- A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer
A lovely bit of alternative reality period fantasy. This takes place in the very early 1900's where magic and imaginary countries exist within Europe. The feel of the novel has fleeting impressions of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials (incidentally, published after ACoM), Tolkien, J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series (also published after Stevermer), Lloyd Alexander (particularly the Westmark trilogy), and Robin McKinley, as well as others I can't recall. The story remains very original, but comes closest to those particular fantasy classics, which was an unforeseen boon as the sixth Harry Potter is nowhere in sight. I really only read this to get to the newly released sequel. So this was another unexpected, pleasant surprise.
I had some issues with the book, though. I never really got a firm grasp of the temporal setting, which would feel like something from the Middle Ages and then the Victorian Era. There are time-markers like trains and a rare car, but generally, I was confused. This was also a case of DiNoE - Desperately in Need of Editing. What happened to the editor? I'm thinking s/he went on vacation and this was harriedly skimmed by some underpaid recent college grad. This could have benefited from a tighter pace, a clearer plot, and an economy of words. Also odd but not really negative, the secondary characters were more vivid and more interesting than the driven, but slightly aloof protag, who was uncharismatically named Faris. Fortunately, the overall book charmed me enough to give this its four stars. I took a shine to the characters, their passion, their mission, but I don't expect everyone to. The ending had me reeling for a while, although that simply may be because I haven't read a fantasy in a long while. I found the adventure stimulating, authentic, and well worth the read.
- A Scholar of Magics by Caroline Stevermer