Nancy Oakes's Reviews > The Magicians

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
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Mar 25, 10

bookshelves: sci-fi-fantasy
Read in March, 2010

I have this sort of fondness for books like this one, where the world of magic crosses over into our world and vice versa. This book does set up two worlds that cross over back and forth, but at its core, underneath all of the elements of the fantastical, it's a story about a group of bored teens who become bored young adults who seek an escape from the mundane.

Structured in three parts, The Magicians follows the life of Quentin Coldwater, who, when we meet him, is on his way to interview for a place at one of the ivies. He's talented, an overachiever, with parents who are way too interested in themselves and their lifestyle. He grew up reading a series of books that are strangely reminiscent of the Narnia series, and he's interested in magic. He's also arrogant and always looking for something better, which he thinks will satisfy his need for happiness. When things go awry and he finds the interviewer dead, he receives a mysterious invitation, which turns out to be a chance to sit for an exam at a Hogwarts-like institution (complete with secret entry), passes and finds himself enrolled. The first part of the book examines his time at this place (Brakebills), the second part covers life in Manhattan after he graduates from there, and the third part covers his life after Quentin realizes that there's got to be more than taking drugs, having sex and being steeped in total ennui and lackluster living, none of which makes him happy at all. Can we say Bret Easton Ellis?

While the author did manage to get his message across and this he did well, I was rather disappointed in the overall whole.Here comes the niggling: I didn't like any of the characters at all, because frankly, they're just not likable people. In fact, most of the time, they're odious. My favorite character wasn't even human. This book just didn't come together well --- moving through each section sometimes felt choppy and while the story moved along, sometimes the pace was just off. And I could forgive all of that, because there were a few very well-written scenes in this book -- (especially in part three), and a really good story line involving a Narnia-like adventure of children finding themselves in an alternative and magical world called Fillory -- if it weren't for the fact that I felt like I was reading a rehashed Harry Potter novel much of the time. I wanted something original, something, well, magical, and didn't get it. Plus, there were a few unresolved plot holes that I kept hoping the author would pick up and never did. Arrgh!

However, each person brings something different to the table whenever they pick up a book, so although it wasn't exactly my cup of tea, many people gave this book four- and five-star ratings. I love speculative fiction, and I'd recommend The Magicians to people who also read in that genre, with the caveat that you've probably seen most of this in other books.
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