The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Rating: 2 stars
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Like everyone else, precocious high school senior Quentin Coldwater assumes that magic isn't real, until he finds himself admitted to a very secretive and exclusive college of magic in upstate New York. There he indulges in joys of college-friendship, love, sex, and booze- and receives a rigorous education in modern sorcery. But magic doesn't bring the happiness and adventure Quentin thought it would. After graduation, he and his friends stumble upon a secret that sets them on a remarkable journey that may just fulfill Quentin's yearning. But their journey turns out to be darker and more dangerous than they'd imagined. Psychologically piercing and dazzlingly inventive, The Magicians, the prequel to the New York Times bestselling book The Magician King and the #1 bestseller The Magician's Land, is an enthralling coming-of-age tale about magic practiced in the real world-where good and evil aren't black and white, and power comes at a terrible price."
Review: I'd heard that this book was polarizing, but after the first hundred pages I thought I was going to land on the side with those who loved it. Secret schools of magic, precocious magicians, suspicious professors, and a lurking evil that no one really seems to understand... it felt like the perfect book for me. I was enjoying the atmosphere and getting to know the characters, and looking forward to what adventures lay in store.
So no one is as surprised as I am that I ended up disliking this book. In fact, I nearly stopped reading after 250 pages because, although I was curious in this world, there was no plot. Let me say that a little louder: There was NO PLOT. At all. I had nothing to look forward to, and no reason to keep reading. I didn't mind Quentin's relentless existentialism, and I didn't mind reading through the mind of someone who clearly had some untreated mental illness issues. (Most notably depression, though I suspect some narcissism as well.)
But Quentin's dissatisfaction with every aspect of his life got to me after a while. I know many people who struggle feeling content, and so it wasn't his depression that bothered me. It was more his lack of awareness of his own depression that was bothersome. Maybe his antipathy just rubbed off on me, but by the time a plot finally arrived (300 pages later) I just didn't care anymore.
There was a lot of mature content in this novel: drugs, alcoholism, and sex were all pursued in the quest to feel something, but of course none of it worked. The good parts of life (beauty, justice, friendship, love, etc.) were available around him, but Quentin failed to see them because he was too busy chasing false highs. And, an astonishing number of other characters also failed to see them. It made me feel weary.
In the end, I was so relieved to be done with this book. I came away feeling very disillusioned, and in need of cupcakes and kittens to renew my faith in life.
(I gave it 2 stars instead of 1 because, although I did not enjoy the book, I am a big enough person to admit that it was written very well. Mr. Grossman is a very talented writer. I just wish his work had a little more hope in it.)
Review in a GIF:
Bottom Line: Read if you feel like drowning in a grim and relentless pool of depression.