D. Pow's Reviews > The Magicians

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
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Feb 26, 10

bookshelves: fantasy-sf-horror

This book has been hard-pedaled as an adult Harry Potter and it is-but with a soulless little git like Draco Malfoy as the main protagonist. Grossman doesn't get to the genuine transformative joy possible in books about other worlds and magic, the metaphorical kick one can bring to the reader. This is a cold and sterile book for people who think themselves too sophisticated for genre fiction, a sub-section of the reading public that, I suspect, includes the author.

To be fair there are certain things Grossman does well. There are isolated set-pieces of violence and magical ritual gone wrong, that are thrilling, scary and visceral. He also is very clever at conveying the huge rush of empowerment a disenfranchised teen would feel when uncovering then honing magical powers. The old riff of a nobody becoming somebody is done well here, even though it’s crouched in dry, clinical and mechanistic terms that undermine its effectiveness.

And that’s the rub here. For every scene of terror and beauty, there are two that are clumsy and lame. Grossman presents certain key plot elements so obtusely that they hit like a feather instead of a hammer. He condenses action at the wrong times, has pivotal stuff occur off-stage as it were and just doesn’t deliver from page to page either on the commercial fiction scale or one grander.

Traditional Fantasy Novels power(as well as their stodgy childishness) lie to a degree in their pedagogical function. They are to an extent primers for young people on how to behave, how to become a more effective human being, how to be brave in the face of adversity and to learn to be selfless on occasion even though ones adolescent genes(and jeans) are screaming for pure selfish, solipsistic, I am the center of the universe, expression.

So there is a journey up Mount Doom by sad, wounded Frodo and stout, brave Sam. And Harry Potter puts his nuts on the line over and over against that nose-less wonder, Voldemort, secure in the knowledge that Ron and Hermione always have his back. They are, in the course of their journeys, becoming braver and stronger and less rooted in their myopic view of things. In Grossman’s novel, the protagonist starts out as a selfish turd, segue ways to more selfish turdism, and then does a sideways double back flip into being (you guessed it) a selfish turd. This is refreshing to an extent-how like real life it is-people seldom change unless confronted by trauma or some extreme events. But in Grossman’s hands it is just one more nail in the coffin, taking an eminently worthwhile premise(adult Harry Potter, twisted Narnia) and magically transforming it through bad craft into utter shit.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 50) (50 new)

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brian tanabe The whole "Harry Potter for adults" was the hook for me here (not your review, D, but the pre-publication hype) -- I was sorely disappointed... and couldnt agree more with your insightful observation.


Eh?Eh! Voldemart

Is that where evil people shop?


brian tanabe HA! Awesome...


message 4: by D. (new) - rated it 2 stars

D. Pow Eh, you will have to be less subtle than that when you discover my typos.

And evil muggles shop at Wal-Mart.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Voldemart is going to put Borgin & Burkes out of business.


Sandi Great review, D! You articulated everything I thought a lot better than I did.


message 7: by D. (last edited Feb 27, 2010 11:40AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

D. Pow Yours was fine, Sandi. This was not one of the better reviews I've written. I really loathe the book, but the author is probably more talented than I give him credit for.


Biblioblond Well said. Although the concept of this book was promising and some scenes were exciting (the final battle scene with the Beast). I agree that Quinton was a miserable brat and impossible to like. Protagonists like this remind me of the Catcher in the Rye which I detested. Why do some people enjoy reading stories narrated by completely unlikeable characters? It is beyond me.


Alexander Draganov I think that you are all too hard on Quentin. He made mistakes, because not everybody can be a hero like Harry. I understood him and even liked him.
I am interested in the sequel.


Holly I love your comparison of Quentin as Draco Malfoy -- he was about that likeable for me, too.


message 11: by Matt (new)

Matt "Traditional Fantasy Novels power(as well as their stodgy childishness) lie to a degree in their pedagogical function. They are to an extent primers for young people on how to behave..."

What makes you think that this isn't a pedagogical book? This is I think very much intended to be as didactic as the most didactic Victorian children's primer. I think the intention here is very much to assert Quentin as a hero role-model, as opposed to the hero role-model like Harry Potter, Lucy Pevensie, or Frodo that the author avowedly despises.

