I picked The Magicians up on my trip to BEA this year. I hadn't heard anything about it previously, but that is what BEA is supposed to be about. To find those gems you might not otherwise have come upon and The Magician is one of those gems. The Magicians is a pastiche of The Once and Future King, The Chronicles of Narnia along with the Harry Potter novels only aimed at adults. I read Lev Grossman's Codex a couple years ago and was severely underwhelmed so when I started The Magicians the bar was set fairly low. Having said that it is a truly magical and entertaining read, but make no mistakes this is not a book for children. Instead of very young people learning magic or getting involved in fanciful worlds his characters are college aged and in most cases very flawed. The Magicians deals with what people have to go through in order to learn magic properly and the consequences of getting involved with this world. What if you could do anything you wanted? Or go anywhere? What would you life mean? Those are the questions Grossman posits as you journey with Quentin Coldwater on his quest to become a magician and his obsession with Fillory and Further, a thinly veiled Narnia series he is infatuated with. There are sexual indiscretions and many morally questionable situations as the character make their way through the world. There is a good amount of action although most takes place in the last 1/4 of the book. Yet the book flows easily as I kept wanting to know what was next. The story starts with Quentin getting invited to take an entrance exam to a magic school very mysteriously. Brakebills, is a very exclusive school for people who show a high aptitude for magic. This isn't hogwarts. The description of the way the students are taught is more reminiscent of Law School than anything else as most of the work is reading, rote memorization, and repetition of magical exercises. My biggest issue with the book is most of the characters do not develop much as they go along and are a bit dry with personality. One of the most interesting characters, Penny, is missing from a large chunk of the book as if the author forgot about him for 200 pages. However, Penny's disappearance is somewhat haphazardly explained. Once Quentin and his friends graduate from Brakebills and are forced into the real world it is very clear they have no place in it.
Eventually Quentin and his friends journey into a world very similar to Narnia, which is a bit too much on the nose for me at times, but it does have its place as all the pieces do fall into place well. They encounter many magical and mythological creatures. A bit more background on the Fillory world would have been nice, but it does get filled in a bit towards the end. A couple of the major treads were a bit predictable, such as the revelation of a missing character from the Fillory series and another related character. Yet these flaws do not take away from the enjoyable reading experience. The ending is fitting and leaves the character open for a succeeding adventure, but gives you closure on pretty much everything. Quentin's final transformation is actually quite interesting and I'm eager to see what other worlds Grossman has in store for him. I give The Magicians 8.5 out of 10 Hats. Grossman has grown quite a bit as a fiction writer and it shows. The core audience for The Magicians is probably people who rarely read fantasy or those who want to reminisce a bit about the books they read growing up. Those who are very well read in the fantasy genre may consider the concepts a bit over done, but Grossman does manage to stand apart and create a world where actions have very definitive repercussions.
- You can explore Fillory here: www.emberstomb.com
- Read excerpts from author Christopher Plover's Fillory series here: www.christopherplover.com
- Explore Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy's: www.brakebills.com
- And there is also www.themagiciansbook.com