Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sara's Library: The Magicians

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Book one of the Fillory trilogy
Viking 2009

Summary from Goodreads: "Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. He's a senior in high school, and a certifiable genius, but he's still secretly obsessed with a series of fantasy novels he read as a kid, about the adventures of five children in a magical land called Fillory. Compared to that, anything in his real life just seems gray and colorless. 

"Everything changes when Quentin 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 practice of modern sorcery. He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. But something is still missing. Magic doesn't bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he thought it would.

"Then, after graduation, he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real."

Review:   There were so many times I wanted to simply give up on this novel and throw it at the nearest wall.  It's not that it's poorly written, far from it.  Quentin is just one of the most infuriating protagonists I have ever encountered.  He is extremely selfish, egotistical, and prone to moping when things don't go his way...and, ultimately, this is one of the reasons The Magicians works so well.

Quentin and the majority of his group (save Alice) are perfect examples of the high-achieving, middle-class students who are constantly told how "special" they are that they become self-absorbed misanthropes in their college years.  Quentin represents his generation.  Despite his cynicism, his disapproval of the failing system left to him by his elders, he holds on to his hope of something better, represented here by his belief in Fillory.

But rather than the whimsical, somewhat generic fantasy world he remembers from his beloved children's books, Quentin finds a Fillory ravaged by violence, a world antithetical to the one represented in the text of the books.  Again, Mr. Grossman brings life to a generation's frustrations and disappointments, this time by subverting children's fantasy.

While I'll be the first to admit that the book could be a slog due to Quentin's behavior, the writing and the thought behind it more than make up for an annoying protagonist.  I will definitely be reading The Magician King.

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