Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he’s still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery.
He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin’s fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.
At once psychologically piercing and magnificently absorbing, The Magicians boldly moves into uncharted literary territory, imagining magic as practiced by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions. Lev Grossman creates an utterly original world in which good and evil aren’t black and white, love and sex aren’t simple or innocent, and power comes at a terrible price.
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So I only came to realise recently just how polarising this book is. I’ve wanted to read it for years, but every time I would go to purchase it, I suddenly came across a whole host of really negative reviews. A few months would pass, I would see some fantastic rave reviews and go to buy it again… only to be confronted with all those one star reviews again. I decided just to go for it, and for the most part, I really enjoyed what I read.
I really liked Quentin and I could see some of my own thoughts reflected in his. I’m not sure what this says about me because Quentin is not an especially likeable character… but his constant search for something better is definitely something I could relate to. I enjoyed Grossman’s writing and his use of uncommon words. Sometimes it felt a little pretentious, but I don’t know whether that was Grossman or Grossman writing from Quentin’s perspective, you know? I choose the believe it was the latter. I loved the middle section in which Quentin was running around with the other physical kids and it felt very old world English boarding school. And even when things got a little odd and they were all turned into geese, I was still thoroughly enjoying myself.
So up until the middle of the book I was wondering why so many people hate this book so much. (To be honest, even now having finished the book, I’m still a little lost of that point.) It wasn’t as dark or depressing as I had been lead to believe, and sure, a lot of ground had been covered in a small amount of pages, but it definitely wasn’t awful. Some of the reviews I read mentioned that it all kind of goes downhill from the halfway mark and I have to say I agree. I’ve read some weird books and this was not the weirdest by far, but it just kind of fell into what read like a terrible Chronicles of Narnia knockoff. It was flat and just not enjoyable to read. Some convenient things happened, some character death, and ultimately, not an especially satisfying resolution in my opinion. I’m pleased I read it, and I did love the whole first half of the book, but I don’t think I’ll be continuing on with the series.