The Magicians

The Magicians (The Magicians #1)The Magicians by Lev Grossman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was having a mixed reaction to THE MAGICIANS for the first hundred pages or so. I thought the story was interesting, yet it was also kind of snoozy and unengaging at times. But then the Antarctica sequence happened and I was sold! Even just the passage describing the flight of the geese was so incredible I couldn’t help falling in love with Grossman’s prose. The novel turned snoozy again a few times after that — it’s hard to summarize entire years of schooling in a handful of paragraphs and still keep it lively, just as it’s hard to present bored, jaded characters with few interests outside of drinking without risking boring your reader, too — but the final third of the novel, when THE MAGICIANS is fully in conversation with portal fantasies like THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, is where I thought it truly came alive.

I think Grossman must have been a prickly teenager, because he gets prickly teenagers exactly right in Quentin Coldwater. He also gets right that strong, seductive feeling of finally finding someplace you belong when you get to college and make friends you really click with, and the nebulous anxiety that overtakes you as college draws to an end, and the fear of the indifferent outside world after graduation. In fact, Grossman nails so many of the character-related details that it almost comes as a surprise that he also nails so many of the fantasy-related details with equal accuracy.

I greatly enjoyed THE MAGICIANS, despite the snoozy bits, and am looking forward to reading THE MAGICIAN KING next.

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