cover image A College of Magics

A College of Magics

Caroline Stevermer. Tor Books, $22.95 (380pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85689-2

A gentle fantasy set in turn-of-the-century Paris, this novel's ``magic'' takes varied forms--some sorcerous (an anarchist's bomb transformed into a feathered hat) and some technological (an early motorcar ride). Young ladies of good families are sent to Greenlaw college to acquire the social graces and become marriageable. But some also learn varying degrees of witchery, although it is expressly forbidden to practice magic on campus. Teen hellion Faris Nallaneen, Duchess of Galazon, her best friend/social arbiter Jane Brailsford and Faris's blood enemy are all expelled from Greenlaw after exercising hitherto unguessed magic talents. Faris and Jane head to Paris, where Faris discovers that she is to inherit not only the throne of Galazon but also the supernatural post of Warden of the North. One wishes Stevermer ( The Serpent's Egg) had described the particulars of this elevation, but in fact this narrative is weighted more toward romance than to conventional fantasy. Though Faris can see things no one else can, she also endures custom fittings of haute couture , masked balls, marriage proposals by middle-aged kings and ambitious socialists alike, attacks by politically correct highwaymen and an attempted poisoning on the Orient Express as she attempts to take her rightful title. Clever and witty at its best, this is generally a pleasant read. (Mar.)