Sweet Trouble

Rants, raves, book reviews and one girl's thoughts on life, the universe and everything.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Book Reviews: Caroline Stevermer

As noted a few blogs back, I recently brought home from the public library a bunch of books containing A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer, it's sequel A Scholar of Magics, Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer and it's sequel The Curse of the Blue tattoo.

I started with a College of Magics. This is an interesting sort of Elseworld Edwardian period piece, but the book jacket made my husband roll his eyes and ask if it was a Harry Potter rip off. I had finished the book by that point and hadn't gotten that vibe once, but I can see how he could jump to such a conclusion. This synopsis is more or less: A girl is sent to boarding school and discovers that not only is magic real, but they teach it at her school!

Similarities aside, the protagonist is an engaging young woman and the story is much more concerned with the historical aspect of "finishing schools for ladies" (which was predecessor to women's colleges) than it is magic. I found it to be an entertaining read and was pleased to find it's sequel to be even more so. A Scholar of Magics features a secondary character from the first book and focuses on the male equivalent of the girl's school. Think snooty Oxford with magical wards, add an American Wild West star and hush-hush research for a magical weapon along with an irrepressible, independent graduate of the girls school into the mix and you have an unusual and rollicking good read.

As fun as these two were, the third book in this alternate reality interests me not at all. Of the first two I'd even recommend the author's joint venture with Patricia Wrede as being the better novels. Stevermer and Wrede are good friends whose playful correspondence turned into the novels Sorcery and Cecilia, or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot and it's sequel The Grand Tour. The two writers role played in their letters, with each writing to the other's character, in the process creating a story. The resulting novel alternates the letters, the whole thing being told through an exchange between cousins in a Jane Austen-esque setting with a twist or two. I wish I had friends like that!



Meyer's books and Bray's will be reviewed in another blog.


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