I’m a huge fan of fantasy novels. They’re what really started me on reading, and are still really the backbone of what I read most of the time today. Sure I dip into other genres from time to time, SciFi, Mystery, Horror, even some Literary Fiction from time to time, but I always come back to fantasy. All that being said, I just finished The Magicians by Lev Grossman, which does a lot of interesting things the fantasy genre that I haven’t seen done in too many places.
First book in it’s series
The book centers around Quentin, a young man who is very intelligent, and very bored with his life. He starts out going to an interview with someone as part of the admissions process to Princeton or some other fancy school (I can’t remember exactly which one offhand) and he ends up through a short series of events getting transported to Brakebills, a school for magicians. While there, he meets quite a few other magicians, and they were all very believable in their actions. The characters in this book are not in any way paragons of virtue, nor are any of them absolute evil, they’re just….. real. I enjoyed the characters and overall they were probably the strongest part about this book.
The book goes through Brakebills, the NYC area, and Fillory. None of the individual settings are really anything new, and if you’ve read fantasy there is nothing in any of the magical worlds that is going to blow you away, but they were all well written and entertaining to read about.
Quentin finds out he has magical powers and gets admitted to a school for magic. I know you’ve heard that one before, but stop groaning, Grossman takes a very different spin on the whole magical school trope that we’ve all been sick of since reading Harry Potter. Quentin and his friends go through the 5 years of school at Brakebills in roughly the first half of the book. After this, they proceed to life their life as graduated magicians, which is really less thrilling than you’d imagine it would be. Ultimately they find a magical artifact that allows them to travel to a world that they all read about in a series of children’s books about the land of Fillory, where they get tangled up in their own quest.
All of the characters in the book are the smartest of the smart kids from their respective schools, which is a large part of why they were invited to the exam to get into Brakebills in the first place. This book addressed a very interesting question that I’m sure a lot of people have a bit of a problem with (myself included to an extent). You’re smart enough to do anything you want, but once you finish school, what do you really want to do? All said, the book deals with a lot of issues, and while the magical world is what will really draw people into reading this book, the magic is never really a problem for the characters, nor is it ever the solution to the problems that the characters are dealing with. The characters are constantly dealing with interpersonal struggles that arise from the kind of fights and situations that we find ourselves in every day of our lives. In this respect the book was very well done and made it extremely easy to relate to all of the characters. But while that aspect of it was well done, the plotting at several parts didn’t work for me as well as it should have. There were sections of the book that seemed to really drag on as the characters were just kept in a kind of static state, and then there were sections where the plot rushed past so quickly that I had to double check and make sure I didn’t accidentally skip a page in my reading. I was also a little upset with the ending, as the last part of the book really felt forced to me.
The book isn’t perfect, but it’s well written and intriguing enough that I will definitely pick up the sequel the next time I’m out to buy books.