By Caroline Stevermer.
This is a really odd book. From the title, it sounds like it's Harry Potter College Style. It is NOT. Just so's you know.
It takes place in an alternate version of Europe at the turn of the twentieth century. Our heroine, Faris, is duchess and heir to the small country of Galazon. Her evil uncle Brinker, currently running the place, sends her off to the magical college of Greenlaw to kill some time until she becomes of age. Also attending at the same time is bitchy Menary from a neighboring country, who likes to be difficult. Except this is the weirdest freakiing "magical" college I've seen. Everyone only has to attend one lecture on how magic in the world works a day, and otherwise...uh, it sounds like Faris spends a lot of time piddling off, reading novels, and not necessarily doing a whole lot of course work. Nobody actually seems to get instructed in magic until maybe third year, when you have to do an all night vigil and then come into your skills. The area of Greenlaw supposedly has more magic than the rest of the world, but everyone is utterly forbidden to do magic until you graduate and if you don't, you're expelled. How the hell you actually LEARN magic, I still don't really know.
That's about the first third of the book: Faris hangs around college, gets taller, gets into spats with Menary, they both do their vigils, and then...shit blows up. And Faris's uncle summons her home for reasons he won't say. And people try to kill Faris on the way there. And she finds out that she's well, a chosen one in a way that pretty much comes out of the blue. She figures out some magic here and there, then goes home and tries to figure out if her uncle is the one trying to kill her or not, and why he's taxing the shit out of everyone in the country. She starts to get interested in her mysterious bodyguard. Eventually everyone journeys to Menary's home country, where...more shit goes down.
It's very odd.
So why did I keep reading it? I find Faris to be an entertaining character, and I enjoy her attitude. She's extremely loyal and responsible to her home country, nice to her friends (though ah...kinda homicidal to her enemies, honestly so!), and has a certain twist to her attitude that I enjoyed. For example, at the start of the book, she, Menary, and a third student (who appears to be poorer than the other two royals) show up at college and are told that only one of them will be allowed to attend. They're all asked who the college should choose. The first two are "Pick me!" and Faris is all, "Pick Menary, keep Odile around here as a servant until Menary flakes off and quits attending, then give her the place." Admittedly, Faris doesn't want to go to college at all, but that's still an entertaining answer. And her best friend Jane and her bodyguards are nice folks. The romance between Faris and her favorite bodyguard is subtle yet sweet, though I don't know what to make of how it resolved.
The ending, however, is pretty odd. I guess it's supposed to be happy, but...there's a lot of sad weirdness going on there too and I have no idea how Faris is going to go on after that. Very strange.
I'll give it three and a half stars. It's an interesting read, but I had a hard time making sense of how the world and magic works.