A College of Magics
By Caroline Stevermer
Faris Nallaneen is heir to the Dukedom of Galazon. Until that time, her uncle rules in her place. To get her out of his way, he ships her off to the College of Greenlaw. Fortunately for Faris, the school’s specialty, magic, is something she will come to be very practiced in. When she is unexpectedly called home, Faris’s life becomes incredibly complicated, not only will she miss the school which had become home to her, but an incident involving magic will send her on a mission that will prove difficult both emotionally and physically.
This is a beautifully written book. It’s witty, sarcastic, and there’s enough adventure to give it a fairly wide scope. The politics are also interesting and become the story rather than the magic even though this is a story about magic — it’s the more the politics of the magical system and how the people and the world function. It did start off a bit slow but Faris, who does her best to be unlikable, is actually likable and I kept reading to find out what would come out of her mouth next. She’s stubborn, caustic, but funny and won’t put you off even if seems to be her mission in life.
I was, however, put off slightly by the College of Greenlaw and how they teach magic, which they don’t actually do. In fact, they ignore it altogether and tell students explicitly if they are caught practicing magic they will be expelled. It’s all theory but nothing practical and I didn’t understand how the magic worked. There is almost always a system; here it’s basically if you think it’s so, it’s so. Which is fine but there’s nothing, well, magical about it. It feels like it’s missing something. Faris was frustrated by the system and so was I. I kept waiting for an explanation but none came. There is magic performed though and it’s interesting when it happens but it’s theoretical and feels like a mere thought as opposed to something magical.
There is a bit of a love story and it develops nicely without becoming an overwhelming element. It’s slow and fits with the story; it’s not forced at all. I don’t want to ruin anything but it doesn’t end on a happy note and I was glad to see that since I feel that authors want to provide that easy ending sometimes. Faris sticks to her beliefs and it was nice to see a character do that without letting the love story become the reason for change.
I know my library has several of Stevermer’s books and I think I’ll be checking out a few more to see if she lives up to my expectations.
5 thoughts on “A College of Magics”
I really liked how Stevermer wrote her protagonist in When the King Comes Home, and I’ve been meaning to look into her other works–but the lack of a magic system, in a book about people learning about magic, is throwing me for a loop. Hmm…
I like her writing and characters but the magical part didn’t work for me. I still might try another book though.
Yeah, I didn’t understand the magic “system,” either, although I think…I THINK it was like, instead of doing MAGIC you were learning ways to manipulate the world around you? So it’s a kind of magic, but more like the sort of magic you’d expect a Neo-Pagan in OUR world to do, without explosions and sparkly lights and so on. It’s sort of an interesting idea, but it really fell flat for me and I think it’s probably the weakest point in the book.
There’s a sequel, too, but people have been telling me it stinks so I’m not sure if I should read it. But I do REALLY want to know what happens to Faris and her beau!
Finding out what happens to Faris and the boyfriend is really the only reason I want to read the second book. 🙂 You’re right about the magic too — it is about manipulating the world around you but it just doesn’t work in the book. There’s nothing, well, magical about it.
I remember being sad about the not-quite-happy ending, but I can’t remember exactly what happens between Faris and her love interest, whose name I also forget. :p Obviously it’s been way too long since I read this! But I do remember I wanted more explanations about the world and the school, and they weren’t forthcoming.