Heroic fiction is inherently fiction about morality. Harry, Lucy, and Frodo share in common a pretty broad range of virtues. If you find own morality is at odds to the model, you set out to do what is done here which is set out a heroic standard that you can admire and then justify it in some fashion to yourself or the reader. For example, you might claim that your heroic model is more rational and realistic, which parallels your claim that your own moral model of the world is more rational and realistic than that demonstrated by Harry, Lucy, and Frodo.

I don't want to pyschoanalyize this too much. I just want to point out that however counter-intuitive it may seem to someone who sincerely believes in the value of the heroics displayed by Harry or Frodo, there are people out there who despise that and find reasons to not see it as heroic at all but instead villainous. They aren't writing a non-didactic peice of fiction. They are writing pedagogical works for as they see it 'their team'. They are as it were, rooting for the White Witch.


Perry I see a problem here. It is one of comprehension. Quentin isn't the White Witch. He's also not Draco Malfoy. This is also not a fantasy novel. It isn't "Harry Potter for adults" at all. It isn't about magic, and has no heroic overplot of good versus evil to drive it because it is not that kind of book.

You were sold a bill of goods. Someone told you this book was about Harry Potter for adults, and what you get isn't even heroic fantasy, let alone high fantasy of any reasonable type. You got a bildungsroman, where the main character ends up older but wiser, rather than a heroic epic, where evil is vanquished. Even worse, since the whole plot is moved by the dark wish fulfillment fantasy of a set of people you don't even understand, you came away as uncomprehending as a six year old Midwestern child who loves Happy Meals(TM) being handed a Kaiseki dinner at the most expensive restaurant in Tokyo.

OF COURSE it sucked to you -- you were expecting something utterly different, you don't viscerally sympathize with anything that's going on, and have no experience of it. It isn't your preferred form of escape, and it isn't your life.

However, in spite of that, the book is still fantastic.

So, first, to dispose of your opening claim: were Quentin an actual bad guy, he'd be spending his time hurting people -- does he try to deliberately hurt anyone? -- or plotting or scheming or at least thinking ill of others. He doesn't do that. The only classmate he has an outright conflict with is Penny, who attacks him out of raw paranoia. He makes two stupid impulsive mistakes in the novel and regrets them deeply. He does not join a clique of bad people. In fact, he hides, first in a study hall and then in the cottage with the Physical Kids. He's not a "git", as you call him. He's the opposite of soulless (though more on that later). This is no more Draco Malfoy or the White Witch than Felix the Cat is a good mental model for John Foster Kane -- the mind boggles at the comparison.

Second, you claim, in the most fascile manner, that fantasy exists as a form of pedagogy. Well, if that is the real function of literature, if that is why we like it, we might as well be reading math textbooks or etiquette manuals. That's not the reason you liked reading Harry Potter, and that's not the reason you hate The Magicians. You liked Harry Potter because it was a form of wish fulfillment for you, and you hate this book because it fulfills none of your wishes. You can't possibly imagine yourself in the world it presents, you don't understand the people in it, have no sympathy for them, and everything doesn't end up happy for them anyway.

As I said, you were sold a bill of goods. Someone told you this was like "Harry Potter". You were expecting the normal "everyman" character -- the ordinary boy, the ordinary woman, someone like you, someone you could imagine being.

However, the main character is not an everyman. Harry Potter in the eponymous series is most people, of course -- he's not the smartest guy in his class, not the best looking, not the hardest working. His talent for magic is an accident of genetics, and he had to face no competitive examinations to get to Hogwarts. He's been almost arbitrarily been chosen to be The Chosen One, and he muddles along in that fate, guided by the real chessmaster of the series, Albus Dumbledore. Anyone at all could imagine themselves as Harry Potter. You don't have to do anything at all to be Harry Potter other than be lucky, and yet, if you win this wonderful lottery, you'll get to actually be a hero. What could be better?

