Author: Aishlar Snow
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 05/11/2016
Length: Novella (~ 15K-50K)
Genre: Fantasy, Gay Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, Urban Fantasy
PhD candidate William Yderis comes to Efeldon University to teach and finish his degree in charmcrafting. For methodical, sedate, and scholarly William, the school defies his expectations—and not in a good way. The biggest surprise comes when William meets his boss, absent-minded Archmage Taliesin Karsus, a man as infuriating as he is sexy.
As William struggles to carve out his place at the university, he is drawn in to Tal’s chaotic experiments… and drawn to Tal despite his logical mind’s protests. And if Tal’s wavering affection isn’t enough to complicate William’s studies, he uncovers a plot involving an ambitious staff member, brainwashed students, sexual assault, and a threat to the lives of everyone on campus. When it comes time to face the danger, William is on his own. For the first time in his life, he’ll have to trust in his heart instead of his head.
Aishlar Snow’s first novel is both intriguing and well-written enough to be a compelling romantic story. Set in a mythical—yet somehow nouveau riche—magical University in the kingdom of Efeldon, it tells the tale of a put-upon graduate student of magic, William Yderis, who falls into the hands, figuratively and literally, of the handsome, eccentric and powerful archmage Taliesin Karsus. While their mutual attraction is immediate, William is put off by the archmage’s manipulative personality, as well as by his ostentatious personal taste in decoration. William himself is inclined toward minimalist, even Spartan simplicity, while Taliesen runs to red velvet and opulent bric-a-brac.
Needless to say, there is internecine politicking afoot, because, apparently, even a magical university is just another kind of academe. Forced to share his student housing with a pleasant country boy named Guy (who has a secret), William becomes increasingly puzzled by the behavior of his employer (who has a secret). All of this foreshadows the ultimate crisis that drives a good part of the narrative to its surprise conclusion, which is full of interesting details and plenty of romantic angst.
My qualms about Snow’s book is that all of the interesting details don’t quite gel somehow. In spite of the fact that the story is about an imaginary magical place, there are odd anachronisms in the author’s language that seem too modern and too American to suit the setting. Hogwarts, for example, was a magical place that was completely consistent, particularly in comparison with the outside world of Muggles. Efeldon University seems a little like Hogwarts, but also a little like Peyton Place, and it just feels slightly off.
Neither William Yderis nor Taliesin Karsus becomes quite vivid or three-dimensional enough for me to embrace fully as a reader. There are stimulating aspects to both of these men, but the author doesn’t probe deeply enough to get the reader fully invested in their relationship. Likewise, the romantic story line is not quite carefully enough built up in the first half of the book to justify the sturm und drang of the second half. I appreciate what the author was trying to do, but I didn’t quite buy into it, and this is a flaw that, while not fatal, damages the story’s effectiveness.
I enjoyed reading “I Experimented Once in College,” but I really wanted it to make my heart beat harder than it did.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
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