Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Magicians: Not So Magical as I'd Hoped

I am so, so far behind. I know this. It's just that the blog, which I do for fun and not profit, is the first thing to drop from my schedule when life gets hectic. You know, as it tends to do this time of year. In good news, all my gifts are bought and wrapped and all cards are mailed, and I have been going to the gym regularly and doing everything I am supposed to do except write on this blog and clean my house. This comes before cleaning the house :)

The Magicians was my book club's pick for our October discussion. I admit, I was not particularly excited about it from the description, so I did not want to buy it. Unfortunately, BookMooch has a waiting list 300 miles long for this book. I did, however, find a recent review on Goodreads that indicated the reviewer had a copy to sell or swap. I contacted the guy and he was happy to mail me his copy, an ARC he'd received as a librarian, if I'd just pay the postage. He was kind enough to trust me and sent me the book first, and I sent him the postage by PayPal when I received the book.

The book is described as a coming-of-age story about a guy, Quentin, who is invited to attend a magical college when he is a senior in high school because he has some inherent ability to do magic - which of course he never believed in or knew existed until his entry exam when he somehow managed to do a little magic with no instruction. It's normal college - alcohol, sex, etc. - just the students are studying magic. He and his friends graduate with little to no direction in life until they find out the magical land of Fillory from their favorite childhood books is real, and is in trouble, and they decide to go save it.

If the description sounds a little familiar, that's because Lev Grossman borrowed from Harry Potter and from the Chronicles of Narnia, the latter heavily and intentionally, and added an emo, postmodern tone. The Fillory books mirror the Chronicles of Narnia pretty much identically, changing just enough to not incur any legal issues. And the heart of the story is really about Quentin learning that his beloved Fillory is no more clear-cut than anything in the "real" world - there's corruption, power-grubbing, mixed motives, good intentions accomplished through wicked methods, etc. And it deflates him. While I found it easy to read the book and went through it very quickly without ever feeling it was a labor, I ultimately found it depressing. The moral of the story essentially seemed to be that when you grow up, you realize life sucks and people are hateful and corrupt, and you would be better off to just accept it and settle down to the rest of your dull, miserable, disappointing life. I suppose the last scene of the book could be interpreted as hope of some kind, but it felt more like Quentin leaves his job to go off with some of his friends to Fillory again - to claim the four crowns of the land that can only be held by humans - because he has nothing better to do and being a king might at least be better than what he's doing now.

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