Friday, December 2, 2011

Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Author: Lev Grossman
Publisher: Viking Adult
Release Date: August 2009

From Amazon:
Quentin Coldwater, a Brooklyn high school student devoted to a children's series set in the Narnia-like world of Fillory, is leading an aimless existence until he's tapped to enter a mysterious portal that leads to Brakebills College, an exclusive academy where he's taught magic. Coldwater, whose special gifts enable him to skip grades, finds his family's world mundane and domestic when he returns home for vacation. He loses his innocence after a prank unintentionally allows a powerful evil force known only as the Beast to enter the college and wreak havoc. Eventually, Coldwater's powers are put to the test when he learns that Fillory is a real place and how he can journey there. Genre fans will easily pick up the many nods to J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis, not to mention J.R.R. Tolkien in the climactic battle between the bad guy and a magician.

     The Magicians by Lev Grossman is a great book. If I had to describe it to someone, I would probably tell them to imagine what a book would turn out like if J.K Rowling, C.S. Lewis and Ernest Hemingway all decided to write a fantasy book together.

     As one Amazon reviewer puts it"In 'The Magicians,' Lev Grossman has done something unusual, and remarkable, perhaps even unique: this is a grown-up fantasy. This book is to fantasy what "The Grapes of Wrath" is to travel books, what "The Metamorphosis" is to self-help: so much more depressing and visceral and funny and horrifying, and genuine, and fascinating, and hard to read and therefore valuable..."....Yeah, I guess that's a pretty good way of saying it, too.

     This is one of those novels that a guy like me won't read over and over again, but I'll always remember it. It's got that special something, that something that makes a book stick with a person, makes them think about it at the strangest of times. Understand this, I'm generally a pretty happy-go-lucky fellow. I enjoy a fantasy with a happy ending, I enjoy the confrontation of good and evil. The fantasy written by Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, or even Scott Lynch, is much more up my alley than things like Abercrombie, Baker or Lev Grossman. But, there is no doubt in my mind that Lev Grossman is an incredibly talented writer, and that The Magicians is a great novel. 

     I feel a lot like Patrick Rothfuss who couldn't quite put a finger on what he liked about the book. I think it was very well written, and written in more of a literary style than typical fantasy. The pacing was excellent, plenty of action at the right times to keep you turning the pages. The last half of the novel was miserably depressing to me. It reminded me a lot of The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway, characters that seemed so full of potential, but the timing was off for a love story and everyone was far too busy being an alcoholic to really do something with their lives. In this way, it made me think of Bakker and Abercrombie, writers whose characters are much more gray, and where terrible things can happen to any character, at any point. 

     In conclusion, if you're a smarty pants, a person who loves the classics, or just a fan of gritty "Hemingway Fantasy" (I think Dark Fantasy and Gritty Fantasy just sound stupid, and I haven't heard anyone come up with a better term to describe this type of writing) I think you'll really like The Magicians. This book definitely isn't for everyone, and I'm only about 60% sure it was for me, but I still give this book a 9/10, and highly recommend it.

I loved

  • The writing. It was beautiful, and sometimes simplistic, which only made it more beautiful
  • The fear of the future. This is a book where things can go terribly terribly wrong at any moment. You NEVER have the feeling that a character isn't in jeopardy, or that there's some God or magical thingamajig waiting behind a curtain to save them at the time they need it most.
 I hated
  • The depression. Ugh, this book was sometimes depressing to read. I haven't touched the sequel yet, because it's winter time and I'm already a little bummed out. Don't need that crap in my life just yet. I'll review book two next summer :)

1 comment: