Review: ‘The Magicians’ by Lev Grossman

A plus to working at a job where, on a whole, all you do is sit for hours on end: you get a lot of reading done. Before I was weary of this idea and stayed away from it, but now I’ve embraced it to the point that I have no idea what I did to pass the time before it. This week I began and finished Lev Grossman’s The Magicians.

In a nutshell, the book is a mix between Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia for more mature readers. The main character Quentin isn’t happy with his average life (parallel to dear ol’ Harry?)–and keeps returning to the dream that a magical, fictional land from books of his youth will bring him happiness–until he is admitted to a college for magicians. He still clings to the idea that Fillory (the magical land) will solve all his problems if only he could find a way in (maybe through a wardrobe?), but he meets a group of friends and of course falls in love. Once he finally ends up in Fillory he realizes that it’s not the key to bring him happiness, but rather what destroys all the happiness he did have.

In an attempt to summarize yet leave out incredibly interesting parts, I’ll conclude my summary there. In my opinion, this book had some very epic moments, but also some low, disappointing ones as well. The great moments made the few bad ones seem minor, but they are still worth noting. The fact that Fillory could have easily just been called Narnia–it’s similarities where that blatantly obvious–left me feeling that Grossman took the easy way out with Fillory in order to focus on other aspects of the story. He could have at least attempted to mask the similarities a little bit better or worked to make his differences stand out more.

The writing style is fantastic. It’s mature, vivid, and you don’t feel like you’re reading a book written for children. All of the characters major and minor are alarmingly complex. Although the novel is attempting to create imaginary worlds, it does it in a way that makes it somewhat believable. There aren’t scenes whose sole purpose is to show off the imagination of the writer which help to increase the realism.

The ending left me unsatisfied which I’m sure was the purpose so I would purchase the sequel (said to be coming out in summer 2011). I think I will end up getting the second in order to feed my curiosity, but that won’t change the fact that the last 50 or so pages of the book just did not do it for me.

All in all this book was well crafted and contained an enticing storyline that was very real even in worlds that are not. Quentin stood out as a clearly flawed character, but surprisingly, not the hero of the story. I think that’s why I do actually like this novel. The main character isn’t the one who saves the day, gets the girl, and lives happily ever after. He makes bad choices and has to live with the consequences of his actions.

I always hated how at the end of reviews it goes into “if you like this and this, then you’ll really like the book I’m talking about” because each book is different, even if it does contain traces of others. The Magicians is a brilliant book that took the ideas of other beloved stories and morphed them into something dark, real, and ultimately wonderful.

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