The Magicians - Lev Grossman

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The Magicians - Lev Grossman

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1Aerrin99
nov 11, 2009, 9:02am

I just ripped through The Magicians last night and I'm very interested in hearing thoughts others may have on it.

I found it to be one of those strange sorts of books that I didn't enjoy immensely, but which I nonetheless could not put down. I feel in the end that in some ways, it was a very ambitious novel with some really interesting concepts to explore that simply fell very short in execution. I think perhaps I kept reading in the hopes that somewhere in the end, it would find its way back and really do what I thought it could have done.

Has anyone else read this? What are your thoughts?

2majkia
nov 11, 2009, 12:54pm

I tried to start it but then I was, at the time, dying to continue ripping through Song of Ice and Fire so not perhaps a good indication of whether or not I'll like it. I'll try it again after NaNo is over.

3Cecrow
nov 12, 2009, 9:44am

I'm impressed with the premise for the novel, so I've been interested. Sorry to hear about the execution not living up to expectations, but I will probably still try it.

4Aerrin99
nov 12, 2009, 2:01pm

> 2 I remember it being a bit slow to the start, but I did get into it a bit later.

> 3 I think it's certainly worth a read - it has some very interesting themes and some ambitious things I think it was trying to do. I'd be interested in hearing what you have to say after you've read it!

5Kat_In_Wonderland
nov 15, 2009, 1:32pm

It was a strange read for me as well. I couldn't put it down, read the whole thing in one night, but I can't say if I liked it or not.

It was an interesting premise, and I will say I enjoyed the fact that it wasn't all sunshine and lollipops... but at the same time the dark mood (not theme- mood, the main character is damn depressing) made it somewhat less enjoyable even though as a concept I loved it.

At the same time I enjoyed the idea of Fillory (cough- Narnia) being real and there being some kind of continuation of that storyline, but I wish the author had just called it Narnia, and called the children the Pevensies, because let's face it, that's what they are. And while I understand the names were probably changed for copyright reasons, it still annoyed me and detracted from the book.

In short- I loved reading the book, I gobbled it up in one sitting, but it left an unpleasant aftertaste.

-Kat.

6Aerrin99
nov 16, 2009, 8:22am

I read online that Grossman actually wanted to simply use Narnia, but there were monetary issues to doing so. I spent much of the book thinking the same thing. Eventually, though, I kind of came to the conclusion that it may not have worked quite as neatly had he done so - the twist with Jane at the end and the best of thousands of possible endings is one of the things I liked best (and as a side note, I just had to go look up her name to be sure I wasn't confusing it - he really had a fondness for Js, didn't he?)

I felt like the /idea/ of exploring happiness and fantasy and living always in either the past or the future but never the present could have been very powerful. But I agree that the degree to which it pervades this book made it hard to really love it. Maybe if we had seen at least some happiness, to stand in opposition to our miserable protagonist?

7DeteDete
nov 21, 2009, 2:20pm

Hi!
I finished it today. And I love it. I don't know what exactly, but this doesn't matter. This book is different from all the others I read. And I knew it from the beginning. I saw the book in the store and knew I had to buy it and the first sentence was cool, because it said everything and nothing.
For me as a German, who read the book in english, it was a little difficult to understand all the details in Fillory, but this doesn't matter, too.
But for me the very ending was to fast, there had to be more. What was this all about: flying with Julia in front of the window?
And I wish there had been more things than this Fillory-Quest.
So you can read - I liked the beginning more ;)
But there are so many things to think about, you actually don't notice while reading.

I agree that a moment of happyness would have done something good, but all in all I liked this mood.

I think it was good, that everyone thought about Narnia, but it wasn't. Cause so L. G. could work things the way he want. And I am glad that Peter Pevensy is no beast.

8Aerrin99
nov 23, 2009, 10:48am

> 7

I agree, the ending was a bit quick. In fact, I somehow missed that it was Julia until I was reading some reviews.

