Zen Cho's Reviews > A College of Magics

A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer
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's review
May 11, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: school-stories, sff, ya

** spoiler alert ** I loved this, to my mild surprise. A couple of complaints first:

1) I've already complained about this on my blog, but it doesn't make sense to me to have an extra country in our own world with goofy fantasy names like the Duchy of Galazon. "Faris Nallaneen" has no business existing in the same world with a name like Jane Brailsford. At least lah have more convincing names.

2) Ahhhhh Europe Europe Europe. I grew up reading the same books these Minnesotan writers read, or at least I assume they were the same books, because I see why they are so stuck on this particular idea of ~Europe~ (and never mind whether or not Galazon etc. are actually in Europe; they are all ang mohs and the landscape sounds European) and why they can't get out of their habit of writing like a version of Jane Austen watered down for modern consumption. The style and mindset have a potent charm; I don't deny it myself. But it's still frustrating to have a whole book with all these casual fun world-building references to Europe all that and hardly any acknowledgment that the rest of the world exists, save insofar as the rest of the world is under the subjugation of the fabulous British Empire. Tired lah. I'm glad I read the book, but I'm glad I don't feel I only have this kind of book to enjoy. When I was growing up I did feel like that -- and it wasn't good for me.

Despite the things that irritated me, I really loved Faris -- her determination, her temper, her smarts, her love for Galazon and her interest in agriculture. I sort of hope fantasy has moved on from the political mindset where it's all unquestioning yay aristocracy and ooh look at Jane and how clever she is at manipulating the accoutrements of class and feudalism of the "Faris, you are our ~true~ duchess" sort. But as I said, I do see the appeal. And back to positive comments -- I love Faris. I can never have enough of characters who are all about responsibility and debts and obligations -- I just about died at the scene where Menally (?? some stupid fantasy name that starts with an M) says, what do you have that I haven't had first, and Faris tries a couple of things before she hits on responsibility. Yessss. So satisfying!

Slightly odd ending -- I wish she'd kept Tyrian dead.

Went straight on to the next and got thrown out by too blatant positive references to British imperial interests, so who knows when I'll finish that.

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