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A College of Magics (A College of Magics #1)

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  4,626 Ratings  ·  221 Reviews
Teenager Faris Nallaneen is the heir to the small northern dukedom of Galazon. Too young still to claim her title, her despotic Uncle Brinker has ruled in her place. Now he demands she be sent to Greenlaw College. For her benefit he insists. To keep me out of the way, more like it!

But Greenlaw is not just any school-as Faris and her new best friend Jane discover. At Greenl
Paperback, 480 pages
Published October 13th 2002 by Starscape (first published March 1st 1994)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 04, 2012 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction-fantasy
Picked this up as an antidote to Grossman's The Magicians, for which purpose it is recommended. Women doing things! A magical college that produces functional humans! An academic community I totally recognize! Protagonists I don't want to drown! A protagonist who undergoes change and grows the hell up and deliberately chooses political power! Seriously, I have so much love for Jane and Tyrian and Eve-Marie, and Faris gets better throughout the book, and I hope very much they all remain awesome i ...more
Apr 05, 2016 Andree rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Been meaning to read this for a while, pretty much since Sorcery and Cecelia to be honest.

But this never really worked for me in any way. It completely sidestepped the mark. The setup is interesting, as is the magic system. The politics approached that. I always enjoy a good female friendship. I adored Faris's devotion to her country, and her responsibilities as their leader.

But there's something nipping at the edges all along. Something about the fact that neither Faris nor the reader ever see
Sep 11, 2008 Juushika rated it it was amazing
Shelves: status-borrowed
Faris is the heir to a small dukedom, but while she is a minor her uncle rules in her stead. As she approaches her majority, he sends her far away to attend a prestigious finishing school where she is taught lessons, social graces, andthe school's specialtymagic. Just before graduation, Faris is swept away into a whirlwind journey of politics and magic which leads her ever closer to the very foundation of the world she lives in. A College of Magics is intelligent and clever, realistic and fantas ...more
Jun 07, 2013 Taylor rated it did not like it
Not a fan of this book. I picked it up for $1 because the premise sounded interesting and the front had a quote by Jane Yolen "A large step up . . . from Harry Potter." I can't find her full quote, but my point of view would be that there was some clever editing going on. For me, the quote would read closer to "A large step up from twiddling your thumbs for four hours, but a far cry from Harry Potter."

The dialogue was stilted, and the characters had very odd relationships (or lack thereof). The
Jun 10, 2011 Erin rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
This is what I was expecting from The Magicians - it's strong throughout, never leaning on the setting to charm (life is good at the titular college, but things are just as interesting outside of it). It's a shame this has such a terrible cover, because it really did surpass my expectations and I know that I never would have picked it up if I hadn't been curious about Stevermer after reading Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot. It's nice to read a YA book that isn't constantly rem ...more
Mar 31, 2008 Rhiannon rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya-books
I really enjoyed this book. I was a little hesitant to get the book when I noticed the "age range" was projected for 9-12 year olds. Or maybe it was 9-12 grade? The reading level was never a problem... meaning I didn't feel like i was reading a children's book.
The narration seemed a little disconnected emotionally. Personal preference really comes in to play on that point. The style intrigued me, and I thought it was a great complement to the way Faris seemed to keep herself emotionally detached
Feb 11, 2009 Lightreads rated it liked it
A young Duchess is sent far away from home to magic finishing school in alternate Europe, and then there's plot and politics. I picked this up because I particularly liked Stevermer's half of Sorcery and Cecelia. This didn't hit the same sweet, simple notes. It's a nice enough book, with some interesting world building and a heroine with a temper, and you really can't go wrong with magical girls' college. But this book had a vague feeling of being all under glass for me. There's a fair amount of ...more
Oct 02, 2011 Ithlilian rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy
This book was terrible. The cover boldly claims that it is a "large step up from Harry Potter" and it couldn't be more wrong. The believable environment and rich characters of Harry Potter don't compare to a school that's barely even described and a cast of callous characters. The main character in A College of Magics comes off as stuck up and annoying. The magic doesn't seem very magical, and the lessons are ridiculously boring. Random plot threads are introduced but never finished and most of ...more
Sep 02, 2011 Kayt rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
2.5 stars

Faris Naralleen is heir to the dukedom of Galazon. Too young to rule, she's sent from her beloved homeland by her jerk uncle until he works out a way to rule even after she comes of age. At Greenlaw College, though, she discovers there's more to learn than just poise and history: magic.