It's definitely different from other fantasy books - I think that's one of the reasons that I feel so intrigued by it, despite the fact that I don't know that I actually /enjoyed/ it that much. It has a very interesting undercurrent about fantasy and reality and the nature of happiness that feels especially poignant because of the 'world within our world' setting.

9gailo
dec 21, 2009, 1:32pm

I read The Magicians over the weekend, and have very mixed feelings about it. The first section of the book and the other three seemed very different, almost like they didn't really go together.

I enjoyed the first section a lot more than I expected to (I suspected that I wasn't going to like this book, and the first section was a pleasant surprise), so it was a disappointment later when the characters became self-absorbed, directionless early-twentisomethings who don't know what to do, so they don't do much of anything. I actually think that's fairly believable, a lot of people hit a funk after graduation as they try to figure out what to do next. But that doesn't mean that I found them to be likable or interesting.

I appreciated that it didn't have a typical juvenile happy ending in which everything turns out all right in the end, and that having magic didn't make Quentin a happier person. But I also hoped that their experiences might lead them to grow up a bit, and at the end I wasn't sure that they were any more mature than they had been at the mid-point.

I am not a Narnia fan, so that part of the story wasn't all that inherently interesting to me. But it could have been all right if there had been even one character I could like. Unfortunately there wasn't. I liked parts of The Magicians, but ultimately it was kind of a downer and a disappointment.

10jmnlman
dec 21, 2009, 6:00pm

I agree with the general consensus here. Unlikable characters were in the way of some interesting ideas. I couldn't help feeling at times like he was trying to poke fun at some of the fantasy stock plots but didn't want to go through with it and write it as as a parody. I found the direct Harry Potter references to be too much.

11Aerrin99
dec 21, 2009, 7:23pm

I really appreciated what I /think/ Grossman was trying to say about the way some people function with happiness - I can accept his deeply unhappy characters in that light. The general theme of always wanting something more something better some magical fix and /never/ being satisfied is interesting, as is the theme of the role fantasy plays in our lives.

Part of the problem for me, though, was that there was absolutely no relief from this. There was no other side of the equation, not a single well-adjusted character, barely even a momentarily happy character. /Everyone/ in the book was miserable - and they all seemed to suffer from the same affliction. That's not only boring and difficult to read, it's kind of lazy story telling. It makes his themes far less powerful than they could have been, I think.

12Aerrin99
dec 29, 2009, 1:14pm

I was browsing Scalzi's blog today and saw that Lev Grossman has done a 'Big Idea' post on The Magicians this summer when it came out. He has a few neat things to say.

Some tidbits I found particularly interesting:


There would also be fantasy novels. As far as I can tell Harry Potter never read a fantasy novel in his life before he went to Hogwarts. But you have.
...
Here’s what there wouldn’t be, if Hogwarts were really real: Voldemort. Or Sauron, or the White Witch, or any other Big Bad. Incarnations of ultimate evil are pretty rare in real life. ... With Voldemort in the picture, you know what magic is for: it’s for fighting evil. Take him out of the equation, and you get a very different kind of adventure, one that’s less about using magic to fight evil and more about just trying to figure out what the hell magic is for.
...
Maybe it’s just because I’m bitter and disillusioned, but I wanted to know what would happen if the safety protocols came off — what those make-believe stories would look like if you dragged them out into the harsh, pitiless light of the real world.

13jmnlman
jan 3, 2010, 5:56pm

12: the reason why I bought the book in the first place was because of seeing it discussed on Scalzi's blog. The idea of what would happen if the ever present evil threat didn't exist is interesting but it struck me as being too pat it resulted in drunken debauchery and whining.

14Aerrin99
jan 13, 2010, 10:35am

> 13

I agree. I think it's an intensely wonderful Big Idea, but sadly just not explored very far.

15Robreads
jan 18, 2010, 9:44am

I liked the book exactly because it was not a quest or mission to fight the ultimate evil. As a sort of urban fantasy, it asked and answered (I thought) the question of what would our current world be like if there were truly magic -- and adolescents were still adolescents, and you still have to face the question of what you would do with your life and magic itself simply is not in itself the answer. As someone who profoundly dislikes the Narnia books, I especially liked the twist on Fillory.

