Daily Archives: November 16, 2009

Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The MagiciansMy rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think it may be unfair of me, but I would have liked this book better if I hadn’t read Harry Potter.

Summary from

Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he’s still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery.

He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin’s fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.

My problem is that all aspects of the book were fine, but nothing was great.

If the book had been strong in one area– strong characters, an interesting world, an involving plot– anything that stood out, then all the rest would have been done well enough to support it. Unfortunately, nothing about the book ever grabbed me.

Harry Potter showed how fun a magical world could be. I understand that this is a grown up book, and that fun isn’t necessarily the point. In that case, give me depth instead– something to make the magic worthwhile. The details given about how magic worked were interesting, but never felt fully fleshed out. It didn’t give me insight into our world. It simply moved the story along.

The characters weren’t enough to carry the book for me. I never really liked Quentin. I didn’t understand why he was so miserable throughout the book. The book didn’t even work for me as a look at the life of a troubled college student because I never really related with him.

None of the other characters were portrayed with any depth to them. I think I might have enjoyed the book more from Alice’s point of view.

I can’t help comparing The Magicians to Looking For Alaska by John Green. That book was about a high school boarding school (no magic involved) where the students were equally troubled, equally obsessed with alcohol and sex, but they were far more interesting (and no less mature) than those in this book.

I really wanted to like the parts relating to Fillory, but all I could do was think about what was and wasn’t like Narnia. It never came together as its own magical place for me.

In spite of all this, I didn’t dislike the book. I just thought it could (and should) have been better.


Posted by on November 16, 2009 in books, reviews


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