Monday, May 17, 2010

"deadwood" meets "harry potter"?

i was planning to write about something other than a book on monday but i haven't managed to find time -- or energy -- to watch 44 inch chest or to finish the new rsc production of hamlet from 2009. (although i watched the first two acts -- just about -- last night and i have to say that, biased as i am, i think david tennant deserved pretty much every accolade he got. he's amazing.)

but anyway that's for a later day when it isn't so lovely out and the temptation to go for long (somewhat limping) walks isn't so great. i'm looking upon my recently wrenched ankle as a reason to investigate new coffee shops along my usual walk routes since it really is unreasonable to expect someone to stay inside during one of boston's two nice seasons which last about, oh, a generous two weeks at most?

in any case, the topic for discussion this monday is caroline stevermer's a scholar of magics, a sort of sequel to a college of magics -- if you have a good solid title pattern going, why break it right? but seriously, scholar is great fun -- instead of following on directly from the last events in college, scholar picks up sometime later and, instead of following faris, our first heroine, which would have been fun but possibly a bit frustrating, scholar follows jane brailsford. now, i didn't mention jane very much in my earlier review of college, but she's one of the best parts. she's faris's fellow scholar/friend/companion/chaperone/teacher/general aide-de-camp. she's very english and sort of like a cross between harriet vane, amelia peabody, and mary russell. a good combination, i hasten to add!

the plot outline runs something like: in the first book you got to see greenlaw, which is the girls' school for magic; now you get to see glasscastle which is the boys' school for magic because this is england (nominally) and we couldn't have any naughty co-ed mingling. no no no. absolutely not. a*hem*. anyway. one of our protagonists is jane, sent back to england by faris to try and resolve an issue with the warden of the west; the other is samuel lambert, an american sharpshooter working temporarily at glasscastle on some mysterious magical project.

there's the same kind of marvellous dialogue that kept me reading even through the dry spots in college and -- three cheers! -- far fewer dry spots! glasscastle is a much more regimented, faintly misogynist, rather unsympathetic place to focus half the novel, but some of the people in it -- including lambert, who falls in love with the place -- are very lovingly drawn and it's rather hard to dislike them even when they're making fairly obviously stupid claims about the capacity of women vs. men. plus jane's almost always on hand to disprove them which is just awesome.

scholar also moves a fair bit faster than college -- i read it comfortably in an afternoon and once the pace gets going -- a few chapters in -- it's a very seductive read.

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