Friday Reads: The Magicians

I have two things I’m trying to do today.

1) Convince you that you need to read The Magicians by Lev Grossman.

2) Convince you so well that you’ve read it just in time for the sequel, The Magician King, on August 9th. And I also have to review The Magician King.

This is a delicate task. I’m going to take a few different approaches.

THE SHORT ATTENTION SPAN APPROACH

You should read these books. Seriously. Just take my word for it, okay?

THE RIDING-HARRY-POTTER-COATTAILS APPROACH

Yes, we are all very sad now that Harry Potter is over. How shall we fill the Harry Potter void? Especially now that we are all used to our grown-up Harry Potter kids??

Perhaps it’s smart to try out The Magicians by Lev Grossman! They have a wizard school! It’s called Brakebills and it’s kind of like Hogwarts… but it’s college. Perfect, right?

THE LITERARY SNOB APPROACH

Okay, so I read the Harry Potter books. (Don’t tell anyone!) And I liked them. They were all childlike and full of wonder and such. But it’s not like you want to read about earnest teenage wizards all the time.

We literary folks like angst and turmoil. We like melancholy and depression.

And that’s why I like The Magicians. Because it injects an adult angsty spirit into the stuff you read as a kid.

Really, it’s more of an homage to the Narnia books and the place they hold in your heart. That nostalgia, that childlike wonder, and what happens when you meet reality.

THE HERE’S-THE-PLOT APPROACH

So there’s a high school student named Quentin Coldwater who’s kind of nerdy and awkward and somehow he ends up at this special school for magicians. Except this is not a magical world like one in a book. He lives in our world. He has played video games. He has read Harry Potter. He watches TV.

He’s got a slightly unhealthy obsession with a series of children’s books about a magical land called Fillory (think Narnia). But the more he learns the more he thinks Fillory just might be real.

I wish I could tell you more. But there is so MUCH. So many things HAPPENS. And they are so delightfully surprising that I don’t want to destroy it for you. Though I will say, the villain of this book is one of the best and most terrifying I’ve ever come across. The climax of the book is astounding and still resonates with me.

Honestly, this is a great summer reading book. I’ve recommended it to lots of people and it’s been received quite well. (Even my co-worker, who admitted she felt kind of nerdy reading a fantasy book on the T went ahead and read it anyway.)

And now is a great time, as I mentioned earlier, because the sequel will be out very soon! And who doesn’t love getting your hands on a new sequel right after reading a book?

Now I have a special treat for you. An awesome Q&A with Lev Grossman himself. I’ve edited the order of questions so the spoiler-filled ones are at the bottom. (If you’ve already read it, I guarantee you’ll find it fascinating.)

I’ve also got a brand spanking new review of The Magician King all ready for you. (FYI: It does contain some vague details of what happened in the first book so I’ve got it on a separate page.)

You can also find author Lev Grossman on Twitter or his blog. He is very friendly.

Comments

  1. says

    While I adore Harry Potter as good literature, it made me suspicious of anything involving magic because it spawned so many awful rip-offs.

    But I do trust your judgement, so I will consider…

    • says

      I completely understand your hesitance. But I was reassured when I learned he started writing before the HP craze. I think he addresses it briefly in the Q&A, but he was actually modeling after A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin, which had a wizard school but only for 1 chapter.

      Besides the fact that there is a school and wizards it’s very unlike HP, really. The worlds are…well… worlds apart.

  2. says

    I am SO putting this on my list. I loved HP, so I am also hesitant about anything that is similar, but this sounds good. And a plus that the sequal is almost out!

  3. JoLee says

    I’ve had this book on my radar for some time now, but it has gotten really mixed reviews from the people I trust.

    • says

      The first time I read it I don’t think I was looking for the right thing. I felt like it was too episodic and not connected enough. Except that it turned out that everything mattered in the end. What seemed disjointed actually wasn’t. When I read it the second time I liked it SO much more. It’s definitely a book you have to take on its own terms and trust it will take you somewhere worthwhile.

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