Button-front: Thrifted (Ann Klein) — Pants: J.Crew — Shoes: Earthies — Earrings: Freehand Fig Jewelry
Well, okay, that would’ve happened anyway. All the pieces just came together so fortuitously! The two books in question happen to be A College of Magics, by Caroline Stevermer, and In the Land of the Long White Cloud, by Sarah Lark. They have some similarities, in that they’re historical novels mainly about women and they feature some great female friendships, but from there they diverge. A College of Magics is a fantasy about a young woman in a slightly-altered Europe who attends, unsurprisingly, a college of magics, and then returns home to the country she one day hopes to rule; In the Land of the Long White Cloud is the epic saga of two young British women who immigrate to New Zealand in the mid-1800s and their families’ lives there.
The characterization in A College of Magics is dense and beautifully done–Faris is so wonderfully and deeply drawn. She’s tall and not particularly pretty, and stubborn and loyal and duty-driven, and I was so sad to leave her when the book was over. (I’m currently reading the sequel, A Scholar of Magics, and was a little disappointed at first to find that it follows her friend Jane, but Jane is written with just as deft a hand and I completely adore her as well.) The characters and plot balance each other well and things clip along. The story is fairly light on magic, actually, until the denouement, so if you’re leery of fantasy novels because of the “sorcery” part of swords n’ sorcery, I urge you to give a go! (There’s not a whole lot of swords, either.)
Things don’t so much clip as they hurtle in Long White Cloud. I’d originally purchased it (and its two sequels) thinking it would be an interesting historical romance–not sure if that was my mistake or a result of an inaccurate marketing angle–and it turned out to be more of a sweeping generational tale with a fair amount of murder, adultery, attempted and actual rape, and star-crossed lovers. A little bit V.C. Andrews-ish, almost, if slightly less bonkers and featuring better metaphors. I felt for the two main characters, Helen and Gwyneira, as they both went through a rather astonishing series of hardships in their lives as colonists. Not for nothing, it does dedicate a significant number of pages to the Maori people affected by all this bananas white-person drama and also the ways they got fucked over by colonization, which is at least a start. Long White Cloud was originally written in German and I found the translation to be pretty good. There were times when I forgot it was a translation, although there were also times where I was pulled out of reading by a strange turn of phrase or some stilted wording. I can’t speak as to its historical accuracy, as I know nothing about the 1850s OR about New Zealand–some of the dialogue read a little too modern to me–but it did keep my attention and was…fascinating, I guess. I do plan on reading the sequels, for the record.
As for my outfit: both books feature a lot of dresses and gowns in silk, velvet, and merino; it’s too hot to even think about the last two, so I picked out a silk shirt in a blue shade similar to what the redheaded Gwyneira is forever wearing and paired it with some pants that echoed Faris’ favorite moss-green dress. Both books also feature sizable estates, so what better way to reflect that than with my own “Wisteria Estate” earrings? I think they evoke a sort of grand, sprawling manor, anyway. Rust-colored shoes equal rust-colored hair–Gywn again and also Faris–and my black ring is a little bit witchy-looking, even if the witches of Greenlaw in A College of Magics don’t need jewelry to do their work.
So, here we are! I highly recommend A College of Magics if you enjoy historical fantasy and family politics, and I moderately recommend In the Land of the Long White Cloud if your DRAMA LLAMA needs to be fed. I enjoyed them both in very different ways, and am interested in seeing where the sequels go. (Perhaps they have more in common than I originally thought.)