A Scholar of Magics by Caroline Stevermer
Tor HCVR: ISBN 0765303086 PubDate: 04/01/04
Review by Madeleine Yeh
304 pgs. List price $19.95
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A Scholar of Magics is the sequel to A College of Magics and is set a couple of months after that book. This book stands alone very nicely. although one of the characters from A College of Magics is the heroine of this book, and another appears in an offstage role. A Scholar of Magics is set in an alternate Britain, where airplanes are a new invention and motor cars are uncommon, and the British practice afternoon tea as an art. In this Britain the ancient and honorable university of Glasscastle is teaching magic. The undergraduates and teachers spend part of their time maintaining the magic of Glasscastle, and the rest in studies or research.
As the story opens, Samuel Lambert is staying at Glasscastle. He is a visiting American cowboy, who is helping with a secret research project. Jane Brailsford, from the previous book, arrives at Glasscastle ostensibly on a visit to her brother Robin. In actuality she is there to speak to Gideon Fell, a teacher at Glasscastle. Gideon Fell has inexplicably refused to become warden of the west. The warden of the north has sent Jane to investigate. The four wardens are responsible for keeping the magic of the world in balance, and the other wardens need to know why Gideon Fell has refused to accept his responsibilities.
Other odd things are going on at Glasscastle. A mysterious stranger manage to invade Fellís study, penetrating the magic that protects Glasscastle. Another stranger attacks Fell. Secret blueprints turn up. Later Fell goes missing, as does Janeís brother Robert. Jane and Lambert go off to rescue them. They find more magic and confusion before rescuing Fell and Robert, and solving all the puzzles.
This book is more full of ambience then action. But oh it's such wonderful atmosphere. Glasscastle is at the heart of the book, and the author spends most of her time displaying it. There are the most serious and pompous fellows of Glasscastle, secure in the knowledge that the world revolves around Britain, and Britain revolves around Glasscastle. There are the green lawns of Glasscastle off limits to all but the proper fellows. The Gregorian Latin chants which keep the wards secure. However other people and places are also mentioned in wonderful detail. There is tea with the most proper British lady, Amy Brailsford, with fine china. Jane packs a picnic basket and a tea service for a dangerous rescue mission. Her brotherís powerful car can be coaxed to speeds of 30 miles per hour. There are various types of magic: the formal magic of Glasscastle, the individual magic of Greenlaw, the small magics of divination, the near mythical magic of the wardens, and the wild supernatural magic.
This isnít as satisfying a book as A College of Magics. Partly because it's more confined in time and space. All the events in this book happen in the course of a couple of weeks. The characters are gradually revealed to the readers, but they donít really have time to grow. This book seems to take the reader into the quiet, proper, peaceful, magical world of an England before the World Wars, and it's a very nice visit. Subtle detail make this a real world and not a bare stage with the characters walking upon it. This is a very well written book and a pleasure to read.