First of all, November is the month of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS movie release. Therefore, despite the fact that I hate cold whether, this becomes the BEST MONTH OF THE YEAR. I am more excited about Harry Potter than I am about Christmas. Now, you may ask what the heck this has to do with today’s book review. Well, Lev Grossman’s The Magicians has been described as the “post-adolescent Harry Potter” by Publisher’s Weekly. AKA Sadie must read this. Plus, I really enjoyed Codex, also by Mr. Grossman. So in September 2009 I added it to my TBR list, and because this list is huge, I read it in September 2010.
Quentin Coldwater (cool name) is finishing high school. He is rather gloomy and pensive. He has fallen for his best friends girlfriend. He is obsessed with a Narnia-esque children’s book series about a family of children and their adventures in the magical land of Fillory. He is setting out for college interviews when he encounters a different kind of post-secondary education. Brakebills Academy is a school of magic, and Quentin (“You’re a wizard Harry… I mean, um…Quentin”) becomes one of the top pupils. Part of the book is spent with him and his fellow students learning spells and learning about each other. The second half of the book is spent post-graduation. These magicians are sent back out into the real world. It is unclear to all of them what to do with their magic in normal society. They fall into depression, drinking, and boredom. But then they find a way into Fillory, and their lives get turned upside down.
So what did I think about this? First, I have to say, this is no Harry Potter. Okay, so these peoples got some magic. But it just about ends there. There is no “wizarding world” lurking in hidden parts of our own. And, personally, I think J.K. Rowling’s greatest triumph is her detailed, comprehensive, fantastical while still utterly believable underworld of magic. That being said, can another book ever really be HP? No, I don’t think so. So I don’t really fault Grossman or his book on this. I fault the Publisher’s Weekly quote a little, perhaps, for being misleading. But despite this, I think this is a pretty decent book HP or not.
This is not a children’s book. There’s drinking and sex, and weird arcticfox sex, and geese, and lots of other adult things (I guess geese aren’t really “adult”, it was just weird). So don’t give this to children for Christmas because they love Harry Potter. But this is a pretty interesting book. I liked that the characters were older; I suppose because I am older. And despite not being magically-inclined, I was able to relate to the post-graduation stupor of wondering what-to-do-next with my hard earned knowledge. This are smart kids, and flawed, which I liked. And their Fillory venture was rather exciting.
I was weighted down in the middle of the novel. There were many times, actually, where I felt the pacing was off. Some portions were brushed past too quickly and not fully flushed out, while other parts became repetitive. Also, as I mentioned, some weird stuff happens, for example the geese (trust me). But overall, it was pretty entertaining. It basically boils down to a coming-of-age novel, it just happens to involve a little magic.
Oh, and apparently this is the first in what is to be a series.