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A College of Magics Mass Market Paperback – Oct 2002

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 468 pages
  • Publisher: Starscape Books (Oct. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765342456
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765342454
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 3.1 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 105,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 57 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 14 Feb. 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The book centres on a headstrong young girl called Faris. She is the heir to a small Duchy, but untill she comes of age, her Duchy is in the hands of her wicked uncle...
Sounds familar so far? But it isnt, the book contains so many popular fiction themes; a wicked uncle, a school of magic, hidden magical talents, but none of them are quite as you would expect from the genre. The plot and characters are much more complex, much less black and white than one would expect from a book primarily about a "college of Magics". Harry Potter it is not! (dont get me wrong, Potter is great, but this is something else entirely).
Faris has three years till shes comes of age, untill then, her uncle has sent her away to school, to keep her out of his hair, and stop her getting in the way of any embezzlement he is doing.
Of course the last thing she wants is to be sent away from her lands, especially as she doesnt trust her uncle to care for them properly while she is away. In fact she tries to fail the entrance interview in order to be sent home straight away, but the school sees her potential and keeps her on.
She makes all the friends and enemies you would expect of a book about school, but as i said, the characters are more complex, and less black and white than you would expect. And the book is not entirely about her school life, the friends she makes there, and the lessons she learns help her when she reaches 21, and returns to reclaim her Duchy from her uncle...
I only discovered this author a few weeks ago, using Amazons "search for similar books" link, (which i strongly recommend you try), and i cant wait to buy all her other books - there appears to be a sequel coming out in April!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Helen Hancox on 27 Dec. 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The front cover of this book has the quote "A large step up... from Harry Potter" and initially I thought that this book was indeed a Harry Potter with female heroine book. That thought was wrong on many counts; firstly, the book is copyrighted 1994, a year before the first Harry Potter and therefore not deriving from that series, and secondly the magical college section accounts for less than half of the book. Greenlaw college is nothing like Hogwarts and Faris Nallaneen is certainly no Harry Potter. This book is entirely different and probably appeals to a very different readership.

Faris is a Duchess who isn't yet old enough to rule her province (Galazon) which is currently being looked after, on her behalf, by her evil Uncle Brinker. He sends Faris off to Greenlaw school in France to keep her out of the way - she will stay there for three years and then presumably graduate as a Greenlaw Witch, able to use magic, before taking over her Duchy.

The first third of the book describes Faris's time at Greenlaw. She is massively homesick most of the time but also makes good friends including Odile and Jane and also a significant enemy, Menary Paganell. There isn't that much discussion about the lessons at Greenlaw and her three school years pass pretty quickly in the book - most of the attention is on her interactions with her friends and the mysterious blond man who appears to be a bodyguard sent by her Uncle. He steps in and rescues her on a couple of occasions and she finds out that his name is Tyrian.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Scriber_scouse VINE VOICE on 27 Jun. 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'd give this 2 and a half stars, if only I knew how. Don't be fooled by comparisons to Harry Potter this is actually more like the love child of Enid Blyton's St Clare boarding school series crossed with a Tamora Pierce novel.

Feris, the heroine, is a great character, but this is quite slow moving to start with as she enters Greenlaw's School for Witches. There is very little mention of magic until nearly three quarters of the way through. Prior mentions of magic are alluded to in a much more philosophical way than HP, a zen approach that's all about perception, will and most importantly maintaining a balance in the universe.

Faris, is befriended by Jane who is her ally throughout the book, she is hated by Menary a distant relative and haughty princess-in-waiting. Faris during the course of her time at Greenlaw discovers that she is the Warden of the North and after a chilling fight with Menary, she is dispatched to discover her destiny and how she must mend a rift in the universe. The book becomes much more fun as she arrives in Paris and must avoid political assasins and resolve her relationship with her greedy uncle Benker to infiltrate the neighbouring kingdom of Aravis.

