Monday, March 31, 2014

The Magicians: A conflicted book review

Have you ever finished a book and been completely ruined for all other books (at least for a while)? I love that “book coma” feeling, when I can’t bear to leave the world a writer has created.  But every once in a while I come across a book that, instead of making me pine after imaginary things, leaves me mystified.

Lev Grossman’s The Magicians was full of lovely, striking images.  There was magic, there was romance, and there were quite a few moments when I laughed out loud.

Yet for all that, I'm already set to jump into something new.  The book was good, yet there were a few parts I could have skipped without too many qualms.  The characters were brilliantly created and incredibly real, yet there were some who annoyed me.  Yet, yet, yet.

In short, I am in a dilemma. I can’t quite figure out how I felt about those magicians.

I picked it up (as a book on disk) because I read a Buzzfeed post that suggested people who loved Harry Potter would love The Magicians:

“Brooklyn teenager Quentin Coldwater of The Magicians likely grew up reading about Harry Potter. It’s the reason he spends his days wishing magic were real, and the reason he’s so excited when his fantasy is seemingly fulfilled by acceptance into the Brakebills Academy for magicians. But the magic world of The Magicians is a bit more tempered by reality — the studies are tedious, the practice is mired in bureaucracy — and even when Quentin discovers how far-reaching this magic is, he’s still not immune to some standard post-grad disillusionment.”
In fact, Quentin does grow up reading about a magical world: Fillory, a Narnia-esque place visited by a group of siblings from England.  Fillory itself plays a huge part throughout the entire book, though at first I thought it was just weird. Quentin begins the book at age 17, and all through his 5 years at Brakebills he thinks and talks about Fillory.  After a few mentions in Book 1 (the entire novel is split into four books), my “foreshadowing!” light clicked on.  By Book 3, my suspicions were confirmed.

Even though I *almost* expected it, Book 3 is a sort of not-just-out-of-left-field-but-out-of-the-parking-lot kind of twist.  Throughout the whole section I tried to decide if it even made sense in conjunction with the first two books. By the beginning of Book 4, I believed it did make sense. But now, at the end of it all, I’m not sure.

Grossman does a great job on everything from description to character reactions. The dialogue is a thing of beauty and very accurately catches what it feels and sounds like to live with all your best friends in the same building. As such, I know it was not his masterful handling of the craft of writing that has put me in this dilemma. I wish I could understand the strangely bittersweet feeling I have toward The Magicians. 

If you see The Magicians at the bookstore or library, pick it up and give it a read, and then shoot me a message! I’d love to see if others felt the same, or if I’m the only one left in a conundrum of feelings. 

This post was brought to you by Michelle, a copywriter and blogger who misses writing research papers and having deep academic discussions.  (That's probably why she loves Beyond the Trope so much.) She adores talking about books and makes a lot of things up.  All of you lovely people can find her here on Mondays. 

1 comment:

  1. Michelle!
    Makena and I love the Magicians, and have listened to the audiobook several times. There is a sequel, The Magician King, which I recommend if you enjoyed the first one. A third book, The Magician's Land, is due out later this year or next year I think.
    I love Grossman's characters, humor, and subversion of fantasy conventions (tropes, if you will?).