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Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman (The Magicians #1)

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The Magicians by Lev Grossman // VBC ReviewThe Magicians (The Magicians #1)
Lev Grossman
Published: August 11, 2009 (Viking)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review source: purchased

Reviewed by: Amy

Rating (out of 5): 3 stars

Quentin Coldwater is a brilliant soon-to-be high school graduate and he’s exceedingly unhappy with his life. Ideally, he would be able to live in Fillory, the fantasy world of his favorite books. Fillory is a place very similar to what we would think of as Narnia. Idolizing the books and their adventures since he was young, Quentin is certain that in Fillory he would be happy.

What’s the phrase…“Be careful what you wish for”?

After a strange occurrence at what was supposed to be a college entry interview, Quentin stumbles upon a mysterious path that leads him away from Brooklyn to a large Hogwarts-style place. As is happens, Quentin has found himself at Brakebills, a magical school, and somehow along the way his finds himself admitted as a student. Quentin is thus thrust into the harsh realities of what it means exactly to possess magic. He learns very quickly that things don’t always mimic fairytale stories.

The Magicians was a very difficult book for me to get through. Quentin, for all that he’s the intended hero of the piece, was very hard to like. The thing he desires the most is presented to him as something tangible that he can achieve, yet once he gets it even that does not change his grim outlook on his life. He moves sullenly from one thing to another thinking it will finally be the thing to make him happy (and we as readers are hoping the same too, just to break up the gloom), but it fails.

The Magicians is split, with about half the book covering Quentin’s time at school and the other half after graduation. It’s not surprising that with Quentin’s continuing uncertainties he falls back on drinking and debauchery to idly pass the time.

The one shinier character in the story is Quentin’s classmate Alice, although this is more of an afterthought. Alice does have her own issues to work through. Looking back, she just seems more open to exploring possibilities rather than expecting them to be handed to her. Lev Grossman does give her time to shine, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the book. I think she’s somewhat clouded over by her association with Quentin and others.

I did like the idea of the story though. Flipping what we commonly think we believe (or wish were true) about fantasy. Lev Grossman’s writing flows quite nicely. Though there are times where the narrative becomes monotonous, it’s about the time you realize this that Grossman throws something interesting into the pot to perk up your ears. These are the things most important to the story. Usually these instances leave off rather abruptly, and you wonder where the consequences will pop up again later.

The climax of the book was very revealing and gripping. We see some of our characters step up to the plate and show what they’ve truly learned and are capable of. Quentin, sadly, still doesn’t reach a point where he can formulate what he needs or wants in his life to be happy, and I think it will be something only attained at the end of the trilogy (hopefully).

I think I may pick up the second book, but it will probably be one that takes me a while to do so. I have to go read some paranormal romance with an HEA stat!

Sexual content: Sex

One Response to “Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman (The Magicians #1)”

  1. Kristin says:

    This is one of my favorite series, lots to savor…looking forward to the next one in August

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