Monday, October 19, 2009

The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Yawn.

This book has several things to recommend it.
1. A pretty cover.
2. An Amazon pick.
3. An interesting plot summary.
From Amazon:
Amazon Best of the Month, August 2009: Mixing the magic of beloved children's fantasy classics (from Narnia and Oz to Harry Potter and Earthsea) with the sex, excess, angst, and anticlimax of life in college and beyond, Lev Grossman's Magicians reimagines modern-day fantasy for grownups. Quentin Coldwater lives in a state of perpetual melancholy, privately obsessed with his childhood books about the enchanted land of Fillory. When he’s admitted to the surreptitious Brakebills Academy for an education in magic, Quentin finds mastering spells is tedious (and love is even more fraught). He also discovers his power has thrilling potential--though it's unclear what he should do with it once he's moved with his new magician cohorts to New York City. Then they discover the magical land of Fillory is real and launch an expedition to use their powers to set things right in the kingdom--which, naturally, turns out to be a much murkier proposition than expected. The Magicians breathes life into a cast of characters you want to know--if the people you want to know are charismatic, brilliant, complex, flawed magicians--and does what Quentin claims books never really manage to do: "get you out, really out, of where you were and into somewhere better. " Or if not better, at least a heck of a lot more interesting.
4. And rave reviews, dropping names like J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis.

A sure winner, right? Harry Potter goes to college? Um, no. And unless all the good stuff happens after midway through the book, a lot of those other things aren't true either. Cast of characters you want to know? No. Unless you have a thing for sullen, superior teenagers who live in a grey world where there is no hope, no warmth, no fun, and nothing to really live for. I never made it to the imaginary world that becomes real. I had no incentive to make it there because I just didn't care if anything ever happened for Quentin.

Good vs. evil battles with characters you care about, even if they are flawed, that's what those other books have. I didn't find any of that in this one. Maybe it's the reimagining for grown-ups part. I don't really want to read about a world colder and more detached than the one I really, actually live in. It was easy to put down and I never felt any urgency to pick it up...well, after I started reading it. Before I opened it, I was pretty interested. Still, there may be good story here if you can make it to the end. My advice? Try the library.

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