Imagining yourself as Quentin, however, is not nearly so simple. Being Quentin is back-breakingly hard. Quentin is a brilliant person -- most people aren't brilliant. In spite of his brilliance, Quentin does not coast -- he works hard for what he achieves, and most people don't work hard at anything and can't imagine doing so. Quentin beats out large numbers of other students for his slot at his college, and the results of that (see Julia) are not always pretty -- in Quentin's world, as in the real one, everyone is not a special snowflake who naturally gets a chance just for being a nice person. Most people avoid tests, but given the option of avoiding pain or instead learning about himself by running naked five hundred miles to the South Pole, Quentin takes the challenge. Quentin lives in a clique you've never seen the inside of, was desperately lonely in high school until his life was transformed by meeting others of his kind.

In spite of all this, Quentin is neither perfect nor a Mary Sue -- he's flawed, makes terrible, impulsive mistakes that take only a moment but harm irreparably, he's desperately unhappy, and he is afloat in a sea with no stars to guide him. As the book progresses, of course, Quentin lives in a more and more glamorous milieu, surrounded by the temptations of the flesh, which he indulges in with a vengeance, hoping that this is, in fact, what will make him feel alive -- and he's very wrong about that of course.

Quentin is clearly not every man. He's human, he's flawed, he's utterly believable, but, importantly, Quentin is not *you*.

You were sold a bill of goods. You came in expecting someone just like yourself that you could wear like a suit of clothes, that you could project yourself into for a some hours and forget your life in, and the author had the temerity to hand you something you weren't looking for -- a serious novel about people who aren't happy.

Now, as it happens, not everyone in the world likes the same things, and not everyone has the same history. Some of us like serious novels. Some of us also understand Quentin quite well.

I'll speak personally for a minute. I was the insanely smart but lonely kid in your high school classes you hated or at least never understood. I was the one who blew the curve on you, who had interests you found utterly incomprehensible, the one who went off to the Ivy League school and to god knows what. And yes, after killing myself for years, I did indeed end up with too much money, floating in an externally glamorous sea of beautiful people, excessive parties, intoxicants and inappropriate sexual relationships, surrounded by self-styled artists and world class simulacra of Lord Sebastian Flyte. And yes, I woke up in the morning to find that the hangover is not worth the party and (luckily for me) managed to move on.

So, although Quentin isn't *you*, he is, in an important sense, *me*. Not literally, of course, but that's not the point. You don't find the journey our hero takes "transformative", you complain. Well, fine. I do. He's gone through a lot, our protagonist, and he's not the same guy at the end that he was at the beginning. He's got white hair and scars to be sure, but more to the point, he's learned that the world is not, in fact, a puzzle box you work until you figure out how to get into the magic world where all will be exciting and fulfilling. In the real world, you make mistakes, you hurt people you love, they hurt you, they die. In the real world, even if you can make a glass animal walk or cast a fireball, you have to make your own joy and figure out your own meaning. It will not be suddenly revealed to you by visiting Narnia.

That is a wonderful journey. This is a book for adults -- it is not for children, but that has nothing to do with the sex, drugs and violence. That's because it is not about magic, it is about life, and children don't understand enough about life to think about it deeply.

A few more thoughts.

Quentin really is everyman in a different way than you were expecting. He's not evil, or even bad to anyone, but he screws up a relationship and he plays a minor prank that gets someone killed -- he is imperfect, just like the rest of the human race. His struggle might not be one you understand, but it is your struggle too. No one gets the magic that makes life perfect, not even the kid who gets to the top of the top. You have to make your own joy.

The purpose of literature is not to be pedagogical. It is to enlarge us as it entertains. I found myself enlarged by "The Magicians". It was gripping, well written, filled with interesting people that I legitimately cared about, and the ending was not "and they all lived happily ever after" no matter how simple that might have been for the author to knock out. If you didn't love it, well, chacun a son gout. To me, it was a minor masterpiece.


message 13: by D. (new) - rated it 2 stars

D. Pow smart but trollish.


Eh?Eh! Yeesh. Only 1 reviewed book, only 1 favorite author...I say it's Mr. Grossman.


message 15: by D. (new) - rated it 2 stars

D. Pow Hi, Eh! It is always good to see you/hear from you!
Wouldn't that be the coolest thing ever if Grossman his own self attacked me? I would be so honored!


