by Lev Grossman
Fiction — Fantasy
From the publisher:
Like everyone else, precocious high school senior Quentin Coldwater assumes that magic isn’t real, until he finds himself admitted to a very secretive and exclusive college of magic in upstate New York. There he indulges in the joys of college–friendship, love, sex, and booze–and receives a rigorous education in modern sorcery. But magic doesn’t bring the happiness and adventure Quentin thought it would. After graduation, he and his friends stumble upon a secret that sets them on a remarkable journey that may just fulfill Quentin’s yearning. But their journey turns out to be darker and more dangerous than they’d imagined. Psychologically piercing and dazzlingly inventive, The Magicians is an enthralling coming-of-age tale about magic practiced in the real world–where good and evil aren’t black and white, and power comes at a terrible price.
I’m not even sure where to start, so I guess I’ll start by saying this:
Overall, I am not impressed by this book. It’s a bad mash-up of Harry Potter and Narnia. It is neither “psychologically piercing” nor “dazzlingly inventive,” and I didn’t find it “enthralling.”
I read this book for #1book140, and at the beginning of our foray into The Magicians the author stated that he wrote this book because he loves young-adult fantasy and wanted to write a young-adult fantasy novel for adults, “with all the sex and drinking and other complicated adult realities that young adult authors have to leave out.” Now, I’m no judgmental prude; I’m not anti-booze, or anti-sex, and I’m definitely not anti-cussing. Have at it. However, if the only thing that separates YA novels from adult novels are booze, meaningless sex, and cussing, then we have a serious problem.
The storyline itself just isn’t that good, and it’s dragged out over 400 pages. It starts out…okay…then it gets really lame (Fillory is a very disappointing version of Narnia)…then it picks up for a bit about three-quarters of the way through…and then it gets lame again at the end. One of the participants of #1book140 suggested that the book was more focused on character development than plot, which would have been fine with me if I had seen anything in the way of character development. Sure, the characters changed as the story went on, but I don’t feel that the reasons for those changes were very well explained. With the exception of Alice (and maybe Penny and Josh, for different reasons), all of the characters are pretty shmucky and selfish, and they aren’t the least bit likeable. Unfortunately, I didn’t find myself invested in any of them–not even Alice (the one character whose unhappiness is actually warranted).
I gave The Magicians three stars (liked it) instead of two stars (didn’t like it) on Goodreads because there are elements of the story that are pretty cool, and Lev Grossman definitely has good writing skills. I liked the ideas behind the history of magic and how magic works, and there are a few scenes in the story that I really enjoyed. I think the book could have been really good, and that’s why I ended up being so disappointed: watching the book’s potential slip away as I read made me pretty sad.
I can’t really recommend reading this, but lots of people have read it and loved it, so the decision is yours. I’m debating reading the sequel–The Magician King–to see if it’s any better; if you’ve read it, leave me a comment and let me know what you think.
(To learn more about Lev Grossman, please visit his website.)
**If you choose to purchase this title using any of the links below, I will receive a small percentage of the sale (to be used toward site maintenance and buying more books).