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#72 The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Quentin Coldwater is a highly intelligent high school senior who's completely dissatisfied with his life. He finds escape in the Fillory books, a Narina-esque children's fantasy series that he never outgrew. When he's invited to Brakebills, a prestigious school of magic, Quentin feels as if his life has finally begun. Only the life of a magician has it's fair share of problems that he could not predict.

The Magicians is fantasy book that often reads like a homage to adolescent fantasy series like Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Earthsea. It's chock full of other fantasy references, touching on everything from Dungeons and Dragons to the video game Gauntlet (“Wizard needs food badly!”). As a result, picking out all of the similarities can be a lot of fun for a fantasy fan. I found that I really enjoyed the first two hundred pages, which focuses on Quentin's magical education. I have a real weakness for fantasy stories that focus on the training, or schooling of wizards or magicians, so these sections really worked for me. Admittedly the characters could be a little irritating at times, but I could work past that. I particularly loved the scenes that took place in Antarctica.

Unfortunately, the book takes a downward turn during the second half, which focuses on life after college. Without the focus of Brakebills, the story degrades into alcohol fueled angst. The characters (with the exception of Alice) are no longer just a little irritating. Despite all their supposed intelligence, they all come off as spoiled, immature, and utterly unlikable. I realize that there is a natural emotional let down when one leaves the semi-protective atmosphere of college and faces the challenges of “the real world,” but seeing how the characters don't even have to face most of these typical challenges, they were getting no sympathy from me. The book gains a bit of focus once the characters embark on their adventures in Fillory but I had a real hard time enjoying Fillory while the characters were whining about boredom, and why it was so disappointing that people weren't jumping all over themselves to give them a quest. The epic ending did peak my interest once more, but the “magic” of the book was gone by this point. Some other issues I had were with certain plot developments that were never satisfyingly explained, and how certain rules or trends appeared to be changed for the convenience of the plot.

The Magicians was a book that started out with promise, but ultimately left me feeling conflicted and disappointed. I can appreciated the author's appeared quest to give us a fantasy book grounded in reality as opposed to whimsy, but the results are painfully uneven. On a positive note, this book was read for readwonderland  (a book club here on livejournal. Please join us!) and I really do look forward to discussing these conflicted feelings in more depth with others.

Rating: three stars
Length: 402 pages
Source: Lewiston Public Library
Challenge: This book is not part of any challenges
Similar Books: The college section reminded me greatly of Pamela Dean's Tam Lin (my review)
Other books I've read by this author: this is my first

xposted to temporaryworlds , bookish , and goodreads
Tags: book club, fantasy, lev grossman, three stars, year published: 2009
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