Book Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

magiciansTitle: The Magicians
Author: Lev Grossman
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Viking
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: Quentin did a magic trick.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman is a fantasy novel that mixes a bit of Harry Potter with a lot of The Chronicles of Narnia, throws in some Brideshead Revisited and Lord of the Rings, and weaves a tale that will appeal to many fans of fantasy, to those who have spent their younger years wishing that Narnia really existed, that Hogwarts wasn’t simply a fictional world.

Quentin Coldwater has always been a bit different. He’s smarter than almost all of his peers. His parents don’t understand him. He’s spent hours reading and re-reading novels of a fictional place called Fillory, wishing he could get there. When he arrives at an entrance interview for an Ivy League university, and finds the interviewer dead, things start to get a little strange. He follows a wind-blown piece of paper and finds himself at Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy.

At Brakebills, Quentin finds a part of himself that he always knew – but could scarcely believe – existed. He spends five years studying magic – and then has to enter the rest of the world and decide what it all means.

I had a very hard time deciding what to rate this book. If I was basing my rating on the creativity of the story and the brilliance of the writing alone, I would probably rate it four stars. But because mood and theme also play hugely in a reading experience – and believe me, I know this is completely a matter of opinion – I can’t say I loved this book. I liked it, but it had an over-arching mood of darkness and cynicism that I couldn’t shake. I closed it with a sense of relief – I’d finished it, and I could move on to something with a bit more faith in the world and in humankind.

Grossman is an extremely talented writer who has come up with a very unique idea, and I do think that many people will thoroughly enjoy this book and not mind the mood at all.

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17 Responses to Book Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

  1. Belle
    Twitter: msbookish

    I’m debating reading this one. I was so eager to get my hands on it, and did actually get a library copy but didn’t get around to reading it before I had to return it. I’ve read so many reviews that say it’s really a very dark book, and I prefer my magic to be bright with a dash of hope and optimism, so I’m not sure if this one is for me.
    .-= Belle´s last blog ..Incoming! The Memoirs Edition =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Belle – You might try it from the library again – that way you’re not investing money in case you don’t like it.

  2. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    This is an area in which Rowling is masterful. The later Harry Potters are as dark as it gets, really, but are never oppressive. How she does it, I have no idea. I’m thinking that I might have issues with comparing this to HP which is never a good thing, because it would lose the battle every time. In fact, it would probably lose against Narnia, Brideshead Revisited and LOTR as well!
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..Rebecca Read Along – Week 1 Discussion =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Sandy – maybe I shouldn’t have compared it to so many books! 🙂

  3. heidenkind says:

    This sounds like a book I would check out of the library if I read it at all. The constant comparisons to Harry Potter, but without any of the fun, doesn’t make it sound appealing to me.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Tasha – I know – it’s hard to live up to HP, but any book set in a magical college is going to get those comparisons, I think.

  4. I’ve been really paying close attention to the reviews of this one because it sounds like something I like. I am glad to hear you say what you did about the writing and creativity. I don’t think the darker more negative tone and mood of the book would bother me. As long as I’m in the mood for it. Thank you for your great and well-balanced review, Carrie!
    .-= Literary Feline´s last blog ..Review: Haunting Bombay by Shilpa Agarwal =-.

  5. Kailana says:

    The reviews of this book seems to be all over the place. I have it on hold at the library, so one day soon I will know what I think of it!
    .-= Kailana´s last blog ..The Day The Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Kailana – I haven’t actually read any other reviews yet – I’ll be interested to see what others are saying.

  6. Fyrefly says:

    I finished this pretty recently, and I have to say, I was dissapointed…. all of the ennui and depression and angst! Too much for me.
    .-= Fyrefly´s last blog ..Sunday Salon: Read-a-thon is coming! =-.

  7. S. Krishna
    Twitter: skrishna

    I’m going to be reading this one for book club, so I’m really curious as to what people think about it. Thanks for the review!
    .-= S. Krishna´s last blog ..Pendragon’s Banner – Helen Hollick =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Swapna – this would be a great book for book club – should spark a lot of discussion, I would think.

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