Heathpie’s CBR-III Review #21 – The Magicians by Lev Grossman

How to describe The Magicians? Calling it a “Harry Potter for Adults” would be underestimating its power and creativity. Perhaps a cross between Harry Potter, The Narnia series, and a typical college experience would be more appropriate. With more than a few hangovers.

Quentin is bookish, at the top of his class in high school. His best friends are as nerdy as him, and they all have grand plans for their futures at university. But everything changes when Quentin is transported to a hidden school, masterfully passes a (seemingly) ridiculous entrance exam, and is admitted to Brakebills Academy. A school for magic.

Magicians is gritty. It feels true to life. Lev Grossman satisfyingly describes his teenage characters truthfully, without holding anything back. Yes, teenagers swear. Yes, teenagers have sex. Teenagers rebel against authority, go through an apathetic stage, and perhaps have a moment of awakening.

I really wanted to love this book, and for the most part, I did. But while the first two thirds of the story were wonderful, the last third fell short. It was trying way too hard to be something else (namely, Narnia), and became extremely predictable. While creative, I felt like there were too many similarities. I’ve since read that Grossman was paying homage to books from his youth, and I think that’s wonderful, but there is a little too much of that going on for my liking.

The sequel, The Magician King, was just released. Just because Magicians didn’t meet my expectations, Grossman is simply too talented to ignore. I’ll be reading his second outing.

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