Kasia's Reviews > The Magicians

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
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's review
Nov 09, 09

bookshelves: high-fantasy, lovely-covers
Read in October, 2009

I was ready to love this book, it's supposed to be Harry Potter like but more gritty, more realistic, more substantial, and I guess it is and I still like the idea of it. And yet this book did not work for me. I was really patient with it, I downplayed the initial irritation of incorporating the entire Potter premise. It's one thing to borrow bits and pieces, it's another to rip off a whole concept leaving out a few bits here and there and dressing up the rest. But since I'm a sucker for fantasy, so I was willing to let that go. Mimicry is the highest form of flattery, right? Mimic all you want, just make the story interesting and magical.

But the story... Meh.

The story lacked in optimism, was devoid of magic and the main character? I tried to like him, I understood him, I did not hate him, but I never really warmed up to him or to any of the other characters either. And what Grossman was trying to get across was a bit of a downer, outwardly depressing at times. It felt like he was striving to make the book something more than a mere fantasy novel, striving to grasp a deeper truth, striving to incorporate some existentialism into the story. Whatever. It might have strived but in the end it failed. At least it failed me. I would have liked it better if Grossman got in peace with the thought that you're writing a fantasy novel, and left it at that. There's nothing wrong with fantasy, not everything has to be high lit. So Mr. Grossman if you like me for your fan, don't take yourself that seriously, throw me a bone next time and put in some magic and a few optimistic thoughts into the story. Because you had the potions and the spells and all that shit, but in the end, it did not feel magical, not to me.
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Comments (showing 1-22 of 22) (22 new)

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message 1: by Lori (Hellian) (new)

Lori (Hellian) Looking forward to your review, I've been curious about this.

Kemper I loved this book. I'm curious to see what you think about it. Hope you enjoy.

Maren Plus, I think he also kind of hit the nail on the head with his theme pretty early on. Whatever truth he was going for was unsurprising as well as dour.

Kasia Yup, I agree.

MB (What she read) Grunge fantasy?

Kasia of sorts...

Quinten I think his point was that the magic wasn't there.

message 8: by Levi (new)

Levi I like your review a lot. There is much better fantasy to be written in the future, this was simply not it.

Sandra I was trying to put into words how I felt about this book, and you nailed it. It was like Holden Caulfield goes to Hogwarts and managed to suck all the fun out of it.

Kristine My feelings exactly.

Edmond Totally agree, wasted one day to start-finish the book, comparing his writing to J.K Rowling and Tolkien is an insult, I couldn't put the book down cause I was waiting for something to happen during the whole time. Good review.

Aubrey    I felt the same way! I was previously unaware this was being marketed as an adult Harry Potter book - that's laughable. I thought it was a straight up rip-off of the Chronicles of Narnia instead.

It's not even close to HP. Blah.

message 13: by Rachel (new) - added it

Rachel Hahaha, love the last line of your review!

Eduardo I hate that when people think magic they immediatly say "like harry potter?" what you all hope for, a happy i am the hero, just throw magic and hope for the best fantasy is for kids, KIDS. harry potter is in the seccion juvenile or ya, so yes this is a more depressing outlook on magic, but so is the real world most of the time, drama, fights, whatever, even the books of JRR tolkien were very depressing most of the time, it ended spectacularly bad for most people at the end of all of them, so dont tell me that just because it was not happy it is not a good book, if so you need to get back to kindergarden because that is what life tells you, even if you get what you what, it is never as amazing as you put it to be, specially magic

Sandra I didn't dislike the book because it didn't have a happy ending "like harry potter," as you say. I didn't like it because the Magician was trying to be Harry Potter and failed. It was totally unoriginal and poorly done.

Eduardo it was not trying to be harry potter, i don't know if thats how the author put it but it certainly isn't even remotely comparable, for starters the people in the magicians are believable if not entirely real, in harry potter they are idealized versions of stereotypes. it just isn't right to compare them, that you went in thinking of doing so is what made you not like it, not it being unoriginal or poorly done, frankly if its poorly done so is the end of harry potter, the deathly hallows really were like a last attempt for harry to beliavably fight and win. i wont say you should like it but i will say that you shouldnt label something as "totaly unoriginal and poorly done" solely on the basis that the main character goes to magic school and you didnt like that it was cynical

Sandra Your making a lot of assumptions. I didn't go in thinking it was going to be like Harry Potter, which is one reason I was dissapointed with it. And at no point did I or anyone else say that the reason we didn't like it because it was cynical. That was actually one of its few saving graces. People can have different opinions on books and still be respectful to other peoples comments without tryingto belittle them.

Amanda I'm only a quarter of the way through this book and this review sums up exactly how I'm feeling towards it. Story - meh. Main character - don't like him, don't hate him, but also don't really care about what happens to him. I would appreciate a vivid description of something significant vs the vague, boring descriptions of every other person/place/object combined with the rare exaggerated description of something I could care less about and has nothing to do with the plot. I like the idea of a more cynical "magic doesn't make everything better just cause it's magic" story, but The Magicians just comes across as dull and lifeless - like Grossman could care less about the novel he's writing.

But I am only a quarter of the way through... so maybe I am too hasty to judge. It may also have been a bad idea to read this right after reading Martin's wonderfully elaborate, exciting and well written "Game of Thrones" series. LOVE those books :)

message 19: by Nelly (new) - rated it 1 star

Nelly I completely agree with your review. I can't even begin to express how disappointed I was in this book. The writing, the storyline---every aspect of this book was so cliched.

message 20: by Melanie (new)

Melanie I'm a little dated on this, but calling Quentin more realistic is a joke. He's far more of a stereotype than Harry Potter. Harry was given a true back story, Quentin's parents were explained in a single sentence and it was a pathetic "satisfy the exposition requirement" sentence at that. Harry's manifestation of power too was realistic. Quentin has mastery over slight of hand than has a showy display of controlling cards because he's on a pedestal to perform. The only adversity Quentin needs to get over is his pathetic outlook on life.

As for saying Harry Potter is a YA novel and therefore lacking quality, ha. You must seriously misunderstand what quality is. The entire series is a WWII allegory.

message 21: by Dylan (new) - added it

Dylan Sewell Lol you people obviously didn't have a good english teacher in highschool. I DO see why people don't like this book because it "ripped off harry potter" and I understand, but a LOT of "good" authors do this so don't hate. "What am I hearing? Haters saying "LIKE WHO" well the Hunger Games was ripped off of The Most Dangerous game, you'll see how if you read it, but that is what literature is guys, it evolves and repeats itself.

message 22: by Nelly (new) - rated it 1 star

Nelly I think that many of us were disappointed in the book simply because it did not work or hold our interest in terms of its structure, quality of writing, characters, and narrative. It just always seemed a bit off. Riffing off another book is, as you say, quite common in literature and can result in something brilliant--e.g., Egan on Proust, Cunningham on Woolf, Chabon trying on various genres-- it just didn't seem to happen here. For some reason, I could feel the artifice of the narrative's structure, and not in a good way. (When I start rolling my eyes after the first couple of chapters that is never a good sign.There just seemed to be one cliche after another.) It's too bad, because the author is, in fact, a brilliant guy, a sharp critic, and seems like a super nice person. I heard him interview Neil Gaiman and he was fantastic.

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