Lisa Vegan's Reviews > The Magicians

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
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Aug 11, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, goodreads-author, novel, speculative-fiction, groups-buddies, reviewed
Read from March 16 to 25, 2010

I absolutely love how the story shows that we’re who we are no matter where we are, what talents we have, etc. etc. etc., and that magic isn’t all that magical at all, that it can’t take us away from who we really are. It has a certain level of psychological sophistication that I appreciated.

This is a dark and melancholy story. Sad. Chilling. Tragic. More Holden Caulfield than Harry Potter or Narnia, in my opinion. Magic in this book is simply a skill to be learned, although yes by those who have the aptitude for it. There’s a rather inventive interpretation about what magic is and what it can do, and about the meaning of fantasy books too, and I believe it has more to say about the nature of reality than it does about magic or fantasy.

I guessed one important thing earlier than I would have liked and was disappointed that I did, but was completely surprised by something else, and was delighted, if I can use that word with this story, and I’m not sure how I feel about the very end, whether it’s true to the rest of the story, but I don’t really care, and I’m happy that it surprised me, and sufficiently satisfied me.

I normally love maps in books but the one included here somehow didn’t seem necessary or riveting. The whole portion of the book that goes with the map was, overall, my least favorite part.

I’m really grateful this is one book; it would have been natural for the author to divide it into two books or even a trilogy, but it worked best to include the entire story in one volume.

I really liked this book, but I do understand the mixed reviews it has. I had this book on my list when it was first published, then off my list when I read a bunch of negative reviews/saw a bunch of low star ratings, then I started reading it for a Goodreads group read, and I’m glad that I did. As far as my Goodreads and non-Goodreads friends, I’d recommend it to some of them, but not to all of them.
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Quotes Lisa Liked

Lev Grossman
“If there's a single lesson that life teaches us, it's that wishing doesn't make it so.”
Lev Grossman, The Magicians

Reading Progress

03/15/2010 page 1
0.25% "I'll try to start this before bed. I'm nervous because it looks so promising but I know many haven't enjoyed it." 5 comments
03/17/2010 page 48
11.94% "I like it so far."
03/19/2010 page 148
36.82% "I'm still enjoying it. Not sure why many readers don't like this. I shall see; I'm only about 1/3 the way through."
03/20/2010 page 200
49.75% "Think there's about to be a shift. I'm still enjoying this, more than I'd expected."
03/21/2010 page 225
55.97% "And now the shift... Like the psychological sophistication, if that's what it is."
03/23/2010 page 240
59.7% "Will finish this asap then start The Spellmans Strike Again."
03/25/2010 page 319
79.35% "Back to this book. Hope it has a good end. If so, it might be psychologically brilliant. Not too fond of this section though, so far."

Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

i'm so curious as to what your final opinion is going to be!! i've been meaning to read this, but all the negative reviews of the end have made me weary.

Lisa Vegan Ariel, When I first heard of it I was excited, then all the negative reviews pushed it way, way down my queue. I'm reading it for a group. About halfway through it shifts somewhat. But, so far I really like it. It's kind of depressing and dark but I like depressing and dark. People compare it to Harry Potter Boxset Books 1-7 but it's almost more like The Catcher in the Rye, a coming of age story about an unhappy young man, who just happens to be a magician. I'll see what I think by the end.

Now that I have The Spellmans Strike Again at home, I really want to read it, so I'm motivated to finish this relatively quickly. I expect to finish it Thursday, but that's just a guess.

message 3: by Annalisa (new)

Annalisa Harry Potter? Catcher in the Rye? Now I really want to read this book :).

Lisa Vegan Annalisa wrote: "Harry Potter? Catcher in the Rye? Now I really want to read this book :)."


Yes! So far, highly recommended.

Christina Looking forward to read your final review.

Lisa Vegan Christina Stind wrote: "Looking forward to read your final review."

Gosh, I've had NO time to read. Thought I'd be finished today but I'll be lucky to be finished by Friday. But, the weekend for sure!

I have another book out from the library I'm eager to start and more coming soon.

message 7: by Annalisa (new)

Annalisa I love it when I love a book that so many people don't like. I think I'm going to have to read this. You had me hooked at Holden :). I just love male protagonists. I find them so much more complex and interesting than girls.

Lisa Vegan Annalisa, Yes, Give it a try. I don't know whether or not you'll like it but I'm glad I read it! Glad I didn't listen to all those negative reviews and give up, and glad a book group is reading it since it gave me the motivation to pick it up and read it.

Christina Lisa wrote: Gosh, I've had NO time to read. Thought I'd be finished today but I'll be lucky to be finished by Friday. But, the weekend for s..."

Lisa, I have no time to read either - I take so long to finish a book right now that it's almost unbelievable!

I agree with you on the ending - not sure how I liked that either - but it just doesn't matter. This book is cool!

message 10: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa Vegan Abigail,

I agree about what makes good fantasy.

Whether or not you should read it? My guess would be that you would not love it, and might not even like it, but I hate to discourage people from reading books. It might be worth picking up a copy and taking a look; I might be very wrong. Some books are so easy for me to recommend to read or not to read to most I know. For whatever reason, this book is trickier. If you liked Catcher in the Rye, the Harry Potter books, the Narnia books, and like stories about depressed young men, then yes, definitely give it a try.

message 11: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa Vegan Well, Except I should add "depressed young men" is not what I think of when I look for a book to read. So, I'm back to saying I don't know.

Sarah Good review Lisa. I'm glad you liked it. I look forward to the discussion!

message 13: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa Vegan Sarah Pi wrote: "I look forward to the discussion!"

Me too, Sarah. I'm glad this was your member's choice book!

message 14: by Caroline (last edited Jun 19, 2014 06:50AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Caroline Oh, how funny. After our discussion yesterday on your review of The Catcher in the Rye, Lisa, I was going to recommend this book to you. I agree completely with what you said about this having a psychological sophistication, and yes, Quentin Coldwater is very much more cynical Holden Caulfield than wide-eyed Harry Potter. I think that's one reason the book has such a low average rating; readers were expecting a reworked fun HP for adults and got a disillusioned magician instead.

Regarding this: "I’m really grateful this is one book; it would have been natural for the author to divide it into two books or even a trilogy, but it worked best to include the entire story in one volume."

It actually is a trilogy. The second book is The Magician King, which I HIGHLY recommend; it's just as riveting, maybe more so. The third book comes out in August, and I will be first in line to buy it: The Magician's Land (summary contains spoilers).

message 15: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa Vegan Caroline, I just saw your message post from 2 years ago! I get so frustrated with Goodreads sometimes.

And, yes, now of course I know that it's a trilogy. I know you love these books. I've forgotten a great deal about this one. I think at some point I'll reread this when I read the entire trilogy.

Caroline I forgot I even wrote that message.

I think you'll be really happy you finished the trilogy. I immediately felt I needed to know more by the end of TM, especially with regard to Alice. Book two goes in a cool, new direction (and it features a sloth)!

message 17: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa Vegan Thanks, Caroline. I'm not sure why I've delayed so long. I do know that it's been so long that when I read the books I'll reread #1 and hopefully right before books 2 and 3.

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