Perry I'm not Grossman. The book was a bestseller -- it would be somewhat surprising if its author felt so insecure that he had to attack a randomly selected bad comment by a random person two years after it peaked on the sales cart, and half a year after the bad comment was posted, eh? Or, maybe he would, but I'm still not him even if he's that lame.

If you want full disclosure, I have an acquaintance who is (barely) friends with Grossman's brother (who wrote "Soon I Will Be Invincible") but that seems pretty tenuous as a sources of bias go.

So why did I bother? I only discovered the book a week ago, and I loved it, so I started looking around for people who might be discussing it. Thus, why I joined Goodreads and posted my own review.

Oh, and if you don't have enough experience with trolls, you should understand that a troll wouldn't have bothered to write a couple of pages defending a book they just fell in love with -- all a troll wants is to get a rise out of people, and that's trivial to do in a paragraph if you're the least bit observant about people. I wrote what I did not for you but for whomever might bother to scroll down and read your review and miss out on a book that they'd love. I don't think I'll persuade you -- I don't think the book was even written for you. I'm not really interested either in getting a rise out of you or in hearing your reply to my opinion. You've stated yours, I've stated mine.

Clearly this wasn't a book for you. Some people see a hard working and brilliant but depressive student who doesn't even maintain a grudge very well and the only thing they can compare him to is a character in another novel who's a vicious bully (and who willingly joins up with the big bads of that fantasy world and agrees to murder his headmaster for them to boot). If remembering the guy who left your calculus exams first fills you with visceral disgust and doesn't instead bring back the memory of an old friend who died too young, yah, sure, go and find something else to read. Clearly this wasn't your book.

I know, though, that some people out there remember the rush they got the day they got into MIT and how that even after that the empty place in their heart was still there lurking a year and a half later at 3am one morning. They are, perhaps, looking for some A.E. Houseman poems or a book like "The Magicians", and that's why I wrote.

I want them to know that you're not coming from where they're coming from, and that the book isn't some cheap Harry Potter ripoff that takes the premise and "turns it to shit", to use your elegant phrasing -- it isn't the same kind of book at all. Some people will desperately want what it has to offer.


Sandi I had no idea that Austin Grossman and Lev Grossman were brothers. I really thought Soon I Will Be Invincible was a wonderfully fun book. I really disliked The Magicians though, for many of the same reasons as D. Pow. When I go through the reviews of this book, it seems like it is equally loved and hated. I don't think one review is going to stop someone from from reading it who would read it anyway, especially when there are so many good reviews. If anything, the polarized response of readers may make it more likely for readers to pick it up so they can make up their own minds.


message 18: by Eh?Eh! (last edited Jan 22, 2011 11:51AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Eh?Eh! Perry wrote: "I'm not really interested either in getting a rise out of you or in hearing your reply to my opinion. You've stated yours, I've stated mine."

All nicely said, but in light of this little bit of your comment, this is a very large site with all kinds of views of books. There are plenty of reviews that serve the same function as your comments. Why post if not to discuss? Pick a fight?


(Hello, D.!)


Perry I don't want to pick a fight. That's the point. I was perhaps being a bit harsh in saying that I wasn't interested in his opinion -- I really meant more that I wasn't specifically soliciting a reply.


message 20: by Matt (new)

Matt Perry: If you were half as smart as you think you are, you wouldn't make as the entire basis of your criticism that "you just weren't smart enough to understand the book", and in particular you wouldn't make that the basis of your criticism if you had in fact heard Lev Grossman speak about the reasons for and his thinking behind creating the book, which I have. And I hate to break this to you, but my comments about the book are not based on my own reading of the book but on Lev Grossman's reading of it. I don't know who you are. But the sooner you realize that you understand me even less than you understand 'The Magicians', the better off you will be.


Perry I never said people disliked it because they weren't smart enough to understand it. The book is pretty straightforward to understand -- it isn't a physics text, and even more directly, it isn't "Ulysses" or some other text that challenges the mind of the reader. The language is clear, the themes are universal, the situations straightforward.

To put it crudely, what I actually said was that people might not like it because they were looking for something fluffy, escapist and comforting with characters they found it easy to identify with, and they got serious literature instead, with characters with whom they may find no personal resonance, in situations they may find utterly alien.

