Megan's Reviews > The Magicians

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
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's review
Dec 18, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: fantasy, not-mine-library

The Goodreads synopsis for The Magicians claims that it mixes the magic of classics such as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Chronicles of Narnia, and A Wizard of Earthsea. I’ve never read Earthsea, but Lev Grossman borrows from and leans on the mythology and world building of Harry Potter, Narnia, and even Dungeons and Dragons (remember those days of role playing?!) so heavily that his writing goes from paying homage to copying to simply ludicrous imitation. Yes, he was obviously quite influenced by these books, but unfortunately it was to the point that he was not very successful at creating his own world. Making things worse, for the majority of the book, Grossman tells us the story of Quentin’s life, rather than letting the story breathe and unfold on its own.

The Magicians reads as if it is the story of a story. All together, it is 402 pages long. In a mere 280 pages, we read about Quentin’s welcome to and discovery of a magical world. We follow him as he experiences 5 years of magician college and stay with him for a year or so afterwards as he tries to figure out what to do with his life. And of course during this time, Quentin develops friendships, finds a girlfriend, and does some soul searching. All in 280 pages. That simply isn’t enough space to write about one man’s immersion into a new culture (hell, a new world!), personal growth and existential crisis.

At page 281, Quentin and friends are transported to the magical world of Fillory. Grossman repeatedly tells us what a fantastical wonderful world Fillory is ~ but of course, it’s a made up a children’s series (that borrows quite heavily from The Chronicles of Narnia) that Quentin first discovered and loved as a child. And as he grew, unlike other kids, he never forgot or let go of his love of Fillory. My problem comes from the fact that Fillory, much like the rest of the novel, is special simply because Grossman tells us that it is. We don’t read excerpts from the books, or hear other characters discussing the books merits ~ but we do read Quentin’s thoughts on them pretty frequently. Maybe it’s just me, but I have a hard time giving a rat’s ass about something just because I am told that I should.

One thing that I can say in defense of Fillory is that, once Quentin and friends enter it, the writing undergoes a dramatic change. Suddenly Grossman slows down his pace, gives the story some room, and begins writing as a ...well ...writer rather than a story teller. The change in writing styles is so remarkable and so sudden that there is no doubt in my mind that Grossman has done this on purpose. It shows that while Quentin spends the majority of his life disillusioned and unaffected, in Fillory he can really come alive and become the man he was meant to be. Blah, blah blah. Unfortunately, at this point I had muddled through so much bad writing that I was long past caring about Quentin and his plight.

I like Grossman’s characters, and I like what he does with them. But I do not like being told, and told, and told what happens without ever getting a chance to experience the story for myself. And, frankly, much of this story has been done before and been done much, much better.
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Reading Progress

09/09/2010 page 49
09/10/2010 page 136
34.0% "Barely over 100 pages, & we've seen the main character get accepted to & complete 4years of magical college. Someone needs to introduce this author to the concept of "show don't tell""
09/15/2010 page 402
100.0% "Finally!!!"
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Comments (showing 1-19)

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message 19: by Kristy (new) - added it

Kristy I am very very curious about this book... I'm looking foward to what you have to say :)

Megan So far I like the story, not the writing style.

message 17: by Kristy (new) - added it

Kristy eh, that sometimes can ruin a good story!

Megan Yeah, that is the case here :(

message 15: by Tatiana (last edited Sep 18, 2010 05:04AM) (new)

Tatiana So, I guess you are not planning to read the sequel then?;)

Megan There's a sequel??? No, definately not.

message 13: by Tatiana (new)

Tatiana Yeah, there is one. I always look at authors' profile - and sure enough, there is a sequel, two in fact (thus far)

Megan I can see why people like this book, but I really hated the writing style.

message 11: by Kat Kennedy (new)

Kat Kennedy Great review - I no longer have ANY intention of reading this book!

Megan You should give it a try, Kat. Most people love it, I'm just hard to please sometimes.

message 9: by Kat Kennedy (new)

Kat Kennedy No, if I punish myself with another bad book then Penny and Tatiana are going to send me to rehab and not let me out again. They do it because they care...

...and they're sick of reading my GoodReads rants.

Besides, if it heavily draws from CoN and Harry Potter than I'm bound to flip my lid. CoN is sacred to me and I quite like and respect Harry Potter.

message 8: by Tatiana (new)

Tatiana Who ever told you we were sick of your rants?! Show me that person. We just don't want to see you suffer any more.

And Megan, the average GR rating of 3.37 of this book is a good indicator that you are not that hard to please.

Megan LOL Well, your rants have brought me much joy over my morning coffee :)

But, yeah this might make you flip if you have strong feelings over CoN & Harry

message 6: by Kat Kennedy (new)

Kat Kennedy Aw, that's so sweet Tatiana! I thought you guys were over me and casting me aside for someone else!

Now I'm going to have tummy flutters for the rest of the night!

message 5: by Kat Kennedy (new)

Kat Kennedy GR ratings are so shit, btw.

Fallen is rated higher on GR than Phantom of the Opera - now I'm not finished Phantom of the Opera yet but what I've read so far is INFINITELY better than that piece of trash!

message 4: by Tatiana (last edited Sep 18, 2010 05:40AM) (new)

Tatiana You have a point here, about GR ratings I mean. When I pick a book to read I mainly go by: some of of my friends' reviews and some professional reviews. Tons of books that I love have a lower rating than Fallen, Hush, Hush and the like.

message 3: by Megan (last edited Sep 18, 2010 05:41AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Megan Yeah, I have noticed that most GR ratings are between 3.5 & just over 4. It just shows there is something for everybody :)

message 2: by Kat Kennedy (new)

Kat Kennedy My theory is aliens - it's the only thing that makes the GR rating system make sense. Alien conspiracy.

Summer I was trolling through reviews, trying to bring into focus what I thought about this book, and then I discovered yours, which pretty much took the words right out of my brain. Bravo!

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