08 September 2014

book review: the magicians

the magicians by lev grossman

i seem to be drawn to the whole "otherworldly" science fiction/fantasy theme of books featuring witches, magicians, vampires, and other beasts who have magical powers every once in a while.  i read so many coming of age or romantically-themed novels that i guess i feel the need to change course and sandwich in a book focused on an entirely different group of characters, even though this isn't my preferred genre.  i tried reading the all souls trilogy by deborah harkness but the plot in the second book just became too confusing and convoluted that i couldn't get through it, but i had more success with the magicians.  of course i didn't realize until i'd started reading that this book also starts out a 3-novel series and i'll have to keep reading, but this book impressed me enough that i'm sure i will finish out the series.

the magicians centers around a high school student named quentin who is lost, depressed, confused about his place in the world.  during what he thought was a standard visit to a college adviser to interview for a prestigious college, he finds himself completely turned around and instead he is taking an exam for entrance to a prestigious magical college called brakebills.  he didn't realize the extent to his powers until he began to study there, and this leads him to feel alive and full of purpose.

that feeling, however, is fleeting as the years at school progress and he again struggles to find the answer to what he wants for himself, how he can find happiness, and what the purpose of his magic is.  i won't really go into detailing the plot more than that but i will say that i enjoyed quentin's character.  i feel like i could empathize with his struggles that are universal, not just ones that people on the cusp of adulthood have to face with determining a career or choosing a college.  parts of the book were slower than others - there seemed to be a heavy chunk that simply detailed the lazy exploits of quentin and his friends who sat around drinking all day and night (i'm pretty far removed from my undergrad years but i understand there's probably still truth to this; however, it still felt like such a cliche that received far too much emphasis) and not enough description of the magic you assumed the students were learning, honing, practicing throughout their schooling... but the author did have to rather quickly guide the reader through the entirety of the college experience at brakebills to get to graduation and the adventure quentin and his friends were then faced with, which is when the book again began to pick up.

it's hard to post reviews for an entire series of books without revealing too many spoiler alerts, so that's why i wanted to go ahead and post this review before i read the following two books in the series, but i do plan to do so.  i'd love to hear if anyone has read this book or if you, too, are drawn to this particular genre.  it's new to me, but i definitely find it can keep my attention if i feel connected enough to the characters and/or their struggles, just like any other novel!

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