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A College of Magics
by Caroline Stevermer
468 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/YA

In alternate 1800s Europe, with the British Empire and Austria meddling in political affairs of small nations like Ruritania, Faris Nallaneen is the Duchess of snowy northern Galazon, currently ruled by her conniving-but-not-really-wicked Uncle Brinkar. He sends her to Greenlaw College (where the graduates are called witches behind their backs) to await the turning of her majority. What follows is a prototypical school-of-magic story, clearly modeled off the modern-day university rather than boarding school. Faris befriends various interesting people, Jane Brailsford in particular, and makes one significant enemy: Menary of Aravill, whose involvement I can't describe further without spoilers.

I picked this up as a light read, and finished it satisfyingly in one sitting; in that respect, and in the "neatness" of the plot, it's a classic YA novel. But this is very mature YA, in all respects save explicit romantic development; the political intrigue that I love so much in adult fantasy novels is not dumbed down. The ending is almost deus ex machina, but at that point I was too carried away emotionally to mind.

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Keix

January 2011

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