Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

genre: adult fiction

Poor Quentin. It's lonely to grow up a complete and utter genius. Find things to do that are satisfying isn't easy when nothing costs the least amount of effort. His happy place? The pages of a series of books about a fantasy land called Fillory. Talking animals, noble quests, magic and children as heroes - it was a safe space where he could imagine a world where he could truly belong.

And then, the unthinkable happens. He's invited to go to a magical college. Yes. MAGICAL college. Where you learn to do real magic. Suddenly the world has shifted and what seemed like an impossibility, a daydream, has become a reality and Quentin finds that he excels at magic just like he does at everything else.

Things get dicey, though. Just because he learns how to do "good" magic doesn't mean that there aren't people out there who do the other kind. And learning how to be an adult with a bunch of magicians isn't all that uncomplicated either. Relationships and decisions are as tricky - or trickier - than in our "real" world. And soon, even Quentin's wildest dreams will take him on a journey he wouldn't have dared imagine.

As a unashamed Potter-head, I liked this book from the start because there is a lot of that same initial plot line of normal-boy-finds-out-his-greatness. And the magic school, of course. But this book is much darker. Darker in that Quentin starts out older and makes darker and more questionable decisions and lives among a far more...shall we say...promiscuous set of people. I ended up really liking the plot arc (for a while there I wasn't sure if I would) and the climax was pretty amazing and unexpected. If you already love Naria and Hogwarts and Middle Earth, you will see so much of the spirit of those novels within the Magicians that you'll either love it or you'll feel like it's TOO much (I wavered between those two poles most of the time).

In the end, I was satisfied. Do I wish it wasn't quite so graphic in some parts? Yes. Do I wish that Quentin's language wasn't so foul? Yes. Did I need to skip through some scenes? Yes. But my brother warned me when he recommended it to me that it was a little "rough." He was right. It's rough. And let me say again - it's dark. Quentin isn't one for chipper-ness or looking on the bright side. He doesn't really know how to be a great friend and sometimes I wanted to clock him. My rating of three stars is a balance of great plot and writing style offset with some pretty rough content. Was it perfect? No. An intriguing read? I thought so.


Fyrefly said...

I had a hard time with this book, partly because I was one of the ones that felt like it was TOO much borrowing from other novels (the Narnia sections, especially), and partly because I could not *stand* Quentin. Wanting to clock him doesn't quite cover it...

Biblibio said...

I'm definitely part of the "didn't like it" camp. The borrowing was okay, but it was also inconsistent. Grossman made explicit references to Harry Potter (and mockery of, but whatever...) while creating a stand-in for the Narnia books. It was jarring.

The roughness didn't bother me half as much as my complete inability to relate to the characters. Their whole style was just annoying and I mostly wanted to punch every single person. Why, I have to ask myself, is there a sequel coming out...?

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