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–Subtle, huh? 🙂

Since I discovered I kind of enjoy reviewing books, and since I’m on this YA kick of late, I thought I’d do another review. I haven’t yet had a chance to get to the bookstore, where I plan to pick up Graceling, so I’m falling back on one of the only YA books I owned before Cindy Pon wrote the amazing Silver Phoenix: Caroline Stevermer‘s A College of Magics, published by TOR in 1994 and by Starscape (TOR teen imprint) in 2002.

college of magics

I read this book for the first time just before I traipsed off to college myself, so the timing was pretty much perfect. It’s set in alternate-history early 1900s, where a few details have been changed — like a couple extra countries in eastern Europe, and the existence of magic and the schools that teach it.

Faris Nallaneen, sullen tomboy of questionable noble heritage and heir to the duchy of Galazon, is sent by her underhanded uncle to attend Greenlaw College –according to him, so she can learn social graces; according to her, so he can get her out of the way for four years while he rules Galazon. Without getting far into the plot of this, she gets thrown out after a spectacular fight with her archenemy Menary Paganell, is sent to Paris to learn of her real heritage, and is then packed off to Galazon and surrounding duchies to, well, save the world.

There are a hundred things I love about this book, but I’ll spare you the full list and just say that outside of some rather drastic tweaks to the metaphysical and political structure of early 20th century Europe, it’s great history merged flawlessly with a fantastic premise.  Stevermer’s characters are beautifully drawn, and her gift for witty, razor-sharp dialogue is a showstopper all by itself. This book manages to have car chases, swordfights, political intrigue, assassins and magical duels alongside schoolgirl pranks, deportment classes, and romance. If you like Jane Austen, you should definitely grab this one.