Title: The Magicians
Author: Lev Grossman
Release Date: August 11, 2009
Publisher: Viking Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Satire
Rating: 4 out of 5
Quentin has never really fit in, at school or in his life at home. His parents are too busy for him and he only has two friends, neither of which seem overly concerned about him. He finds solace in fantasy books from his childhod about the magical land of Fillory. When Quentin is admitted to Brakebills Academy, a school for those who can use magic, he feels as if his childhood dreams are coming true. But what he doesn’t realize is that a world with magic in it can still be a dark and dangerous place.
I was really intrigued by the prospect of The Magicians, so I was very excited when my book club chose it for our November read. I’ve seen it billed as a Harry Potter for adults. I was very curious as to what it was like.
I have to say, the marketing around The Magicians did it a disservice. This is not really a fantasy book; it’s a book about fantasy books. Grossman pays homage to multiple fantasy works in The Magicians – The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and T.H. Whyte’s The Once and Future King just to name a few. Reading it as a satire or an homage really changes the experience of it for the better.
The first half of The Magicians worked well. It was slow at times, but Quentin’s experiences at Brakebills were fascinating. The parts after Quentin leaves Brakebills were a little less appealing, in part because the two halves of the book are so different from one another, bridged by a rather unlikeable middle part. I think The Magicians may have worked better as two separate books. That would have given Grossman the ability to go into more depth and explore each world more. That might have been more satisfying.
There were a lot of dropped plot lines in The Magicians, which was definitely frustrating. Something would happen that would seem to have lasting repercussions for the storyline, yet it would never be revisited. Additionally, a lot of aspects of the book weren’t explained clearly, and that vagueness was frustrating.
All of these complaints may make it seem like I hated the book, which I surprisingly didn’t. I actually enjoyed the experience of reading it. Grossman is a talented writer, even if this story wasn’t as tight as it could have been. The book went quickly for me, and I never was bored, even during the slow parts. The Magicians definitely had its flaws, but I still think it’s an interesting book. Above all, this is a book written for those who loved all those childhood fantasy novels.
A last note, I think The Magicians made a wonderful book club read. Some of us loved it, some of us hated it, but we all had something to say so the discussion was very lively.