The Magicians #1
A thrilling and original coming-of-age novel for adults 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.
So close, yet so far. I would say that this story is a strong combination of The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter. This was highly recommended to me by a friend, and while I can see why they enjoyed it, I just wish I enjoyed it more too. While the aforementioned series have more of a hopeful tone and a feel for adventure, The Magicians is much more of an “adult” and “realistic” version of those two worlds, where magic really doesn’t solve your problems, and where the world is much more sinister than just a villain like Lord Voldemort.
The Magicians revolves around our main character, Quentin, who is the classic brilliant but troubled student. He goes through 5 years of training at
Hogwarts Brakebills to train as a magician before being thrust back into the adult “normal” world. Eventually he also discovers that his childhood books about crossing into Narnia Fillory are also real. I would say the first half of the book is like going through all of Hogwarts, and the second part is akin to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
I wanted to like this, but I think the biggest factor for me was that I hated Quentin. I just couldn’t get over what a terrible person he was. Incredibly selfish and hedonistic, he often leads the people around him to destruction, all the while whining about it. It supposedly stems from a bit of an inferiority complex and some clinically undiagnosed depression? But I honestly could not empathize at all with him. I guess that would be the biggest gripe for me, sure he was brilliant at learning and knew he was. But the kind of person he was…I just couldn’t stand for it, and therefore never rooted for him at all.Continue reading “Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman”