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A College of Magics

(A College of Magics #1)

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  5,555 ratings  ·  285 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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Average rating 3.71  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,555 ratings  ·  285 reviews

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Jan 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: magical, school
This book is a travesty. I hardly know where to start.

It might be best to start with the claim on the front and back covers, from Jane Yolen, that this book is superior in all respects to Harry Potter. I'm not sure what yardstick she's using as a comparison, but it certainly isn't plotting, characterisation or reader engagement. Perhaps it's the dubious claim that this book is better written, which is a nebulous claim in any circumstances, and seems to be levelled here because she can't think o
Feb 21, 2012 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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 13, 2012 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
Jun 07, 2013 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
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
I love almost everything about this book. A lot of the reviews on Goodreads take issue with the fact that it's not what it was sold as: I don't care much about that.

It's a three-volume novel in one volume. The first of those three volumes is a story about a magical women's college-cum-finishing school named Greenlaw, which owes more to girls' boarding school adventure stories (an excellent genre of book) than to anything else. It's very good at what it is, but the real fun begins when Faris leav
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. ...more
Sep 11, 2008 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, and—the school's specialty—magic. 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 fant ...more
Zen Cho
May 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school-stories, sff, ya
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
"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
Oct 02, 2011 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
Jun 06, 2011 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 24, 2008 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 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
Jenny Mackinlay
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this gazillion years ago and really enjoyed it. Maybe it's time to reread. ...more
Bryn (Plus Others)
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spec-fic
I loved this; it is like a school story by Angela Brazil crossed with a Ruritanian romance (think The Prisoner of Zenda) with added magic. There are some male characters, but the majority are women, and the writing is very soothing; everything is explained and people talk to each other a lot and there are some very funny moments. It is not particularly well-crafted; the plot jumps around a bit and a lot is done by impression rather than really developed, but I didn't care, it was a perfect book ...more
Sidsel Pedersen
This is such a different story. It might start as a school of magic story, but the title is really misleading and the cover makes you think it is a kids book - but really it is at least a young adult. The main character is young yes, but the story isn't a simple story. It is quite philosophical and in parts kind of slow. The magic is really interesting. A lot of the story is about friendship and responsibly.
I quite enjoyed the story, but it didn't grib me and drag me in to keep me there. It was
colleen the convivial curmudgeon

I'm really torn on this book. It wasn't bad, and it was enjoyable enough while I was reading, for the most part, but I wouldn't really think about it much when I put it down. Not really compelling reading.

For one thing, I didn't love the main character. She had her moments but, well, all of the characters, really, never felt fully fleshed out and "alive". Things sort of happened sometimes that didn't make much sense. Time passed and we'd suddenly skip months with a little sort of "and things
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: very-much-yes, fantasy, ya
A good book, even though it's called A College of Magics when it's not really about a college of magics in any way. They spend like... the first fourth of the book at a college of magics, and even then that's not the real focus of the story itself, much less of our hero Faris. Contrary to appearances, it's about Faris coming into her thrust-upon magical role, and semi-related political shenanigans.

I don't have a whole lot to say, except that there was a ton of actual attempted murder in this bo
Kayt O'Bibliophile
Aug 31, 2011 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
Apr 27, 2012 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
Aug 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, teenbooks
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. ...more
Nov 28, 2011 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. ...more
William Leight
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was originally published in 1994, so Stevermer could have no idea that a few short years later a book featuring a school where one goes to learn magic would have a totally different resonance. "A College of Magics" shares fairly little with Harry Potter, though, not even the first (and best) part, which is set in Greenlaw College, where, indeed, students come to learn magic. The student scenes have an elegance and sophistication that is in keeping with the book's romanticized Edwardian ...more
Jul 11, 2018 rated it liked it

This is one of those books I’ve seen recommended many times over the years, but for some reason had never read (even though I like the series Stevermer co-wrote with Patricia Wrede a lot). It was pretty good! It’s about a girl, technically the duchess of her home nation, but her uncle has been ruling in her place, and now he’s forcing her to go to a far-off magical boarding school (I will say the world building here is a bit odd—it’s like Europe exists, an
A young heiress Faris reluctantly gets admitted to a mage school, where you don't even speak of magic. It's all very hush-hush, and our protagonist is as confuse as the readers when weird stuff keep happening. Luckily, there are a misterious bodyguard and spunky best friend to keep things in focus!

This book doesn't really have a plot - so keep it in mind, while being led on a mery goose chase along with Faris. Stuff happens, plot drags, then plot picks up, then one gets lost, then one loses int
James Stoddard
May 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I almost quit reading this book, thinking I had fallen into a Victorian chick-lit novel--after all, the heroine attends a college of magic that does not allow its students to actually practice magic, and the early part of the book mostly involves repartee' among the female students. I'm glad I continued on, however. This isn't a book filled with action, though there are definitely some moments of excitement, but I enjoyed it immensely, anyway. The writing style is excellent, the characters likab ...more
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's the kind of book that is right up my alley, though I feel badly for all the people who came to it thinking it would be another HP, thanks to Yolen. It's not HP and for that I am grateful. I loved the voice and would read more by her. At the same time, I recognize there are some plotting problems with the book. The author is more talented when it comes to building a world and creating dialogue than at making things happen.
Also I feel a bit smug that I guessed correctly that the author has be
May 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: magicians
This could’ve been a five star book for me. The characters, setting, ideas, and ending are all right up my alley. I just really found the beginning to be a little slow/confusing/convoluted and there were some editing changes I would have made all the way through. It definitely improved as I went along though!
Jul 08, 2020 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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.

Other books in the series

A College of Magics (3 books)
  • A Scholar of Magics (A College of Magics, #2)
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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?” 16 likes
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