NESFA Members' Reviews

When the King Comes Home

by Caroline Stevermer

A book review by Mark L. Olson

Tor, 2000, 236 pp, $22.95

Caroline Stevermer doesn't write enough - this is only her third book and it's as good as the excellent A College of Magics.

Both books are set in a fantasy world which is ours with some differences. Magic works, but isn't a huge part of society. The world is basically like ours with some extras.

The political landscape is a bit different, too. Central Europe has a batch of additional countries apparently tucked in between Germany, Poland and Ruritania. When the King Comes Home is set vaguely in the 1700s. A young woman wants to be an artist and is sent to the capitol to be apprenticed to one of the finest artists living there. Easily the best part of the story is about her and her apprenticeship and her love of art and her growing mastery of the techniques.

She becomes fascinated in a particular 16th century artist to the exclusion of much of her proper duties, and her investigations of his surviving art lead her into an odd political tangle.

Like A College of Magics (set in the same Europe around 1900) the magic is very real, but not very showy and is all the more effective because of that. I'm reminded of Walter Jon Williams' comment, "I think the power of suggestion trumps the power of description every time." That is exactly on the mark here. Stevermer suggests more than the tells.

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