23 February 2010

A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer

When I read a YA I'm never sure whether it's going to be a wonderful experience or a disconcerting "oh dear, if only I'd read it when I was younger, I'd have loved it".

A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer works as an adult novel. Neither heroine nor hero (not that our heroine needs a hero) are stereotypes. Yes, Faris is a young woman growing into her powers--that's the point of a fantasy quest--but her alternation between stubborn, dreamy, obsessed helps to make her different. And the ending asks her to pay a price I didn't see coming. Very effective.

The book pays a nod of homage to The Prisoner of Zenda and that field of romantic adventures. What it lacks is a rising sense of tension. The bad guys aren't bad enough. The threat isn't time limited. In its evil, the novel is YA. Accepting that, it's unfair of me to get caught up in the story and want it to be more.

A solid fantasy quest with an interesting world of magic, a mysteriously desirable college life and an attractive band of friends.

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