Fox on Books

Book reviews, opinions, musings and ramblings. General bookish excitement!

The Magicians – by Lev Grossman

MagiciansI’m going to start providing summaries at the top of my reviews, for those who want the TL:DR version. Behold:

The Magicians is incredibly ambitious, odd, cynical and sometimes downright infuriating. I LOVED it.

What if Hogwarts (or a place a lot like it) was real? But what if being a magician doesn’t magically solve all your problems, or automatically furnish you with a purpose and direction in life? What if you’re still just you?

This book came to me both highly and widely recommended as an adult’s Harry Potter. People I knew from disparate parts of my life were ranting excitedly at me about how wonderful it was. WOW. Talk about great expectations.

I’m always wary about books that come so highly praised, as odd as that might sound. In my experience, no matter how great the book is, your reading experience will impacted by how much you already expect from the book, which means you’re not in the moment.

To begin with, The Magicians definitely suffered from talked-up-itis. I was enjoying it, but not adoring it, leaving me vaguely dissatisfied and wondering where I’d gone wrong. With hindsight, that’s pretty much how Quentin Coldwater, the main character, feels after he discovers he’s a magician and will be going to the magical school of Brakebills – so many expectations that he couldn’t help but be somewhat disappointed by the sheer reality of it all. Anyway, something wasn’t working. I needed to clear my head, and let go my preconceived ideas of what this book should be.

I put it down. I read a couple of other books in a couple of other genres. I picked it back up.

Oh! The magic! BAM. THERE it is.

I couldn’t get enough of the last third of this book. Talk about the definition of slow build. While the first part of The Magicians was set at a stately pace, reflecting our protagonist Quentin’s dissatisfaction at the inexorable progression of his life, all bets were off as the story drew to a middle.

I can’t overstate how fantastic the payoff was! I flew through the last chapters, staying up inadvisably late to finish it because there was just no choice.

The Magicians has the gentle pace of Patrick Rothfuss with the cynicism of Joe Abercrombie, and at the same time it is nothing like either of those authors. Quentin’s harder on himself than anyone, and is always waiting for the next plot twist – just like the reader. It’s a weird, cool experience.

four fox


I’m not going to tell you a lot about this book. I don’t want you to come into it spoiled. But I do want you to read it!

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