REVIEW: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Likened to the Harry Potter series I expected great things from The Magicians. No sooner then the first chapter did I realize that was a big mistake.  The book centers around the private institution known as Brakebills, a school that trains young teenagers to harness their natural magical ability.  The main character, Quentin Coldwater, hails from Brooklyn, NY and has taken to magic, and the enchanted world of Fillory, as an outlet for his depression.  Upon his acceptance at Brakebills be begins learning about so-called “real magic” and is enchanted by the dark-haired Alice, who appears to be a natural in each class.  The book goes on to show life after Quentin and his group of friends, dubbed The Physical Kids, graduate from Brakebills and enter the world of professional magic.

I have to say that overall, The Magicians did not impress me.  While the very end was redeeming I found that most of this book was completely devoid of plot with unnecessarily complicated language that confused the reader more then it aided the nonexistent story.  Quentin himself is an extremely unlikeable character who was more interested in showing off and appearing self important then he was at working on his magic.   With Quentin’s lack of interest, I found this book both void of character and of plot, which left us with prose-like excerpts of life at Brakebills, most of which served no purpose later.  In addition to the choppy narration, Grossman’s word choices barely made sense nor lent any redeeming attributes to the characters.

It is a sad thing when a reader can imagine another way to write the book, and I am not talking about simply changing the perspective.  I mean an entirely different way to write a book.  That is how I felt most of the time reading The Magicians.   It seemed often like Grossman was more interested in writing about the fictional world of Fillory that he created for his fiction character.   It seemed like Quentin’s thoughts went on for ages about plots of the five Fillory books and left little space for Quentin to have any other interest, aside from shagging her girlfriend Alice.   Personally, I found myself preferring to read about the Chatwins and their adventures in Fillory then Quentin’s experience reading about Fillory.

In the end however, I took away what Lev Grossman was trying to achieve with this 400 page story. However, I was also kicking myself for the fact that I wasted two weeks trying to read this book just to get a point made in the last thirty pages.  In the end,  I found The Magicians disappointing and uneventful on many levels.  I didn’t come into it expecting Harry Potter, but I most certainly didn’t expect unintelligible strings of prose to be the focus.  Overall,  The Magicians is what happens when you throw a copy of The Chronicles of Narnia in with the complete Harry Potter series and hit blend, but stop halfway through only to find ice cube chunks in your smoothie.  The book is definitely unoriginal, uneventful, and worthy of publication.

Final Grade: F

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15 thoughts on “REVIEW: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

  1. I was just discussing this book with a friend. Just like you, she thought it would be a good read because it was on the NYTimes Bestsellers List and she had heard good things about the author. Her opinion after reading it wasn’t enticing. She wants me to read it and see how i feel…but i think i better skip this one, especially after reading your review.

    1. Yea I would. It’s not so much that its a bad premise, its that its a badly written. If he could make it more interesting I would say go ahead and pick it up but honestly I could probably say you would only have to read about 100 pages and get some notes from someone who’s read it to get the effect. Not my idea of good writing or a great literary masterpiece.

  2. I really didn’t know what the point of this book was. At first I thought it would center on Quentin’s time at Brakebills, but I quickly realized that that wasn’t the point of the story. Then he graduated and went on to have a “real life,” but it wasn’t really about that either. Having finished it and all, I still don’t know what the point was.

    You’re right about Quentin being a very unlikeable character. I didn’t care much for him either. This book reminded me of Donna Tart’s A Secret History.

    1. That was the thing. I was wondering why the events were taking place. Though I guess it could be seen as a personal journal, it is definitely not a story that is plot driven. The fact that it isn’t plot driven and has the most unlikeable character I’ve ever read about, didn’t help me either. So in the end I just found myself wishing that I had spent my time with a better book. (Or even Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which I never got around to reading when it came out.)

  3. It’s kinda funny how they label this a “Harry Potter for adults” – by that do they mean it is because the students are in college/post college and don’t do anything except drink alcohol, take drugs and have sex all day? lol

    1. I know what you mean. That’s exactly how I feel about it. The only other book I’ve read like this in my life was a young adult book called The A-List which featured superficial characters and introduced them to the audience in a limo drinking really expensive champagne and then going shopping for really expensive clothes. I would not have been surprised if sex was featured somewhere in the book, I stopped reading after the first fifty or so pages.

  4. Haha…sounds terrible. Well, the reason I mentioned A Secret History earlier was because the Physicals were kinda similar to the small group in A Secret History (which I don’t recommend you read…). I think I just kept reading The Magicians because I kept hoping something would happen and that it would get better…

    1. That’s what I said. There were spots where I thought, this might be going somewhere, but it always led back to the same sex and drugs lifestyle. It wasn’t until the last few chapters that I was really into the story and wanted it to continue, of course the book ended twenty pages later. Isn’t that ironic?

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