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.