Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman


Source: Bookstore Inventory
Publisher: Penguin
Series: The Magicians #1
Edition: Paperback, 402 Pages
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository
Rating: 2/5

A thrilling and original coming-of-age novel about a young man practicing magic in the real world

Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he’s still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery.

He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin’s fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.

At once psychologically piercing and magnificently absorbing,The Magicians boldly moves into uncharted literary territory, imagining magic as practiced by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions. Lev 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.

The Magicians is a book that once finished I was more than happy to literally toss it across the room with the hopes that it would land in the dog’s water dish…seriously, I actually tried. It missed, so it go to go back on my store shelf, but the matter still stands. I tried to drown a book on purpose. While the overall plot has promise, the execution of it left a lot to be desired…in fact it basically made me desire an entirely different novel all together.

The story starts off full of mystery and with questions and it holds on to that for around three to four chapters before it stalled out and started wallowing in self pity. We don’t get a ton of back story or world building when it comes to the school, but we do get some “great” descriptions of how utterly boring and tedious the class work is…because magic as it turns out is basically nothing but theory and textbooks. Wow…that sounds awesome. It’s not that I don’t like the idea of magic being hard, it’s actually a really nice change of pace, it’s the fact that no matter what Quentin and the others just spin their wheels over how utterly mundane it all is. They make it worse for themselves, and for me. Because if they don’t give a crap, why should I? The actual schooling goes by incredibly fast in this, and then we spend another full section stalled out with more wallowing and bad life decisions, before we get to the answers to the questions posed in the first four chapters…I don’t know what pisses me off more, the fact that nothing interesting happens for like 200 ages of the book or the fact that I could have skipped the entire middle section and still ‘gotten’ what was going on. That whole Fillory thing? Yeah…don’t go into this expecting that to pop up a lot until towards the last third.

Now I will say I do understand the whole point of making the focus on Quentin and his struggles with depression, it’s like a case study of how depression can basically make anything awesome seem really bleak and tedious. I actually liked that his depression wasn’t magically cured by…well magic, like people suggested. But damn…depression doesn’t make a person completely unlikable, grumpy and at times too tired to care? Yeah, of course…but depression doesn’t give anyone a pass on being an asshole ALL THE TIME. And that’s basically what the entire group of friends were, assholes. It’s hard to get into a book where the characters are constantly staring at walls with alcohol glazed eyes, waiting for life to get exciting. YOU HAVE MAGIC YOU TWIT!

I’m going to say that The Magicians is a love it or leave it novel. You’ll either find it enjoyable with some really great topics highlighted and pretty cool ideas (though definitely used in Narnia and HP)…or you’ll be bored and frustrated. I can’t say I’ll be continuing this series any time in the future.

2 stars

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4 Responses to Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

  1. Yeah, I completely agree with you. I actually prefer the show, or the handful of episodes I’ve watched so far.

  2. It’s a series? Heh heh. I don’t think I will be bothering with it. Did it say where in upstate NY the school is? Just curious. Hasn’t this been turned into a tv show?

    • Yeah, I’m way too disappointed and completely bored with the idea to continue. It’s along the Hudson somewhere, but it’s pretty vague on the where. And yeah, it’s a show on Syfy. I’ve heard it’s better, but I couldn’t be bothered to continue after the first episode. They changed the ages of the characters from high school to grad school, which is a better fit, and the pacing is different.

  3. I was SO frustrated with the book, but I had already bought the whole book box with all three books, so I didn’t want to quit. I have to say I really liked the second book. The third one was worse again but still better than the first book. I did not enjoy that book, the pacing was seriously off and I just didn’t like anyone.

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