Patricia S. Bowne is the author of a wide variety of fantasy stories and the Royal Academy at Osyth series, novels and stories set in the Demonology Department of a modern University of Magic.
At the Royal Academy faculty summon demons into the sub-basement, stay out all night following vampires, trap incubi in rabbits, argue about embedded sexism in the structure of magical spells, and create new laws of nature - all of it sandwiched in between meetings and teaching responsibilities.
These are stories about a modern academy for modern academics, who know there really are demons in the basement.
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I was delighted to come across this wry, inventive fantasy...
Anyone who's spent time at a university will recognize the place ... There are plenty of interesting characters, such as my favorite, the no-nonsense Teddy Whin, who snaps: "If I wanted to figure things out for myself, I would hardly own this many books." And a touch of humor softens even the bleakest moments: mauled in the night by a demon, Rho protests: "I can't call in sick. I don't have tenure!"
I'd recommend this to anyone who appreciates academic life, spells, counter-spells, supernatural battles, and the charms of discourse.
5 stars from
Sofia Samatar, winner of 2014 World Fantasy Award
[Swept and Garnished is] one of the best fantasy novels I've read in a long time.
Bowne has created a complex world with the texture of reality, and her characters grapple realistically with moral dilemmas that arise naturally from their situations.
Entertaining and Smart
Her world is engaging and unexpected ... consider it the Harry Potter series told from the perspective of the magic teachers. This makes this novel a great read for adults and also a fresh perspective on the whole wizardry thing. Highly recommended!"
JohnSF, Amazon review
it's the incredible detail that Bowne has put into developing the Royal Academy at Osyth and its machinations that is the real hook. The players are professors - academic nerds - caught up in the same trials and tribulations you find at any college or university: struggling to obtain tenure, dealing with jealous colleagues, trying to make heads or tails of the health insurance plan; it's all there. They just also happen to cast spells and summon demons along the way.
So, is it a book about magicians who are professors, or about professors who just happen to be magicians? Guess that will depend on your point of view. I have to admit I wasn't quite sure what to expect going into this one, and was a tad leery truth be told, but somehow in the end it all just works...like magic.
Elizabeth A. White
...a much more interesting take on demonology than the more traditional realm-of-hell version, and gives a nuanced take on the iron will and self-belief required of the summoning magician. It's also a good reflection of the traits it takes to survive in academia!
[Hiram Rho] is a graduate student with all the socialization of a starving badger, torn between two schools of magic which promise him very different things, and unable to trust or like his colleagues. Despite that, he's still an interesting character to spend time with, and deftly drawn.
[Advice from Pigeons] also features gay characters, without making a special point of it; the world apparently has no problem with homosexuality. The text also treats Rho's past as a sex worker quite matter-of-factly, and it's a nice change to see that with a male character.
Overall, definitely recommended for anyone interested in the metaphysical nuts and bolts of wizardry (as distinct from the more traditional kind of magic-system fantasy) or for academics, unless they're desperately trying to repress flashbacks already.
Cold Iron and Rowan Wood
Rich world and complex characters
I appreciate the fact that the world is clearly fantasy, yet not another Tolkien derivative, and at the same time the situations that face the characters are extremely realistic, in their motivations and reactions if not in the details of the causes. I can see here a world where I might drop in, perhaps quite confused initially (as with one of the main characters in this story, though he didn't arrive from my reality), and yet I'd still be able to navigate the society.
Another thing that I truly admire about Bowne's writing is the complexity of her characters. Just as in my own life, I cannot look at my job and neatly divide the people there into Good Guys and Bad Guys, the characters here are relatable without being perfect. Their flaws are recognizable, and make them much more human...You can love these characters and want to strangle them at the same time, as you get to know them better.
[A Lovesome Thing] is refreshing in its inclusive approach to love. So often in the fantasy world, if you aren't the red-haired, green-eyed lithe and nubile woman who has mysteriously managed not to notice she is incredibly hot, or if you aren't the man with rippling muscles, perhaps heir to a throne or prone to turning into a mythical beast, who is secretly a sensitive soul (but only to the red-haired, green-eyed woman), you're out of luck. You're background. Here, love belongs to a number of characters that would be ignored in those stories. I appreciated that people like me can still be portrayed with grace as loving deeply.
I am hooked on this series and can't wait to read more - they're intelligent, funny and inventive, and the regular characters have started to feel like friends.
I have to admire the world that is depicted in Advice from Pigeons; it's hilarious. In a world where magic is real: insurance companies hire clairvoyants to set the rates, spells can be looked up on the internet, demonologists hold conferences, and incubi possessing ducks can be a thesis topic.
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