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124. The Magicians by Lev Grossman...

August 4, 2009
the magiciansAbout the book:
Quentin Coldwater is a brilliant but unhappy young man growing up in Brooklyn, NY. At 17, he remains obsessed with the fantasy novels he read as a child, set in the magical land of Fillory. One day, returning home from a college interview gone awry, he finds himself whisked to Brakebills, an exclusive college for wizards hidden in upstate New York. And so begins THE MAGICIANS, the thrilling and original novel of fantasy and disenchantment by Lev Grossman, author of the international bestseller Codex and book critic for TIME magazine.

At Brakebills, Quentin learns to cast spells. He makes friends and falls in love. He transforms into animals and gains powers of which he never dreamed. Still, magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he thought it would, and four years later, he finds himself back in Manhattan, living an aimless, hedonistic existence born of apathy, boredom and the ability to conjure endless sums of money out of thin air.

One afternoon, hung over and ruing some particularly foolish behavior, Quentin is surprised by the sudden arrival of his Brakebills friend and rival Penny, who announces that Fillory is real. This news promises to finally fulfill Quentin’s yearning, but their journey turns out to be darker and more dangerous than Quentin could have imagined. His childhood dream is a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.

At once psychologically piercing and magnificently absorbing, THE MAGICIANS pays intentional homage to the beloved fantasy novels of C. S. Lewis, T.H. White and J.K. Rowling, but does much more than enlarge the boundaries of conventional fantasy writing. By imagining magic as practiced by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions, Grossman creates an utterly original world in which good and evil aren’t black and white, love and sex aren’t simple or innocent, and power comes at a terrible price.

drey's thoughts:
The Magicians was a book I could not turn down. After all, according to one of my favorite authors:
“THE MAGICIANS is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea…don't mistake this for a children's book. Grossman's sensibilities are thoroughly adult, his narrative dark and dangerous and full of twists. Hogwart's was never like this.”

There are elements ala Harry Potter--Brakebills is a school for magicians, after all--as well as C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia--with Fillory, it's creatures, a wicked witch (i.e. The Watcherwoman), and four thrones. Oh, and let's not forget the nod to that pillar that predates online role-playing games, Dungeons & Dragons. Magic Missiles, anyone? *grin*

Book I was all about discovering Brakebills, and the discovery of magic, making friends, checking out classes, and trying to fit in. Book II covers the disaffected life Quentin floats through after graduation (I thought it was very convenient that Brakebills had a slush fun for their graduates to live--or rather, play--on...). Book III has them finding Fillory, the fictional world that so captured Quentin's imagination while growing up.

With all the stuff that goes on in between the pages, I kind of felt disconnected from the characters. Quentin in Book II was a spoiled brat. Yeah, he's finished "college", but he still doesn't know what he wants to do with his life, and hey! he doesn't have to! Alice is underdeveloped, until somewhere 'round the middle of Book III. Penny and Janet were annoying. Josh, James, and Julia just passed through. What was it with all the "J" names, anyway?

I thought this was a good effort by Mr. Grossman, but it felt too squished together. I don't think there's enough here to be broken into a trilogy, though, because the middle would've just been the jelly between two thick slices of bread. I didn't put PB in there, 'cuz I'm allergic... And fans of either Harry Potter or Narnia would probably say "Eh, been there, done that".

Title: The Magicians
Author: Lev Grossman
ISBN-10: 0670020559
ISBN-13: 9780670020553
Hardcover: 402 pages
Publisher: Penguin, 2009

3 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I've had this on my wish list, but now I'm not so sure. I don't think I'll be in a hurry to get it.

carolsnotebook said...

I had such hopes when I started reading your post, but looks like I'll be skipping this one.

ANovelMenagerie said...

I have a review copy to read soon. I wonder if I'll like it. I didn't read HP.

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