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A College of Magics    by Caroline Stevermer order for
College of Magics
by Caroline Stevermer
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 1994 (1994)
* * *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

A College of Magics is a superb, well-crafted romp through a Europe very like our own back in 1900 or thereabouts, with the small difference that magic is abroad in the land. Faris Nallaneen is heir to the small Dukedom of Galazon, located somewhere North and East of Ruritania. Until her coming of age, Faris is under the guardianship of her uncle, whom she fears and hates. To keep her out of the way, he follows her dead mother's wish and sends her to finishing school at the College of Greenlaw.

Faris goes to the College, and stays there reluctantly, particularly since she does not appear to have any talent for magic, which is the specialty of Greenlaw. However she learns many other things, including how to make a good friend and a bad enemy, and eventually is called to her magical destiny. Unfortunately, this demands her expulsion from Greenlaw before graduation, a trip to Paris to meet the Warden of the West, and the evasion of several assassination attempts.

Happily, she is accompanied by Jane Brailsford, who is her friend, her social and magical mentor, and an unflappable scion of the English aristocracy. The redoubtable bodyguard Tyrian, hired by her uncle but now sworn to Faris, travels along with them. They survive the journey on the Orient Express with its on-board assassins, and reach Galazon after a trip on horseback through the forest and an encounter with bandits. Faris even survives the reunion with her uncle. So, rather surprisingly, does he.

The scene then moves to the adjacent kingdom of Aravis. The ruined upper floors of its palace are guarded by roaming lions, and hold a secret which our heroine must uncover to fulfil her destiny. This turns out to be a surprise to everyone, including Faris. A College of Magics is full of wit, wisdom and swashbuckling adventure, but there is also a strong feel for atmosphere, and Stevermer has a gift for bringing it to life.

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