Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Magicians by Lev Grossman


I received this ARC from Sheri at A Novel Menagerie. I had been hearing a lot of buzz about this book so when the opportunity came to read and review it, I jumped at the chance.

Here Is The Synopsis From The Back Cover:

Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A brooding and bookish senior in high school, living a predictable life in Brooklyn, he's still obsessed with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he unexpectedly gains admission 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. And yet something is missing. Even though he learns to cast spells, transform into animals and gains powers he never dreamed of, magic doesn't bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he thought it would. After graduation he and his friends are pursuing a dissipated, hedonistic life in Manhattan when they 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 is a nightmare, with a shocking truth at its heart.

At once psychologically piercing and magnificently absorbing, The Magicians is a sweeping epic that pushes the fantasy genre into uncharted territory, imagining magic as practiced by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions. Lev Grossman pays homage to the beloved fantasy novels of C. S. Lewis, T. H. White, and J. K. Rowling, and 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.

If you ever wanted to know what would happen if you combined Harry Potter, Narnia, and The Secret History into one book, this is probably the closest you will ever get.

The first 2/3 of the book deals with Quentin discovering he is a magician and the years he spends at Brakebill honing his skills. I found him then and throughout the book to be a little to annoying and depressing to really like him as a character. He falls in love, discovers friends, and finds himself to be in the elite group of students. He does all this in a rather superficial way, without really connecting on any visceral level with anyone other than himself. He doesn't really come out of his own head until it's too late and tragedy has already struck.

My other slight issue with the book was that the trip to Fillory didn't take long enough. It felt rushed and more like an afterthought, like the author forgot to add it in until the last minute. I would have loved to have more of this world. It was a twisted version of Narnia with a good dose of a dark Wonderland thrown in for good measure.

Now you may be surprised, after what I just wrote, by the fact I loved this book. This was one of those rare books that you don't need to like the characters in order to like the book. I found this to be due to the author's storytelling and writing style. They kept me engaged and caring about what happens to these characters, almost against my will.

I would encourage anyone with a passion for urban fantasy to add this to your TBR pile.

15 comments:

thetruebookaddict said...

This sounds like a good one! Great review. I know what you mean about disliking the characters, but still liking the book. I felt that way about Bitten...I didn't much care for Elena (is that right? it's been awhile), but I loved the book. I will definitely put this on my list.

Ryan G said...

Michelle, Thank you for coming by. I love Elena, I like her more now though that I've read more of the books.

Zia said...

I have been seeing this around a bit and your review has gotten my interest up even more. Great review!

Ryan G said...

Zia, Thanks. If you ever read it come back and let me know waht you thought.

NY Book Cafe said...

Nice review... I have to read this one! Being from NY and born and raised in Brooklyn makes it even more appealing!

Mel (He Followed Me Home) said...

Now I want to read it even more, lol. What a great combination of authors to be compared to. Great review Ryan!

Ryan G said...

Jen, I hope you like it as much as I did.

Mel, Thanks so much!

Krista said...

Very interesting! Looks like I'll have to try this one and meet these characters.....Well played, Ryan, well played! LOL! Awesome review!

Ryan G said...

Kirsta, I try my best :-) Thanks!

Literary Feline said...

I've been curious about this one since hearing an interview with the author on NPR. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Ryan, even with its little faults. :-)

Ryan G said...

Wendy, I hope you get to sate your curiousity some time soon. It is well worth it.

carolsnotebook said...

I'm still on the fence about this one. It sounds like a good mix on the one hand, on the other Quentin just does not sound like someone I want to meet.

ANovelMenagerie said...

Great review.... I'm glad that you enjoyed it more than I did.

Ryan G said...

Carol, If you are even a little hesitant I might not bother with it. It's wonderfully written just not with likeable characters.

Sheri, Thank you so much for the opportunity!

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