Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

16 Nov

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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11 responses to “Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

  1. Dawn

    November 16, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    THE MAGICIANS didn’t do it for me, either. I found Quentin to be very dark and depressed, and as you say – we don’t know that he had any reason to be! The only character I found at all sympathetic was Alice – hadn’t even considered that it would have been more interesting from her POV, but now that you mention it, I do agree!

  2. Allison

    November 16, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    I think I would have a hard time reading it after Harry Potter, too! Though it DOES sound interesting.. how could it ever compare?

  3. Literary Feline

    November 16, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    That seems to be a common theme in the reviews I’m reading–that it just doesn’t measure up to Harry Potter. I do plan to read this one eventually, but probably not for awhile.

  4. Meghan

    November 17, 2009 at 7:54 am

    I know I would have liked the book better if it had been Alice’s point of view. She was definitely my favorite character. I didn’t like this book so much!

  5. kay

    November 17, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Sorry you didn’t enjoy this one so much. I’ve read some other reviews where readers seem to have been disappointed, so maybe I’ll borrow it instead of buying it.

  6. Belle

    November 17, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    This just seems to be too dark a book for me. I like my magic to be inspiring and hopeful.

  7. Lisa

    November 18, 2009 at 11:09 am

    This one seemed to be every where and was getting great buzz but most of the reviews I’ve read echo yours, that this one is only “good.”

  8. docshona

    November 18, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Seems like this book has got mixed reviews. The hype created has made me not want to read it so soon. May be I will pick it up at my own pace and read it. Thanks for the review

  9. Nicole

    November 18, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    I really liked this author’s writing but not enough happened for me. By the time the party got started I was just ready for it to be over. I would be interested to read something else by him though.


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