This would have been much more successful if it had been set in an entirely fictional universe; references to Britain, Scotland and France were jarring as the book is set in a largely feudal world where cars are sometimes used. Overall, very enjoyable especially once you get past 'twee' and 'quaint' sections of boarding school feuds, and plum cake in the study. Worth sticking with although I'm disappointed that it looks like Faris will not feature so heavily in the sequel. Also the love angle between Faris and her bodyguard Tymerian is very satisfying, especially the twist, perhaps one for Tamora Pierce fans.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 52 reviews
42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Original yet Odd 24 Jan. 2000
By Emily Snyder - Published on
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. Places are never given an exact location except by general reference (with the exception of their time in Paris). And the ending debacle is so surrealistic that one can hardly make hide nor hair of how Faris ascended the stair, or how she closed the rift, or very much of anything. The closing is also unsatisfactory, with no "happily ever after" but a sort of vague continuing that feels as though it ought to be significant.
Again, one must commend Ms. Stevermer in her ability to so replicate the disjointedness of Eduardian literature - the attempt to show life as it is and not as it ought to be - however the result is a strangely concocted novel that never quite comes together as a whole.
Those interested in Eduardian Literature, or Historical Fantasy will find "A College of Magics" interesting. Those searching for an encore to "Sorcery and Cecelia" would do better investing in Patricia Wrede's Regency Fantasies.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Miss Manners goes to Hogwarts 25 Feb. 2005
By E. A. Lovitt - Published on
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.

This would turn out to be a very proper, Edwardian excursion to the City of Lights if it were not for repeated attempts on Faris's life. She and Jane still manage to get in a bit of clothes shopping, and then Faris meets the man (or ghost) who interprets the results of her all-night vigil of magic, and points her toward her true destiny.

Meanwhile, there is a tangled web of Middle European politics to be gotten through, including the discovery of Faris's uncle's plot, more unexpected magic--Jane transforms a bomb into a hat and proceeds to wear it, thrones to be won and lost, and a love story.

"College of Magics" (1994) is a very unexpected and satisfying fantasy for fans of magical alternate history novels, and for those of us who also love a good comedy of manners. The sequel to this book, "A Scholar of Magics" was published in 2004, and I will definitely be reading it.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Entertaining, occasionally sparse 18 Dec. 2004
By Spacemouse - Published on
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. If the Wardens are there to keep balance, how exactly do they do this? Why is it necessary?

The ending seems to offer possibilities which aren't pursued (perhaps, as one previous review suggests, Stevemer intended a sequa about Faris that she never got around to writing). The result is unsatisfying. I don't want to reveal any details, but it's unclear where the relationship between Faris and her beloved will go-- if she's not going to marry him, will they be lovers on the sly (hardly socially acceptable in that time period) or will they just be "friends" and co-workers? It's as if the author grasped at a solution to Faris's romantic dilemma, but then let it go.

Overall, I do recommend this for fans of historical fantasy, particularly those who like less flashy magic and witty dialogue. I do NOT recommend it for those who are looking for a Harry Potter substitute: Greenlaw is nothing like Hogwarts, and the magic here is nothing like the magic in the HP books, or even in most Diana Wynne Jones novels. A better comparison might be the more recent and more successful _Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell_.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Quality writing and storytelling 14 Sept. 2012
By CeciM - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
If you enjoy well-written stories (good plot and pacing, believable characters, good editing, good storytelling) then I highly recommend A College of Magics and A Scholar of Magics. I discovered Caroline Stevermer from reading Sorcery and Cecelia, and I was curious about her solo writing efforts. In this duology the author delivers a solid story that left me hoping for more stories about this world. I strongly recommend this author for other readers who also enjoy fantasy fiction with strong female characters (as opposed to shrieky nitwits, self-absorbed drama queens, and clueless, reactive action heroines).

I'm happy to see more quality fantasy fiction being released for Kindle, and I am glad to see that this series hasn't been "repackaged" with the higher prices I've been seeing. Why not reward the author and publisher by buying two books you will definitely enjoy and might even love?
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Phenomenal Review 1 Dec. 2004
A Kid's Review - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Have you ever wondered what it might be like to be heir to the throne? What emotions might flow through you like a river? What sea of troubles might you get into? Well here is a brief look at just that. Faris Nallaneen may seem like your 18 year old, ill-tempered Princess. (But all in all she is definitely not out of the ordinary.) If you push her to the limit your head might burst into flames or you could be pushed off a sleigh.

The story takes place at Greenlaw College, but everyone majors in magic. You learn it, not practice it. Her reaction when she first gets there is pretty good, but she is a slacker.

The story starts when Faris is trying to claim her throne without getting killed first. Then learning she has a different destiny. The main characters are Faris Nallaneen, Jane Brailsford (best friend), Menary Pegan (enemy), Uncle Brinker, & Tyrain. Faris falls in love with one of the characters and another saves her life countless times.

Personally I really liked this book because of all the action and unexpected twists.
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