That is entirely different from saying "you don't like it because you're stupid".

As for what Lev Grossman says about the book, that doesn't matter in the least when we're discussing a work of fiction. He's merely the author, he's not the text. Yes, I'm dead serious about that. Intent matters for naught -- a book is a self contained thing, and even if Herman Melville's shambling zombie came up to you and said "actually, Billy Budd is mostly about constipation", you would be under no obligation to pay attention to him because, given access to the text, it is trivial to see that the contention would be ridiculous.

In an essay or a contract or scientific paper one can give some weight to authorial intent, but not in fiction. Sure, you can ask the guy who wrote a scientific paper "did you really mean to label that graph `lava flow from Mt. Aetna?'" and the author can say "oh, no, that was a slip, I meant Mt. Erebus" and that might enlighten you about the content.

However, in a work of fiction, what matters is only what is inside the text. The author's control ends as soon as he sends the copy to his editor. You might mean for your book to be a tender love story or for that background character to seem mysterious or for the described setting to make the reader's skin crawl, but what you "mean" doesn't matter if no one can read that in what you wrote. Once you put down your pen, all that matters are the words you actually present to the reader, not the ones you meant to write, or the ones you wished you had written, or the ones you imagine you have written.

Now, as it happens, I've read several interviews with Grossman about the book because I was curious about them, but citing the author as an authority on a work of their own fiction is a suspect business from the beginning -- even worse than the usual sort of argument from authority. If one wants to argue about a book, the only thing one can do is cite the real authority, the words on the page.


message 22: by Matt (new)

Matt Perry: Just of the record, my five year old midwestern kids do just fine with Kaiseki and don't particularly like Happy Meals.

One of these days, you are going to grow up and realize just how stupid your snearing ignorant elitism sounds and then you'll have the grace to be embarrassed by these posts. I hope.

You are wrong in just about every sentence, and I've no time or inclination to fisk you point by point.

But just a few...

"Quentin lives in a clique you've never seen the inside of..."

Is that so?

"I was the insanely smart but lonely kid in your high school classes you hated or at least never understood. I was the one who blew the curve on you, who had interests you found utterly incomprehensible..."

Blah blah blah. You know, you aren't the only one in the world with an 160 IQ; you are just the one being a git about it. You'd have thought that getting out of your small pond and making a few mistakes might have instilled a bit more humility in you. Just how intelligent is it to make assumptions about complete strangers, anyway? What good is that head on your shoulders if you don't actually use it for anything but writing lengthy self-absorbed concieted rants where you spout off assumptions as if they were facts?

Like I said, I'm not going to psychoanalyze the people that like this sort of crap, but I do thank you for stopping by and offering the clear object lesson.


Perry If your five year old kids really enjoy Kaiseki, they're into something that no Japanese five year old can appreciate. Impressive. I'll leave things there.


[Name Redacted] This is an incredible review. It perfectly sums up most of what I'm feeling as I read the book, and I've even quoted it in my own review. Well done!


message 25: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Enjoyed your selfish-turdisms. :)


message 26: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Jesus, Perry, you getting paid by the author word, or fucking what?


message 27: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell LET ME BUY YOU A BEER. SEVERAL LARGE BEERS.


message 28: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Perry wrote: "I don't want to pick a fight.

Seriously? Truly?

I really meant more that I wasn't specifically soliciting a reply."

OH, so you just wanted to come in here, rant at us in several MEGO-inducing comments, refuse to engage with anyone, and flounce off, except you keep re-flouncing. WELL DONE, YOU.


message 29: by Nelly (last edited Oct 14, 2011 06:57AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Nelly D. Haven't read all the other comments, but I just want to thank you for your review which I think is right on target. This book made me angry and I can't quite articulate why. I think it has to do with the sense that this book felt like an exercise in writing fantasy. Sterile is the perfect way to describe the effort.


Laura " In Grossman’s novel, the protagonist starts out as a selfish turd, segue ways to more selfish turdism, and then does a sideways double back flip into being (you guessed it) a selfish turd." Brilliant! I may have to steal that formulation one of these days.


message 31: by Lexi (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lexi D, what a fantastic review! Please keep em coming!


