Evil Geek Book Report – The Magicians
Probably thanks to J.K. Rowling the last decade has seen a massive increase in novels featuring witches, magic, and numerous fantasy worlds. And about 5 years ago a man named Lev Grossman released a novel titled The Magicians that was touted as “A Harry Potter novel for adults.” I guess I should first comment that all of the Harry Potter novels are stellar and are not just for kids, so if you haven’t read them you are truly missing out. But I was intrigued by this review and all the popular acclaim this novel got, so I decided to check it out. Continue onward for my spoiler containing review of this novel.
The novel starts out in Brooklyn following Quentin Coldwater, an incredibly intelligent though emotionally detached young boy that finds pleasure living in an alternative reality created in his mind by his favorite book series “Fillory and Further”. He hates interacting with other kids and would prefer to imagine a life of fantasy and magic, so it is quite a shock when he is approached by a mysterious school known as Brakebills Academy that teaches magic to students in Upstate New York.
Quentin is beyond thrilled when he is accepted, and heads to the school with high hopes that his boredom with life and inability to handle social situations will be resolved in this new school. There he finds that his magical powers are most aligned with “The Physical Forces” of the world and is entered in to their group. But sadly for Quentin, becoming a magician is not nearly as thrilling and life-altering as he had hoped. His life is still dull, and learning magic seems tedious, especially for him who happens to be one of the best students in his year.
The entirety of his magical training flies by rather fast, and before we know it he and his classmates (and girlfriend) have graduated. Of course, what can one do as a magician? Pretty much sit around being spoiled and bored, not having to work for a living and not being able to reveal your powers to the rest of the world. This sums up my qualms with the book: these magician kids are beyond whiny and pathetic, and don’t know what to do with themselves. Except for Alice, Quentin’s girlfriend, the entire group of them become this hedonistic, immoral vagabond. And of course this leads to Alice breaking up with Quentin when he cheats on her, even though she was the only good thing going for him.
Eventually the book reaches a point where you feel like you can’t read it anymore, afterall these kids are so pathetic and abysmal, but then they find that there really is an alternate universe known as Fillory like Quentin admired from his childhood. The group begins to fill their purposeless lives with trips to this land where they go on numerous adventures and have to defeat an evil man known as Martin Chatwin that has also become a beast that eats magicians. Ultimately Alice sacrifices herself for the group and the world. The group returns to our universe and their unfulfilling lives, until at the end of the novel Quentin realizes that he has no joy in his current career and he decides to leave this world to travel back to Fillory indefinitely.
You might be thinking this sounds like a pretty depressing, lackluster novel. Well, you would be right in that assumption. Of course, I just found out that the author, Lev Grossman, made a trilogy and this was just the first in three novels in The Magicians Trilogy. I still have not decided whether or not I will read the subsequent books, as I am not sure I want to be depressed again. But there are a couple fun scenes in the novel I will point out that made it bearable.
I think my favorite scene was when Quentin’s class was transformed by their teachers in to a flock of geese and they migrated to the satellite school in Antartica for a semester abroad. When they were changed to their feathered form they lost their human feelings and intuitions, and instead were filled with an overwhelming urge to fly south whatever it took. They also experienced simple joy at being able to fly and keeping their formation. It was an interesting chapter and well written if you ask me, an animal lover. Of course, later on in the novel they are also changed in to Artic foxes by their professor and experience the wild that way, which leads to a scene of animalistic sex between many of the characters, and was a little too raunchy for me. Even though they were all animals it felt a little too much like beastiality.
And the alternate form of Martin Chatwin as “The beast” was chilling. There was not a ton of detail, but that allowed you to use your imagination and picture this giant monster that rivaled the Pale Man.
But aside from that the novel was lacking and shallow. I will keep you all posted if I decide to read the follow up novels or not.
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