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A College of Magics Mass Market Paperback – October 13, 2002

4.2 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Galazon Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A gentle fantasy set in turn-of-the-century Paris, this novel's "magic" takes varied forms--some sorcerous (an anarchist's bomb transformed into a feathered hat) and some technological (an early motorcar ride). Young ladies of good families are sent to Greenlaw college to acquire the social graces and become marriageable. But some also learn varying degrees of witchery, although it is expressly forbidden to practice magic on campus. Teen hellion Faris Nallaneen, Duchess of Galazon, her best friend/social arbiter Jane Brailsford and Faris's blood enemy are all expelled from Greenlaw after exercising hitherto unguessed magic talents. Faris and Jane head to Paris, where Faris discovers that she is to inherit not only the throne of Galazon but also the supernatural post of Warden of the North. One wishes Stevermer ( The Serpent's Egg) had described the particulars of this elevation, but in fact this narrative is weighted more toward romance than to conventional fantasy. Though Faris can see things no one else can, she also endures custom fittings of haute couture , masked balls, marriage proposals by middle-aged kings and ambitious socialists alike, attacks by politically correct highwaymen and an attempted poisoning on the Orient Express as she attempts to take her rightful title. Clever and witty at its best, this is generally a pleasant read.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In this worthwhile addition to alternate-world fantasizing, Faris Nallaneen, a young noblewoman in a quasi-Edwardian society, goes to college to learn magic and upon graduation is promptly dragged into a lively and perilous series of intrigues. The book splits into two separate stories at the point where Faris has finished her training, but balancing against this structural flaw is much wit, intelligence, and imagination. This is one of those books that is less successful than the author intended but far from a failure. Historically knowledgeable fantasy readers will appreciate it. Roland Green --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 9
  • Series: A College of Magics (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Starscape; English Language edition (October 13, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765342456
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765342454
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,770,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Having just read the delightful but incredibly difficult to find "Sorcery and Cecelia," which Caroline Stevermer co-wrote with Patricia Wrede ("Mairelon the Magician;" "Magician's Ward"), I was eager to read more by this author. Imagine my joy, then, when I learnt that Ms. Stevermer had written another book in the fascinating sub-genre of Historical Fantasy.
While "Sorcery and Cecelia" is set in 1817 Regency England, "A College of Magics" catapults us a hundred years further, to approximately 1908 in Edwardian Europe. The story follows Faris, the young Dutchess of Galazon (which, one presumes, is supposed to be located somewhere east of Austria and west of Romania) as she spends three years at Greenlaw University before returning to reclaim her place in politics. The catch? She's just found out that she's the Warden of the North - and that she must mend the rift her grandmother made in the fabric of this reality.
Ms. Stevermer writes in a language much akin to the literature of the time (cf. E. M. Forster, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, etc.) - complete with random moments of insight, liberally strewn metaphysical poetry, snips and snatches of song and culture, and occasional forays into the world of subconscious or "sensation" writing. However, perhaps because of this attention to the time period, perhaps for some other reason, the story suffers several major flaws:
The plot is rather dreamlike and...strange. Often new plot lines will be introduced without explanation or reason - and then just as quickly dropped. The Wardens of the World are explained only in their existence but never fully in their capacity. Characters are introduced, given a place of prominence, and dropped after a few chapters.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
"A College of Magics" is for Jane Austin fans who are also fond of fantasy. The magic is not the Harry Potter 'swish and flick' variety, but something altogether strange and beautiful. Most of the time the heroine, Faris Nallaneen does not even realize she has done anything magical.

The setting is an early 20th-century alternate world, where young ladies are sent to Greenlaw College (in 'real' life, the Benedictine Abbey of Mont St. Michael!) to learn Greek, Latin, Deportment, and Magic. Faris Nallaneen is heir to the small Middle European dukedom of Galazon. Her uncle, who rules Galazon until Faris's majority sends her kicking and screaming off to Greenlaw until his other secret plan for her future matures. Naturally Faris resents this, but she slowly begins to make friends at school and also acquires one mortal enemy, a distant relative named Menary.

Menary is one of the more interesting students at Greenlaw College. She possesses a wild magic, whose source is unknown to her teachers. She is also fond of anything in trousers, but very unfortunate things happen to her lovers. She is finally expelled on the morning after Faris's magical vigil, after turning Faris's friend, Tyrian into a tomcat. Our heroine loses her temper and sets Menary's hair on fire:

"It was not natural fire, Faris realized...It blazed pale gold and green, Menary's wild halo. In its own way, it was beautiful, as cold and strange as the northern lights."

Naturally, after this breach of etiquette, Faris is also asked to leave Greenlaw College. She sets out on a mission to Paris with her friends Jane, a professor at Greenlaw, and Tyrian, who has been restored to his former shape.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
First of all, I enjoyed this book. It should offer an enjoyable "read" for those who like historical fantasy. (Although reviews refer to it as Victorian or Regency, it is actually Edwardian: the novel itself refers to the reign of King Edward.) I found myself wishing I knew more about Edwardian Europe--I'm more at home with the nineteenth century, so I couldn't place all of the cultural references. True history buffs may fair better, and may enjoy picking up references to poetry and novels.

However, as reviews have mentioned, the work has flaws. I didn't feel that the use of magic was explained very well, particularly with regard to the education offered at Greenlaw. Exactly what does having a vigil do: it gives students power, but how? How is it that students can go without being taught any magic at all until their third year of Greenlaw, then pass their vigil and suddenly be capable witches? Faris is halfway through her third year, but leaves without knowing much of how magic works, while Jane, only a year ahead of her, is a capable witch. How exactly are students like Eve-Marie, Odile, and Jane supposed to learn so much, so quickly? Stevermer may have an intriguing take on magical education in mind (magic as taught at Greenlaw is quite different from the usual school of magic or apprentice system, and she deserves credit for that), but it's just not clear _how_ witches of Greenlaw are produced, nor is it clear how magic works outside Greenlaw, except that it's harder to work. Perhaps some of this is cleared up in _A Scholar of Magics_, but it seems to be a flaw in this work. Likewise, as others have mentioned, it isn't clear what Faris's responsibilities as Warden of the North will consist of now that her initial task is done.
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