- A Scholar of Magics by Caroline Stevermer
It's always gratifying when a writer gets better with successive works. The earlier readings seem more worthwhile in retrospect and you can rely more on the author's quality in the future. This sequel is a decade coming, but well worth the effort. It's also dissimilar to the original, being more of a spin-off with a supporting character from the first book, rather than a strict continuation of the previous plot.
That being said, who says different is bad? While I enjoyed the prequel, the years or experience in the meantime have done CS some good. ASoM is delightful alternate reality fantasy adventure that is entirely unlike its predecessor in tone or feel. This book is cheerful, sparkling, and charming. CS makes better use of the historical time setting, the principles that govern this magical England, and the complexity of characterization. Perhaps this is due to the author herself or a better caffeinated editor that didn't sleep through the writing of this book. The story has excellent continuity, coherence, charisma, and control (apologies for the alliteration), which were somewhat lacking in the more ethereal and dramatic Book One.
The characters steal the show here. The sensitive American cowboy and the independent British professor with a flair for fashion are charming and original, not to mention hilarious. CS again displays her knack for creating strong secondary characters, without losing the narrative thread's credibility. Also, if these books are appealing, ASoM follows very well with the Victorian period alternate reality books that Patricia Wrede has written (two of them with CS, not coincidentally).