Wednesday, July 28, 2010
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
I just finished reading The Magicians. The premise of the book was appealing, touted as Harry Potter for adults, it borrowed (heavily sometimes) from Harry Potter as well as Narnia, to create another world of magic.
Quentin, a high school senior, finds himself taking a test to see if he is worthy to be admitted to a school for magicians. Of course he is, and this book covers his entire five years (well, four, he skips a year) at Brakebills (this would be the Harry Potter part), as well as some time in Fillory (this would be the Narnia part).
Quentin is not a particularly likable character. Throughout the book he is waiting for good things to happen, for life to start. At first he thinks everything will be great because magic is real! He's going to a school for magicians!
"And then a vast stony weight suddenly lifted off Quentin's chest. It felt like it had been there his entire life, an invisible albatross, a granite millstone holding him down, and all at once it just dropped away and disappeared without a splash. His chest expanded. He was going to bob up to the ceiling like a balloon. They were going to make him a magician, and all he had to do was sign. Jesus, what the hell was he thinking? Of course he was going to sign. This was everything he'd always wanted, the break he'd given up on years ago. It was right in front of him. He was finally on the other side, down the rabbit hole, through the looking glass. He was going to sign the papers and he was going to be a motherfucking magician. Or what the hell else was he going to do with his life?"
This isn't Hogwarts, and going to a school for magicians does not solve Quentin's problems. Throughout the book, throughout the rigorous years of learning magic (including being transformed into different animals, which, at one point, introduces him to some wild sex and no, this book is not rated G or even PG), Quentin is depressed and dissatisfied.
Sometimes I liked seeing how Grossman's magical world differed (and was the same) as Harry Potter's or Narnia's. However, the author borrowed SO heavily from Harry Potter and Narnia, sometimes I found myself rolling my eyes. Really? Four empty thrones in Fillory? Four??? And a wood between worlds? Grossman had enough imagination, it didn't seem to me that he should have had to rely so heavily on other books.
I didn't particularly care for Quentin and, frankly, most of the characters. (Okay, I liked Alice). I did like that this was a more grown-up magical world, with sex and alcohol and drugs, though sometimes the overuse of those things made the characters rather tiresome.
There is a sequel coming out in the summer of 2011, The Magician King. I'm not sure I care enough about Quentin or anybody else in the story to read it.