colleen the convivial curmudgeon's Reviews > The Magicians

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
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May 29, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: dark-fantasy, library-read, group-read
Read from May 29 to June 03, 2011

1 1/2

Where to start?

Some people don't see to like this book because it's too bleak and depressing. Not depressing in a truly sad kind of way, more just the depressing of disappointment. Others don't like it because of the drugs, sex, cursing and copious alcoholic consumption. I think that both of these things are definitely there, but that they're realistic in the context of the story we're being told.

However, realism is not quite the same as sympathetic - and herein lies my main problem. I just didn't like Quentin. He's completely self-centered, irresponsible, whiney - and he never learns anything.

I sympathized more with him in the beginning - (view spoiler)

Now, maybe I'm being too hard on him. He is in his late teens and early twenties for most of the book, and I guess his inability to cope and his slide into hedonism is "normal" for some (a lot?) of people that age. I went through my existential angst in other ways, but, I knew plenty of people who went that way. (Of course, I never particularly liked them, either.)

And this is, apparently, the start of a series, so maybe Quentin will grow in future books.

But in just this book, I didn't like him, or most of the rest of the characters, and because I didn't really like them, I found myself not caring about what was going to happen. And so I was mostly just bored. It reads like a character story, not a plot story, and there's large swatches where not much is going on - and it's hard to read a character story when you don't like the character and when he doesnt' seem to really change much throughout the book. Thus the boredom.

Well, bored at times, frustrated and annoyed at other times. But I never once felt like I was truly enjoying it, and I don't feel like I learned or got anything out of having read it - so it fails both as entertainment and as allegory.

Some people say this reads like an R-rated YA book. That it's target audience seems to be people of the same age and circumstances of the protagonist. At first I disagreed with this, but the more I think about it the more I think maybe they're correct. Perhaps if I had read this when I was younger, knee-deep in my own existential crises, perhaps then I would've enjoyed it more or gotten more out of it.

As it stands, in the here and now, I just didn't really like it all that much. I would almost be tempted to rate it 1-star but it wasn't all bad, and it does have it's moments, so 2-stars it is.
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05/29/2011 page 106
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Kat (new) - added it

Kat I agree completely and I felt much the same way. However, as a current 20 something that has her moments of existential crisis, I have to say the characters still never appealed to me. I got them, I understood what they were going through, but they just annoyed me more than anything. Especially Quentin! I've read much better books with existential/depressed/etc characters that still managed to be sympathetic and engage me as a reader, and this book never came close.

colleen the convivial curmudgeon I agree. I've had several people tell me that they're meant to be unsympathetic or unengaging or whatever because of who they are - but, as you've said, I think a good writer could pull off both sides of the coin and Grossman just didn't do it.

Budd He is completely unlikeable, but other books have had unlikeable protagonist and succeeded. The book is just poorly written.

the scarecrow If people want to read unlikeable characters, they can read Perfume, or The Clockwork Orange. Those books have antagonists as protagonists written by COMPETENT writers. You're completely right when you say this reads like a character novel more than a plot novel, and I think the reason I hated it so much is because Quentin is the same, heinous, self-indulgent twit all the way through. I can't believe there's going to be a sequel.

colleen the convivial curmudgeon I think I read somewhere that it's likely to end up being a trilogy.

the scarecrow Colleen wrote: "I think I read somewhere that it's likely to end up being a trilogy."

Eh, well, I was about to rage but really, if they can make Fifty Shades of Tripe into a trilogy, there's probably nothing this industry can't whore out. Oh well. *shrug*

message 8: by Abby (new) - rated it 1 star

Abby Goldsmith Not only was he a whiny, entitled, self-absorbed protagonist, but he never suffered a negative consequence for it. As you said, he never learned. Horrible character, and the story wasn't compelling enough to make up for it.

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