Book Review – The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The blurb invokes:

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, the prequel to the New York Times bestselling book The Magician King and the #1 bestseller The Magician’s Land, 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.

This book is obviously an attempt at combining Harry Potter and Narnia for an adult audience.  Mostly it does a good job, but it’s a bit slow in places and some of the plot doesn’t seem necessary.

I would dismiss this book as not deserving its reputation, but I found it hard to dismiss.  The fact that the plot wanders a bit and bogs down in places seem like bad things but I think it was intentional.  Part of the theme of the book is about how life isn’t like stories, and so this is a story that is more like real life.

Interestingly the book seems to be more about trying to find meaning in life than any of the overt magical plot.  The question of meaning is never answered, and I wonder if it will be resolved in a later book or whether the author just doesn’t have an answer.

I think the reason this book became famous (although “Harry Potter for adults” is popularity bait) is because the atypical plotting and dissatisfied undercurrent sticks it in your head and makes it feel like the book has a deeper meaning.