Monday, January 16, 2012

Jenn's Review: The Magicians

Summary:  Like everyone else, precocious high school senior Quentin Coldwater assumes that magic isn't real, until he finds himself admitted to a very secretive and exclusive college of magic in upstate New York. There he indulges in joys of college-friendship, love, sex, and booze- and receives a rigorous education in modern sorcery. But magic doesn't bring the happiness and adventure Quentin thought it would. After graduation, he and his friends stumble upon a secret that sets them on a remarkable journey that may just fulfill Quentin's yearning. But their journey turns out to be darker and more dangerous than they'd imagined. Psychologically piercing and dazzlingly inventive, The Magicians is an enthralling coming-of-age tale about magic practiced in the real world-where good and evil aren't black and white, and power comes at a terrible price.

Review:   I requested to review The Magicians because I'd heard such great things about it. I love YA fantasy but I don't read a lot of adult fantasy. Needless to say, The Magicians was a bit of an adjustment for me. Not only was it full of magic, but sex, violence, and power drunkenness.

Lev Grossman's writing is incredibly dense. I love his prose (anyone who uses the word insouciant!) but I'm not sure that I am in love with his narrative style. It felt like Mr. Grossman was trying to condense an epic compendium. The story covers all of Quentin's years in magic college and then some. I wanted the story to be about magic college, or about life after college, but instead Mr. Grossman gives us highlights of everything in order to maintain the pace of his story. At times I appreciated that he was only giving us the important scenes, particularly when his writing became especially thick, and other times I felt cheated. I thirsted to know more about Brakebills, the magical community, and the Magician's Council, but alas the reader's only interaction is through Quentin, so we only know and see as much as he does.

I started off invested in all of the characters, and by the mid-point of the book I was becoming disenchanted with them; by three-quarters of the way through I didn't like any of them, save for maybe Alice, and only then by default. I need my flawed characters to have redeeming qualities, and I was scrounging to find any.

I realize this is a series so there needs to be some open-endedness, but more often than not, it felt more like loopholes than loose ends. In the end, I'm not sure why any of it happened the way it did, whether it was all just plot devices, or whether there was purpose. For example, I found the violence in the book was sudden and disjunct. I understand that there was supposed to be a level of shock value there, but by the end it seemed to be violence for the sake of violence, although perhaps that was part of the narrative plan too.

What I started out immensely enjoying, I completed feeling disillusioned. It's an imaginative, original masterpiece to be sure, but for me, it felt like it derailed. It left me feeling discouraged and disheartened which, again, was probably the point. While I understand the praise The Magicians has received, I am fully aware that this series is not for me.

Final Take:  2.5/5


Stephanie @ Read In a Single Sitting January 16, 2012 at 6:36 PM  

I'm sorry to hear that you didn't enjoy this one. I read and enjoyed to some degree Codex, but not enough that I wanted to run out and pick up The Magicians, though I have heard good things about it. I'll keep an eye out for it, but with reservations. :)

Jenn January 17, 2012 at 7:39 AM  

Maybe I expected too much. I really wanted to like it... but it is almost dystopian (not a fan), so that's probably why it didn't stick.

Dalya January 24, 2012 at 9:04 PM  

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but it was not a "feel-good" experience, so I'm not surprised that half the friends I've loaned it to didn't dig it. I loved parts, but I can't imagine myself re-reading it. I just read the next in the series (The Magician King), and I loved the one POV storyline, but not the other. I'm really impressed with Grossman's level of detail on the magic, though. I thought that element was top-notch.

Jenn January 24, 2012 at 11:42 PM  

I did and I didn't like the detail on the magic. It kind of took the fantasy out of it.

I certainly understand it's popularity... I just hated almost all the characters by the end of the book.

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