The Well Read Viking

The Well Read Viking

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians is an interesting blend of books that, while distasteful at times, somehow manages to work. Imagine a book that was a blend of Harry Potter, Narnia and The Catcher in the Rye. I can see you raising your eyebrow at me, but that is truly what this book feels like.

Quentin is a mopey super genius. He has a great life, but all he does in complain about it and how he just isn't happy. He does this the entire book. That is where The Catcher in the Rye comes in. Quentin is just like that prick Holden Caulfield.  All either of them did was complain. I couldn't stand it in Catcher and I didn't much care for it here either. The good news for this book is that it had other things involved that were able to catch my fancy.

Quentin and his friend are both on their way to an interview to enter Princeton. They arrive, but strangely no one answers the door. Curious, they peek their heads inside and look around. They find the corpse of the man who was to interview them. While in a state of shock they head out the door. Holden takes an envelope from the desk that had his name on it without realizing that this act was going to change his entire future. As he opens it he finds a supposed copy of a lost manuscript from a book series that he loved as a child. The book series is basically the Chronicles of Narnia. A paper flies out and he chases it through a garden and he feels the winter chill leave as he steps into a warmer climate. He has found himself at a school that teaches magic.

After a rigorous testing process he finds that he has been accepted to this school and that he is going to leave his old life behind. The idea thrills him and he embarks on a five year journey in his education as a magician. Along the way he finds a group of friends and a girlfriend. They all graduate and everything seems grand, but Quentin's darn sense of ennui and angst just keeps coming back. Eventually through random acts he and his friends find themselves in the world from the book series with which he is obsessed. Turns out the place is real, but not quite how he imagined.

If people are looking to read this book because they think it is just a slightly more adult version of Harry Potter they should just stop. This book is not for them. Yes it does have some similarities. There is a school for magic that trains people from the real world, but other than that and a few snarky mentions of things from Harry Potter (Quidditch and Hermione shrinking her teeth) they are quite different books. Harry Potter embodies a sense of wonder about the mystical world, that while it has some darkness in it, it is much clearer on good vs evil. In Harry Potter it is clear who the heroes are, but in this book there is a lot more gray area.

Overall the writing kept me engaged. I wanted to know what was going to happen next. the author managed to blend the different styles in well. I already mentioned by disdain for Quentin, but I will mention it again. Sometimes he seems like he wants to be sad for sadness sake. Not true depression, but the woe is me nonsense. I will continue to read the series to see what happens, and I hope that he will change at least a little.

Rating: 4 Stars

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