A College of Magics, I will admit up front, is not a book that would appeal to me hugely even if it didn't have flaws, simply due to the writing style. I found it reminiscent of Robin McKinley with its hu
Dec 05, 2011 Amanda rated it it was ok
This book touts itself as "a large step up from Harry Potter." It lies. It lies A LOT. While it does start out fairly interesting, it rapidly because mundane and mostly plotless. The main character, Faris, is quite likeable, but besides that, I doubt I'll remember anything I read within a week or two. Definitely not worth the lengthy read.
Aug 16, 2007 Mauri rated it really liked it
Jane Yolen states that this book is "A large step up...from Harry Potter" and in some ways I think she's right. Things are a little less straight-forward emotionally and the magic is more complicated. But Harry Potter got thousands of kids who would rather eat worms than read to stay up all night with a 700-page book. I doubt this book would appeal to such a large audience.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 12, 2016 GeraniumCat rated it it was amazing
What a lovely book! Only the second I'd read by Stevermer writing on her own, but it was so enjoyable. I'd been a bit put off, honestly, by the comparisons that seem to appear everywhere with Harry Potter, because it is partly set, as the title suggests, at a college, but this is so much more than just another school story.

Faris Nallaneen is sent to Greenlaw College by her uncle, to get her out of the way, she is sure. When she's 21 she will be Duchess of Galazon, but that is 2 years away, and
Jun 22, 2009 Hollowspine rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Tamora Pierce, Diana Wynne Jones or J.K. Rowling
Shelves: ya
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
SO this might only be good because I was really sick when I was reading especially the beginning of the book. I mean, I know that these girls are very politically minded, and in politics the speak is drenched in political correctness making everyone very careful with their words, and insults being said no only with a smile but drenched in context. Still, I don't think I should have been thinking "why is the main character going to kill this idiot for saying that?" most because in the setting the ...more
Nov 10, 2015 Julie rated it it was ok
I first gave this book three stars, but after further consideration, I’m dropping down to two. There were some entertaining lines, and I enjoyed the clever depiction of British stiff upper lips. I’m not sure if that’s enough to award it three stars, though. The title is misleading: our heroine, Faris, is packed off to a college of magics at the beginning of the story, but she is only there for a small fraction of the book, and the depiction of the school is pretty fragmented. Magic is not ...more
Dec 27, 2013 Kate rated it really liked it
12/2012 Of all the Caroline Stevermer I've read, this is my favorite.* The first half or so of the book is really a story about college. It resonates with me because it is so much like my college experience (minus the evil uncle back at home, of course). Faris finds her place at Greenlaw, and falls in love with it, and finds her place among her friends. And there is magic, and it's a very different sort of magic. The second half of the book (view spoiler) ...more
Feb 03, 2010 Diana rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, young-adult
I hate to confess this, since this was a beloved book recommended on a few blogs and GR... but I was lukewarm about this book. I thought it got better at the end, once we saw how the warden/world theory related at all to Faris' life.

I don't get the point of Menary, though-- her character's supposed to serve as a foil, but I prefer my antagonists to have a little more development. I also found the story-telling to be a little uneven. Periodically, Stevermer would dwell for pages and pages on the
May 11, 2016 Meredith rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
This is basically the book version of wasted potential. It's so awesome, and yet so sucky. First things first-it is not always best to jump right into the middle of the action. It took me about 200 pages to figure out why Faris was so depressed about going to school. Also, it took me at least half of the book to figure out what the structure of the world was, but that should have totally been explained in the first section. Sigh. Sometimes I think that fantasy authors try so hard to be lyrical ...more
Nov 06, 2010 Julia rated it it was amazing
This is such a wonderful book that I have a hard time summing up. It's set in a turn of the century Europe that is similar to our own. Magic exists, and is something that proper young ladies are taught. The book chronicles the adventures of Faris Nallaneen the rightful ruler of a tiny nation state, who has been exiled to a school in England by an appropriately wicked uncle. There are intrigues, magic, tea and transformations. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical British ...more
Aug 02, 2014 S rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult, fantasy
The comparison to Harry Potter on the cover is unfair to both books; the writing style is closer to a very dry Georgette Heyer than anything by Ms. Rowling. And 'Ages 10 and up', really? I doubt most ten year olds would be interested in the complexities of European politics before the Great War.