Chrystal Great review on a soulless book. I think Perry would fit in well as one of the characters. What an ass.


message 33: by Mark (new) - rated it 1 star

Mark he was an arrogant prick like malfoy.


Camille Fantastic review! Cites my perspective exactly! Well said.


message 35: by James (new) - rated it 1 star

James de Boer You summed up my feelings for this book perfectly. I wanted to see change in Quentin - either for good or evil, but as said, he stays a selfish turd.


Autumn I liked Draco Malfoy more than I liked Quentin. Draco was trying to please his parents and live up to their legacy and in the end stood up against what they stood for, which took some real guts and actual character development, (which, so far as I can tell, Quentin never experienced at all.)


message 37: by Matt (new)

Matt Yes, it is unfair to Draco to compare him to Quentin. Draco was a product of his upbringing, but within that was actually a really brave and capable young man. His family was everything to him, and he loved them unconditionally. His hatred for Potter is complete, but its worth noting that Potter rebuffs his polite advances quite rudely and does nothing to mitigate and everything to create the rivalry. During book six, Draco endures despite incredible pressure on him, but despite that when it comes to the point he is unwilling to become a murderer. And his mother's love for him is actually quite touching. Narcissa's love for Draco makes Narcissa one of the true heroes of the story in my opinion.


message 38: by Autumn (last edited Jan 11, 2014 04:36PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Autumn One of the things I liked about Harry Potter is that the main characters weren't the biggest heros - that honor goes, imo, to Neville and Luna who fought for what was right even though they knew first hand what the price could be and even though they'd been offered a way out or could have just put their head down and stayed in the shadows.

But there are a lot of potential heros in the Harry Potter books, and I could see including Narcissa in that, though she's still only looking out for her own. In The Magicians Alice turned into one.

Accordiong to Perry, Quention grew as a person because of that but I didn't see it-I just saw him with his tail between his legs. Of course Perry's worldview is repugnant to me. "were Quentin an actual bad guy, he'd be spending his time hurting people -- does he try to deliberately hurt anyone?" Really? Do you think the Bernie Madoffs of the world are cackling and twirling their mustaches? Do you think the Koch brothers are? Anyone with power can do massive evil while not acting out of malice, just by being complacent or being self serving.

Ivy League is a million miles away from Northern California but even there I imagine they read Bulgakov, Gogol, and Dostoyevsky, in which the banality of evil is explored at length.

/rant


Elisa Carlson Why are you discussing the Harry Potter books here?
I'm a fan of the Potter series. This review of The Magicians did not speak for my experience and Perry's posting did. Whatever sanctimonious asides s/he made, there are a number of excellent points about the main character and the purpose of the story. I really like this book and it's sequel and eagerly await the upcoming third installment.


Jordan I haven't finished the book, but... yes. Your review speaks to my little Harry Potter-loving, selfish-turd-despising soul.


message 41: by Ben (new) - rated it 1 star

Ben Fleck thank you for this. I agree wholeheartedly. Can we stop with the Potter/Narnia comparisons? Because this book is NOTHING like them at all, aside from having a "magic" school and "magic" world. It was such a struggle to get through this book...nothing worth rooting for. And Quentin, probably the worst literary character I've read in a fantasy novel that was a protagonist. Ugh.


Linda Thompson I liked Draco better than Quinton.


message 43: by Matt (new)

Matt Sven: This is Harry Potter for people who believe that Harry Potter is 'for children' because the world presented in Harry Potter is 'escapist', 'unrealistic', 'unchallenging intellectually' or whatever. Whether those people are as mature as they think they are is the question.

This is CS Lewis's Narnia stories for people who think that the Narnia stories are evil and wrong.

This is in fact traditional didactic fantasy, only the teller (and those that read and affirm this messages) believe that they've got it right quite unlike those fairy tales and that the myth they make is less poignant than this one.

This is fiction for people who think maybe the White Witch, The Wicked Witch of the West, Satan, Saruman, Sauron, Wormtongue and the rest maybe just got some bad press. Other than that, it is the same as what it attempts to deconstruct. It certainly isn't more intelligent than what it takes apart, nor does I think it actually understand it.

