Cathy 's Reviews > The Magicians

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
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Dec 31, 15

it was ok
bookshelves: fantasy, ebook-library-available, read-in-2015, urban
Read from January 24 to February 02, 2015

Another review that I should have posted when I read the book, but didn't, so now it's months later and might be a bit choppy, sorry:

A lot of people are down on Quentin in their reviews because he was never happy. He got into Brakebills and it wasn't enough for him. Magic was real and he still wasn't happy. Well guess what, he was a teenager in college working his ass off, of course he wasn't happy. Just like any kid who worked his buns off and got into his dream school, whether he deserved it or not, and suddenly it was way harder than high school had been and no where near as fun as he thought it would be. And if he didn't have an innate drive "to be something when he grew up" or accomplish some major goal to drive him forward, then all the worse. Trust me, I know about that, how I envied my friends who had goals they were driven to accomplish. He graduated and became a loser, no surprised. He wasn't self motivated like Alice and Penny, he didn't need to earn a living, so he went crazy like many other kids his age who'd never been on their own would have done. He hadn't even watched TV or read popular fiction for the last four years to be inundated with lessons about what happens to wastrels like that. Was he kind of whiny and tragically stupid? Yup. Does it make him a hateful lead character? Not to me. I think a lot of people are fooling themselves if they don't identify with at least something in Quentin. A lot of people have had, "This is it? This is what it's all about?" thoughts. A lot of people, even people with pretty good lives, feel unfulfilled and confused. Eat, Pray, Love anyone? There are tons of books this about people at any age. I remember being his age walking back and forth to work along the same route day after day to an entry level job in a field that was at best moderately appealing to me wondering what the heck I was doing with my life and where it was going and what the fuss had been about all of those years to get there when this was what it was all for, pretty whiny though never got as self-destructive as this kid. And the same thoughts again years later, still trapped in the same rat race, driving the same route back and forth every day, stopped at the same traffic lights, no significant progress made. These magicians, the parents and the kids, with too much power, are like trust fund babies, the opposite end of the scale from many of us, yet somehow still trapped in a world that feels meaningless to them. So I got that aspect of the book.

But the first half of the book was still borderline really boring. It teetered on the edge. I kept looking at the page count wondering when something important was going to happen, or at least when something significant to the overall plot of the book was going to happen. Page 152, 182, 194, 200, I kept hoping for something, anything… They finally graduated and my hopes were up. Book I was 224 pages in the hard cover version of the book and it was really just anecdotes and minor incidents about the four years that Quentin was in college. Some of it was fine but a LOT of it was just dull dull dull. It didn't have the charm to sustain a story without a drive. There's no villain. There's no driving force. Of course from the description of the book in the book flap and the map included inside the book covers I had a feeling where the kids would somehow eventually end up, so the mentions of that had extra significant whenever it came up and it kept me hoping. But that was hardly enough to sustain more than 200 pages of teenage angst and dry details. Page 270, still nothing happened. This kept going almost to the end. DULL!

And how about the Narnia ripoff? Maybe the Harry Potter stuff could be seen as "tribute" though the author really could have done without the welters game if he didn't want everyone to say constantly how much it was like HP, that's where it crossed way over the line to me. Every book about kids learning magic is going to be compared to Harry, but this was so similar. The kids couldn't just have played soccer? Soccer with a twist? Poker? But the Narnia stuff was beyond beyond. That wasn't tribute, that was ripoff. Not fun or cool to me.

And it was weird that these twenty-two and twenty-four year-old kids who went to this totally isolated magical college where all they did was memorize their incredibly intense homework and drink tons of wine knew about things like La Dolce Vita and Chagall. This book wasn't written from the perspective of real kids or for real kids. It's by an old guy and for old people. Older people. "He felt like the green-as-grass PFC from Debuque, Iowa trading banter with the hardened South Vietnamese regular attached to his unit." I was going to apologize for my comment about old people until I saw that one. It's fine, just inconsistent. Because then the old people reviewing it get mad when the kids are whiny normal young adults, they get lulled by the "literary" (I hate the words when fantasy is called literary fiction, like genre is a dirty word) label the book got and the tone some of the book has and get upset when the characters act like normal YA characters or eighties dungeons and dragons style fantasy book characters. I'm down on the book because it's dull, not because Quentin can't find his rainbow.

The most honest thing in the book was when Quentin realized that he's no hero, but a coward who would do almost anything to avoid physical violence, run away, cry, play dead, whatever. No matter how much people fantasize about being heroes when they read, watch movies and play games, I bet most would be in the same boat. I know I would.

It was so heavy handed. How many times can you make the same point? Subtlety is not this author's best skill. Quentin, the boy who never learned anything and who had to repeat his lack of understanding over and over again.

So, in summary, this guy is a senior writer and book critic for Time Magazine and has degrees in comparative literature from Harvard and Yale, so I'm much less inclined to give him any leeway on this insanely boring book that totally rips off all of these other writers. Honors schmonors, it isn't original, especially the Narnia stuff. And the themes are so heavy-handed. It's really beyond me why so many people raved about this book of how it became such a phenomenon. It was fair to middling at best and it if wasn't so popular I probably would have abandoned it unfinished. I just kept reading thinking that if so many people loved it, there must be a happy surprise waiting for me before the end. But nope. By the time the actual adventure began, the book was almost over, and it wasn't even great. This is a boring book, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
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Reading Progress

01/24/2015 marked as: currently-reading
05/01/2015 marked as: review-to-be-posted-soon
12/31/2015 marked as: read

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