A Scholar of Magics

Jane Brailsford is one of my favorite characters in Caroline Stevermer’s A College of Magics. In A Scholar of Magics, Jane returns, bringing her cool sense of logic and fashion to Glasscastle University when more than magical studies are underway.

A full witch of Greenlaw and friend to Faris Nallaneen, warden of the north, Jane is no helpless female. Set in an alternate Edwardian England, Jane is no stranger to motorcars, magic, and intrigue. When the warden of the North sends Jane on a quest to Glasscastle  to convince the truant warden of the west to take up his duties, Jane finds herself embroiled in a magical plot of global proportion.

Inviting herself for a stay in her brother’s home, he being a fellow of the exclusively masculine Glasscastle University, Jane meets Samuel Lambert, American sharpshooter-cum-research subject and roommate of Glasscastle fellow Nicholas Fell–the reluctant warden of the west.

Jane has a talent for getting into trouble and this time is no exception. When Fell’s study is looted by a mysterious man in a bowler hat, Lambert and Jane decide to follow a trail that leads them ever closer to danger and discovery.

Whereas A College of Magics was a sort of female bildungsroman, A Scholar of Magics is definitely an adventure.

I found that the sequel was a lot more fast-paced than the first book in the series, but this is understandable given that the first book documents Faris and Jane’s school years, while the sequel takes place over the course of a few days.

Much of the novel is taken up with Lambert’s thoughts concerning Glasscastle and his position as an American outsider, but his insights were interesting and often gave way to heated discussions with Jane or Fell.

Overall, I like Scholar even more than I like College, which is not something that I say very often when it comes to sequels.

the duchess and the tower

On a quest for strong female characters in fantasy fiction – Part Deux

college of magicsI love a good bildungsroman and if it  breaks the mold of male coming-of-age stories, even better. Caroline Stevermer’s A College of Magics is most assuredly not your typical coming-of-age novel.

Set in an alternate Belle-Époque Europe  where elemental magic can be harnessed by a select few, the novel follows the adventures of Faris Nallaneen, Duchess of Galazon as she  learns the meaning of duty, responsibility, and love.

Shipped off to Greenlaw College until she reaches her majority, Faris is certain that her Uncle Brinker, steward of Galazon, is intent on keeping her out of the way so he can perform his own devious end. A college for the magical education of young women, Greenlaw is protected by powerful wardens that deny the practice of magic on school grounds. In Faris’s opinion, the place is just another finishing school.

Desperate for Galazon, Faris finds an affinity with the prim and anything-but-proper Jane Brailsford, whose friendship keeps Faris from becoming too homesick and forces her to view her duty to Galazon and the magic of Greenlaw in a new light. But there is more to Galazon than skipping class for a pot of tea and three-volume novels in Jane’s study, as Faris soon learns. Making an enemy of Menary Paganell, Faris begins to see that some magic is deadly and there are those who would use it for their advantage.

A dangerous trip across Europe, a magical quest, mysterious characters, and political plots make Faris’s coming-of-age quite an adventure.