One easy way to see that is how cheap your "something different" turns out to be. Sayeth you, "We don't all get the luxury of an external "villain" to strive against valiantly, most of our greatest demons we carry in ourselves, and it is no sure thing whether or not we will overcome them."

Do you really think that's a novel idea in the world of fantasy? Is the moral of Frodo's story that he has an external villain to strive against valiantly, which he will defeat by martial valor and main might? Is the moral that he'll succeed by virtue of his perfect virtue? Did you not see the pairings between Frodo and Gollum, as Frodo sees Gollum in himself? Did you not see the pairing of Potter with Riddle - the two characters so alike, they are joined even in the soul? Or even the lesser pairing of Potter and Malfoy, that they are cut somewhat of the same coin.

What changes here isn't a matter of maturity or intellectuality. It's a matter of politics.


message 44: by Sven (last edited Sep 15, 2014 03:43PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sven Hurty I apologize if I wasn't clear in my comment, which you might notice I actually deleted for the primary reason that I did not feel satisfied with how it conveyed my perspective. I simply forgot how bad an idea it is to contribute to comments. This is no comment on you or the quality of your review, which, despite being a critique I disagree with was well reasoned. Although I'm not sure I appreciate the assertion about the "kind of people" this fiction is for. It just comes off as an unsubstantiated generalization.

That aside, I'm not entirely sure I follow your point. Setting aside the unnecessary condescension, while Tolkien and Rowling both do an excellent job of creating parallels and both in a very substantial way dig into human duality and their characters doubts about (Aragorn and his progenitors are another good example) who they are and why, in the end those simply aren't their primary conflicts. That doesn't limit the value and substance of those books. I don't believe it makes them inherently less mature or have less intellectual value. I grew up on the Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, the Redwall books and more. When I read the Magicians, it didn't threaten or undermine the significance of those other novels. A novel like this couldn't exist without those previous works and I simply don't understand how valuing one has to diminish the value of the other. Grendel, by Gardner, couldn't exist without the original Beowulf, and even though Grendel adds new facets to an old story Beowulf still stands on its own. Saying this is a matter of politics sets up an unnecessary dichotomy. Implying that this book is only for people of a particular persuasion, who may be jaded by the arch types or contemptuous of them insults me as a person who very readily finds depth, entertainment, and value in both.


message 45: by Jenny (new) - rated it 1 star

Jenny Karkoska This book was painfully boring. Say what you want about how it is or is not like Harry Potter. To me it felt like someone wrote a fantastic adventure and then edited out all of the thrills, jokes, and tradgety. If it is not supposed to be an adventure, then what is it? I read this book and felt nothing.


[Name Redacted] Jenny wrote: "This book was painfully boring. Say what you want about how it is or is not like Harry Potter. To me it felt like someone wrote a fantastic adventure and then edited out all of the thrills, jokes,..."

BAM! Mic-drop!


Cindy Couldn't have said it better. There were moments where one could get caught up in the magic, but not enough to redeem the total lack of likable characters.


message 48: by Ibrinar (new)

Ibrinar Quentin isn't a horrible person nor a unrealistic one, just not a very interesting one. I wish he had taken the time to analyze his motivations, what makes him happy, why he does things, what he hopes to get from it and whether the expectations are reasonable.
Some basic introspection. But oh well.

Anyway this book went through 5 years of school, which took half the book. That part was half summary with some important scenes in between. That style didn't really work for me, it worked well enough for me to read it but it wasn't in depth enough to take half the book.

Also geez that magic school, seeing as a huge part of the magic study is seemingly just memorizing loads of things there is an easy way to make it less tedious and bring it to a wider audience: Simply spread it over a few more years.

That said I found parts of the book interesting.


message 49: by Jeffrey (new) - added it

Jeffrey Hamlin I haven't finished the book. I was excited at first but the story doesn't seem to really explore magic but does a whole lot of getting drunk and dark introspection. I'm trying to finish it but its boring.


[Name Redacted] Jeffrey wrote: "I haven't finished the book. I was excited at first but the story doesn't seem to really explore magic but does a whole lot of getting drunk and dark introspection. I'm trying to finish it but it..."

The sad thing is that it's not even terribly introspective. It's actually remarkably facile and superficial.


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