Jeremy's Reviews > The Magicians

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
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's review
Aug 12, 2010

really liked it
Recommended to Jeremy by: The internet
Recommended for: People who enjoy character and invention more than plot
I own a copy , read count: Once

One thing I'd like to get out of the way immediately: Whoever it was that said that this book was a shameless ripoff of Harry Potter is madly delusional, or at least overly defensive. I'm not just talking about the radically different tone or plot or age group, either. Aside from the fact that the first half (Yes, half. Five years of school in like...two hundred pages) is spent in a school of magic, I can see little resemblance. None of the spells or methods are notably similar, the game played by its attendees (and face it, any school will have a sport it specializes in) is not just wildly different from Quidditch, it's enforced, and hardly anyone likes it. I'm sure there's more, but I'm tired.

Anyway, I liked it. I enjoyed the sheer creativity of the magic, including references to graduates of Brakebills going on to merge magic with chemistry and physics to really push the envelope of what a magician can do. Most of the characters were likable, even in their rampant unlikeability, which is a rare and wondrous thing. I also enjoyed the fact that there is almost no real plot, but rather the events serve character almost fully, rather than being ends in themselves. It allows Grossman to throw off ideas in half a sentence that many authors could write entire books about. Series, even.

My biggest complaint, the one that keeps this from being a five-star read, is the fantastically unsatisfying ending. I know there's a sequel coming, but that's no excuse. The entire book is about Quentin's disapproval and mistrust of himself and his self-sabotaging nature, and that's not resolved by the end. I don't feel like he's made any more progress than just recognizing the problem itself, and that took a pretty traumatic stimulus to provoke. Unless there are gonna be twelve of these things, each one going through each of the A.A.'s famous steps, that's kind of inexcusable. The last scene in the book itself contradicts Quentin's own (enlightened, at least from my perspective) realization that his fantasies will never fulfill him, and, by extension, staying in Fillory would prolong his already absurdly arrested development. But...hell. In a book this fun and this packed with ideas, it's hard to hate it because of a somewhat unfulfilling denouement.

Especially since there'll be a sequel.

If I had more time, I'd probably review in far greater detail, but for now, the rebuttal, approval, complaint, and bad joke shall have to suffice.
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