Flawed, and with a somewhat infuriating ending, but interesting enough to make me want to read the next book. I fell in love with Jane, and her friendship with Faris is beautifully written. Just don't be
Aug 17, 2015 Cathi95 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2015
(Fantasy 1998) This is a delightful book that is the first of this series, although I guess I forgot to put it in here after I read it. Faris Nallaneen is the heiress to a small country (in Europe, perhaps?) and is at odds with her caretaker and uncle, Brinker. As she waits to come of age to rule by herself, she is sent to Greenlaw College, which is a women's college of magic. She meets friends and foes, and learns about herself as well as her powers. I don't want to give away anything, but it ...more
Stevermere has an unusual writing style for a fantasy writer--a terrific ear for historical context and language, a judicious use of dialogue, lots of subtlety in terms of character development and foreshadowing. Her prose is never too flowerly, and yet one can almost believe she wrote this book when it was set--in 1908. Never a single anachronism, even as she writes of magic and derring-do among witches. Wonderful, even the third time 'round.
Mar 06, 2010 Zoe rated it really liked it
Shelves: macmillan
It was slow getting into it, but ultimately more than worth the effort.

The characters are... interesting. In a good way. Very acidic and sarcastic, which happens to appeal to me.

Umm... confused in parts, just because some of the interactions were odd. Interesting concepts. I still don't know how much I like the arrangement of magic in their world. I dunno'.

Anywho... this is jumbled and mostly incoherent. Sorry.

Definitely recommend to anyone who appreciates Harry Potter.
Jan 23, 2008 Kami rated it liked it
This was a fun read and would have been a four star for its originality, except I hated the ending. I won't write any spoilers but I really didn't like how things turned out at all. Plus, I thought the main character was a little immature, well, more than a little immature a lot of the time. But then, I guess if I can get sucked into the story enough to be so annoyed at her and the ending, it was pretty engrossing.
Jan 04, 2015 Meagan rated it liked it
I have been on a hunt for awhile for books like this because of a project I'm working on. And well, I thought I really liked it at first, but finishing it because a pain.

I think part of it how dated it because of how distant the third person limited is. Like, in Harry Potter, our lips are basically behind Harry's neck.

In this we're like a spotlight 20 feet away.
Linda Cee
Mar 12, 2012 Linda Cee rated it it was amazing
I can't believe I never added this series to my shelves here on GR!!! It's one of my very favorite books, I love the characters (especially Jane!)and I like how even though the plot is quite clear the author leaves enough to the imagination that you could spend hours after you finish it just thinking about the "possibilities"
"It seems I have to save the world."

"Oh, dear. Do you have the training for that?" Jane asked dryly.

Faris smiled and leaned back in her chair. "I doubt it. But it seems I am the warden of the north."

So many people seem to have disliked or downright hated this book, which is heartbreaking to me, as it is my favorite book in the whole wide world and has been for more than a decade; I come back to read it again and again and again, far more than I've read any other book in my collection. Much of th
Feb 11, 2015 Katie marked it as did-not-finish
I read about half of this, but was just bored. Oh well.
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(from website)
Caroline Stevermer grew up miles from anywhere on a dairy farm in southeastern Minnesota. She has a sister and two brothers. After high school, she attended Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.A. degree in the history of art. She knew she wanted to be a writer when she was eight years old. She began by writing stories in her school notebooks. (They were not good.
More about Caroline Stevermer...

Other Books in the Series

A College of Magics (3 books)
  • A Scholar of Magics (A College of Magics, #2)
  • When The King Comes Home (A College of Magics)

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“Faris turned on him. "Why choose to wear black today, of all days? I know why I'm in black. Why are you? Mourning?

He looked startled. "One does not wear mourning for a servant."

You still don't understand, do you? He was not my servant."

He regarded her anger, aghast. "What then? What else could he be?

Her empty hands shook as she held them out to him. Her voice shook as she replied, "Glove to my hand." Slowly she closed her fists. "Everything.”
“You must form your own fashions in a way which demonstrates that you flout the standards from knowledge, not from ignorance. . . But I may flout the standards? . . . Of course. What do you think standards are for?” 15 likes
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