16Aerrin99
Bewerkt: jan 25, 2010, 8:39am



(click through and hover your mouse on the image for the alt text, which I think embodies this book quite well).

17zanyforever
jan 25, 2010, 9:35pm

Aerrin99 are any of your other post this amusing would love to look them over. lol

18Aerrin99
jan 26, 2010, 8:48am

Haha, probably not, sorry!

19Teck-Loh
mrt 8, 2010, 11:45pm

I saw that book in the neighbourhood book store!

I wanted to get it that very day, but unfortunately I haven't been paid yet. And a week later, when I went back to look for the book, the shop assistants showed me some books on stage magic when I told them I wanted 'The Magicians'.

Having browsed through the book briefly when I first encountered it, I got the impression it is just a grown-up version of Harry Potter. Instead of Hogwarts, some youths (older than Potter and friends) go to a university for magic, right?

Or am I wrong?

I would love to read this book. As soon as I can find it again.

20gilroy
dec 15, 2015, 7:42am

*Oooo! A Zombie Thread! Muahahahahah*

So, I picked this book up because I heard they were creating a show on the Sci Fi channel (I refuse to use their rebrand) and wanted to see what the basis was.

Whiny, privileged brat can't find happiness. Okay, I admit I'm still listening to it on disc and he's not graduated Brakebills yet, but seriously, you'd think he would find something to see joy in. I mean he has a wonderful piece of fox on his arm and all he does is mope and whine. The boy needs a psychiatrist.

And then I have to ask, if there is nothing to train for, no major advancements, no war, no motivation outside of the training itself, why? Some people say the same about modern school. Why? Just for the sake of the knowledge?

It's a meh book to me. I pray that the TV show does it 100 times better than the book.

21JohnPirillo
dec 24, 2015, 11:28am

Looked at all the Magician stuff on Syfy. It seems pretty dark. Doesn't have the spark of the Harry Potter series, which it is obviously a take on.

The Narnia things is interesting to me as a writer because I love the idea of incorporating other realms from older writers into my own narratives.

Perhaps it's just a fascination with the past, but I think a lot of the best ideas from the past still work today, but only need a fresh take on them.

Shakespeare was great at doing that and most modern writers worth their salt plow the past to sow the future.

Nothing new under the sun, but the ways we look at it.

Anyway, I'm more of a Eureka kind of tv series fan than the Magicians. Life's dark enough as it is. I like the idea of heroes who may face the dark...Grimm, Star Wars, Fringe, X-Files, but don't give into it, and are true heroes...that is, they care about all life and not just their own.

My thoughts.

I'll probably watch a few episodes of Magicians to see if it gets any better.

22Jenson_AKA_DL
apr 12, 2019, 3:52pm

I actually came here looking to see if there was a thread comparing the Magicians television show (which I really am enjoying) to the books (which I have not read) and found this thread which is old but relevant to what I'm looking for. Are these books young adult or are they for adults like the television show? I'd be curious to see how people think they compare to each other.

23Marissa_Doyle
apr 12, 2019, 4:21pm

The books are not YA.

24sparemethecensor
apr 12, 2019, 4:47pm

Definitely not YA.

I really, really like the show. I found the books hard to read because of Quentin, and the show fleshes out the other characters so much more. There's some really excellent world building that goes far beyond the books in complex and satisfying ways. I actually never read the third book (I read the second only because Julia was promised as the main character and while I liked seeing Julia's arc, I ultimately am not a fan of Grossman's, I think). But I look forward to the show every week.

25Jenson_AKA_DL
apr 13, 2019, 1:39pm

Thanks for the feedback! I may or may not try the books, I haven't made up my mind yet. I skimmed through the books at the library to get a feel for the author's style, but am re-reading a different series at the moment and didn't want to pick them up yet.