Literature / Scholarly Magics
A Historical Fantasy
series by Caroline Stevermer
, set in the early years of a twentieth century not quite like our own. In particular, magic is a rare but accepted part of life, and those with the talent are educated in schools such as Glasscastle University (for men) in England and Greenlaw College (for women) in France.A College of Magics
(1994) follows Faris Nallaneen's education at Greenlaw and her subsequent return to her Ruritanian
homeland to take her expected place in society (if her sinister uncle doesn't kill her first) and an unexpected responsibility left her by her grandmother. She is accompanied and assisted by Jane Brailsford, schoolmate and friend, and Tyrian, a bodyguard hired by her uncle whose loyalties are not initially clear.A Scholar of Magics
(2004) is a direct sequel, set in and around Glasscastle. Jane Brailsford travels to Glasscastle, ostensibly to visit her brother and also to deliver a message from Faris to the scholar Nicholas Fell, Faris's colleague in her new duty. Intrigue surrounds a secret government project being conducted at the university, and Glasscastle itself is threatened.
The two novels have been published together under the collective title of Scholarly Magics
There is also a distant prequel, When the King Comes Home
(2000), set in Aravill during the Renaissance.
This series provides examples of:
- Allohistorical Allusion: At the end of A Scholar of Magics, one of the characters departs for a tour of America on the Titanic, a famous ocean liner that has recently broken its own Atlantic crossing speed record.
- Almost Kiss: Jane and Lambert in A Scholar of Magics.
- Aristocrats Are Evil:
- In A College of Magics, the Duchess of Galazon falls under the "Dukes are relatively nice" exception; the King of Aravill and his family, on the other hand, are quite nasty.
- In A Scholar of Magics, the Earl of Bridgewater is the seemingly helpful authority figure who turns out to have been behind the whole thing.
- Baleful Polymorph:
- In A College of Magics, people who cross Menary Paganell have a tendency to wind up as animals.
- In A Scholar of Magics, turning people into animals is the function of the secret weapon being developed by the Agincourt Project.
- Beard of Evil: Faris's wicked uncle in A College of Magics has a neatly-pointed black beard. Jane speculates that he's covering for a deficiency of chin.
- Boarding School: The first half of A College of Magics hits many of the tropes for the Continental-girls'-school subgenre.
- Bodyguard Crush: Tyrian and Faris in A College of Magics.
- Cannot Cross Running Water: Witches and wizards become ill on when travelling on water, oceans included.
- Conditional Powers: The power a wizard gains in his or her Rite of Passage will be immediately lost if he or she ever tells anybody what happened during it. A College of Magics includes a scene where a witch who has acted in a manner unbecoming is stripped of her powers by being forced to publicly recount the events of her vigil.
- Evil Uncle: Faris's Uncle Brinker in A College of Magics.
- Friend to All Living Things: Menary in A College of Magics has elements of this, but her affinity is mostly with dangerous predators, and she's an all-round nasty piece of work.
- Hedge Maze: The King of Aravill's country residence has one that was designed and constructed by a wizard, and can become a trap where a person who goes in can't find their way out until the maze's owner lets them.
- The Highwayman: In A College of Magics, Faris and her friends are bailed up by bandits in the coach home. They turn out to be the noble and friendly sort, raising money to help the farmers ground down by Faris's wicked uncle, but the point is well made that the other sort are also active in the area.
- Historical Fantasy
- Illegal Guardian: In A College of Magics, Faris's Uncle Brinker is her guardian and regent until she comes of age, and fully intends to have settled things to his own advantage before she does. It's not him trying to kill her, though; she's much more useful to him alive.
- Inspiration Nod: Part of the plot of A Scholar of Magics is inspired by the 17th-century masque Comus, written for the 1st Earl of Bridgewater. A fictional contemporary Earl of Bridgewater is a significant character in the novel.
- Istanbul (Not Constantinople): Glasscastle is Glastonbury.
- The Lost Woods: The hero gets lost in them in A Scholar of Magics.
- Orient Express: Travelled on by Faris and her friends on her way home in A College of Magics. There is of course a murder attempt.
- Rite of Passage: Each student at Glasscastle and Greenlaw, if they last that long, will stand a private vigil near the end of their education in which they see a vision of something relevant to their powers and/or future, and gain extra magical ability.
- Ruritania: There's a bunch of them mentioned, with most time being given to Galazon and Aravill, neighbouring countries that were once duchies in a long-ago kingdom that fell apart. (Galazon still styles itself as a duchy; Aravill styles itself a kingdom, and is regarded in Galazon as getting above itself.)
- Secret Test of Character: Faris is given one on her arrival at Greenlaw in A College of Magics; after she finds out, she asks if everybody does, but isn't given a straight answer.
- Shout-Out: Graustark and the Ruritania are mentioned in the same breath as Galazon and Aravill in A College of Magics.
- Side Bet: At one point in A College of Magics, after the latest of several assassination attempts, two of Faris's friends make a side bet on how much longer Tyrian is going to be able to stay on his feet before he has to get some sleep. Tyrian makes a point of staying up just long enough that they both lose.
- Something Only They Would Say: How Tyrian reveals his survival to Faris at the end of A College of Magics.
- Swiss Bank Account: One of the minor antagonists in A College of Magics turns out to have embezzled a lot of money and stashed it in a bank account in Zurich.
- That Was Not a Dream: Faris at the end of A College of Magics.
- Transformation Ray: The Agincourt Device in A Scholar of Magics.
- Treacherous Advisor: The Earl of Bridgewater in A Scholar of Magics.
- Virgin Power: In A Scholar of Magics, the Agincourt Device, which can turn people into animals, doesn't work on virgins — one of whom, the viewpoint character and undoubted hero, is a very adult man.
- Wizarding School: Greenlaw, which has the limbs and outer flourishes of a ladies' finishing school, and Glasscastle, which is a traditional English university.