to me I’d be very grateful.
I feel a bit like I did after reading Hexwood. A little confused, but what I understood I really enjoyed. It’s got a sequel (right?) which I really want to read because I want to find out what happens with Faris and her love interest!
Read: October 2009