The Magicians

The first description I ever read about The Magicians by Lev Grossman insisted that this was a must read for anyone that had enjoyed Harry Potter or Chronicles of Narnia.  I couldn’t not buy it at that point.  After reading the book I’d say there are elements that are very similar to Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia but it’s a little misleading to say if you enjoyed those two series you’d enjoy this one.  The Magicians is a grown up cynical version of the magical worlds we came to love as young readers.  This was sometimes very satisfying and sometimes depressing and disappointing.

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Many people dislike young adult fantasy because they believe there are too many unexplained things.  Like if kids in the Harry Potter world went to Hogwarts at such a young age did they never learn to do advanced math?  Why didn’t they use their magic to fix all the muggles problems? Ect. ect. after nitpicky person that wasn’t paying attention Ect.  For the record most of these questions have been addressed, but I do see what they mean.  When it comes to the most popular fantasy books many of them are geared towards younger kids and as a result the more mundane and difficult topics are sometimes glazed over.  This doesn’t always mean they aren’t addressed, but they are not “adult”.  The Magicians is adult.  The world Quentin Coldwater is tested into is difficult and real.  There are very serious consequences for all actions and repercussions for mistakes are felt for years to come.  This book is cynical and it makes very clear that magic does not fix everything.

Sometimes this was refreshing.  It was interesting to read about how Quentin tested into the school and the fact that there are people that took the test and did not make it in gives the school a more collegiate feel.  The cynicism and competitive nature of the story works for only so long.  If the book had followed just Quentin’s years in school it may have worked, but we got his years in school, a few years after school, then a whole other adventure.  The stories themselves didn’t drag at all; they remained interesting.  The cynicism and angst however, did get very old quickly.  This is even mentioned as a theory for why certain people are more magical.  Maybe it’s their unhappiness and anger they’re drawing their magical powers from.  This is a fine idea but it’s a depressing picture to paint.  The search for happiness begins to feel futile and detrimental. Maybe I’m an idealist, but that was hard to read.

From what I understand there are two more books.  This was a little frustrating to find out.  If this is a series why was so much packed into this one?  There were giant leaps forward in time and easily two books worth of material in this one volume.  The book ended in a way that certainly makes me want to read more and eventually I will pick up the next one, but I need a small break from all the gloom and doom of Quentin Coldwater’s innermost thoughts before diving into the next part of his life.

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