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REVIEW | The Magicians by Lev Grossman (Viking)

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.

Book link: US Europe Canada

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I might have to check this one out. I haven't seen anything else about this anywhere.

Cindy said...

I'm kind of excited about this book. I hadn't seen it anywhere and I wasn't sure about it but from what I see it looks good. I don't want to read the review so it "taints" my view of the book. I'll visit the review after I read it :)

SKelly said...

Looks like another one I am gonna have to check out. The idea of a grittier than HP magical world series intrigues me.

ediFanoB said...

Good review! Definitely a book for me. I read all HP books and watched the Narnia movies. A darker version of HP is cool.

In case you are interested in her is the link to another review of this book:
Fantasy Book Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman.

ediFanoB said...

I forgot to mention that you can get additional information about the novelin the novel:
Excerpt The World in the Walls by Christopher Plover - the novel within a novel in The Magicians.

Memory said...

This definitely sounds like something I want to get my hands on. Thanks for the review!

Aimee said...

so damn excited about this book.

Renai LeMay said...

I guess it sounds a bit too light for me; I prefer the more involved stuff ;)

But good review!

Renai LeMay
Editor
Keeping the Door

Silver Thistle said...

I've got The Magicians sitting in my TBR pile. It's been there gathering dust for about a year now because much as I want to read it, I hated Codex and that's sort of putting me off a bit.

Reading your review though I see you weren't fond of Codex either but still liked Magicians a lot so I might bump it up the pile now.

Thanks for the review.