Yikes, sorry about how long it’s been. I read two long books (the second and third in a young adult trilogy) in about three days and it… kind of knocked me out for a bit. Anyway, I’m back with a trilogy about magic!!!
If you know me, or at least kind of know me, you’ll know that I love* the Harry Potter series (*am obsessed with). They’ve been a part of my life since I was seven years old and it doesn’t look like they’ll stop being a part of my life any time soon.When my brother told me to read The Magicians I was super pumped. He, like me, loves the Harry Potter series so I trusted his judgement. Thankfully he and I had similar reactions to the first book in the trilogy, The Magicians. Without further ado, I present you with three book reviews all rolled into one. The second and third book will be a half review/just some sentences as to not spoil the book. If you’ve read the books and would like to talk about it, you can message me on Facebook or Twitter or email me or whatever. Cool? Cool.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman is about a 17 year old genius, Quentin, who feels very alone and isolated, even though his two best friends are also geniuses. He’s obsessed with a series of books called Fillory, where five English schoolchildren find themselves in a magical land after crawling through a grandfather clock during the War. Sound familiar? The concept of Fillory and its adventures are straight up taken from The Chronicles of Narnia. Quentin feels very Bad and Not Here in his normal life in New York, and feels very Good and Happy in his own little world – where he reads Fillory. Early on in the story Quentin finds himself walking through a garden and ending up somewhere completely different… almost like magic. Just like the Pevensie siblings in Narnia, or the Chatwin siblings in the Fillory books. Anyway, long story short, the place where Quentin finds himself is a university where they teach young people how to wield and control magic. Quentin and his newfound friends are taught different types of magic in different areas of expertise. But the pull to the dark side of magic – and life – is hard to ignore.
If I’m being totally honest it was definitely hard for me to get into the novel to begin with. Within the first paragraph Grossman introduces a love triangle and within the first few pages introduces the main character. Quentin, for all intents and purposes, is a whiny baby who doesn’t understand the concept of not being a whiny baby. Almost right off the bat you’re introduced to Julia, his best friend and also the love of his life who doesn’t love him back. Groundbreaking stuff, really. And in a super not-at-all could I see it coming surprise twist, readers find out that Quentin mildly hates her for this while also loving her the most, definitely more than his other best friend, and her boyfriend, James. Ah, the sweet, sweet sounds of a whiny baby who thinks the world and girls owe him everything. Over the course of the first chapter readers are able to see how Quentin treats his friends, how his friends treat him, and how Quentin views women. UPSIDE: You end up liking Quentin a bit more when he finally gets to Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy. Or at least I did….for a little bit, anyway. I’m not sure if Grossman wanted readers to like Quentin or not, but if he did want us to, he did a pretty poor job of it.
So Quentin gets to Brakebills and the book finally becomes enjoyable. Promise me if you read the book you’ll at least read until then, because I totally understand why you would want to stop, but it’s worth it. Brakebills is not like Hogwarts, which was, unsurprisingly, a downside for me. What? I really like Harry Potter. The difference between how people in the HP universe do magic and how people in The Magicians do magic is quite vast, and there are parts in the novel where Grossman lowkey hates on the HP universe. You see, Harry Potter is just a series in this series, instead of being real. Or at least that’s what people in Brakebills assume, and what readers assume. Who really knows what Grossman was trying to imply with all the slight mentions of wands or Hermione or quidditch, but it rubbed me the wrong way. When I ignored the way there were little jabs at HP, I enjoyed it much more. I recommend you do the same.
My biggest issue with the book is how immature the characters were. I don’t mean the characters themselves – seeing as they’re in their late teens to early twenties throughout the course of it, of course they’ll be in varying stages of maturity – but the writing of the characters itself seemed immature. Unsurprisingly, I compare it to Harry Potter, where the characters are younger throughout all of the books, and just as immature in certain ways, yet overall I found the writing of their immaturity…mature. If that makes any sense at all. Some of the very thin and background plotlines Grossman puts Quentin through seem unnecessary and just there for being there’s sake.
Overall, I enjoyed the novel. There are definitely things that I would change if I had the chance to change them, but alas I do not. There are a multitude of characters and all of them have issues, which I think is important in a story about young adults. It’s false and unfair to expect everyone to have their lives together, even in a magic university.
Also – stop calling it “The Adult Harry Potter”. The only reason it’s been called that is because there’s sex/drugs in this trilogy as opposed to them not being in Harry Potter. An adult Harry Potter book would be WAY better than this. Super way.
Favourite Quote: “For just one second, look at your life and see how perfect it is. Stop looking for the next secret door that is going to lead you to your real life. Stop waiting. This is it: there’s nothing else. It’s here, and you’d better decide to enjoy it or you’re going to be miserable wherever you go, for the rest of your life, forever.”
If you’ve read the books please don’t spoil anything in the comments about the second and third ones! Thank youuuuuuu.
The Magician King
It’s super hard to not talk about this book as much as I want because most things I want to say are spoilery to the first book. I liked book two a lot better than book one. There were cool ~themes~ within the book and there’s a new character introduced that I liked a lot. Her name is Poppy and she’s Australian and smart and fun and funny. Quentin gets a lot better – thought still not super great – in this book. I think I like him better because he’s a) grown up a bit and b) [redacted] happens to him in the first novel (sorry not sorry). The first book spans about five or six years, so by the time the second one rolls around Quentin is about 24/5ish. I didn’t really like the ending of the first book, and this book’s ending is kind of ????? as well, but it’s better. There’s actually a reason for the ending instead of whatever crap Grossman thinks the first book ending is.
I would have given this book a 4 out of 5 because I genuinely enjoyed it and tore through it super quickly, BUT! Something happens about ¾ of the way through the book that had me so angry I almost quit right then and there. It was completely unnecessary to the plot itself, and just total lazy writing. Grossman could’ve picked a better way to make this certain character become who they were supposed to be without it. This is super vague but I hope if you’ve read the books you know what I’m talking about.
Favourite Quote: “That was the thing about the world: it wasn’t that things were harder than you thought they were going to be, it was that they were hard in ways that you didn’t expect.”
The Magician’s Land
Book three was quite enjoyable to me. I think it had everything a fantasy book should have, and there was a good amount of each of it. There were a few more new characters introduced in this novel and I really liked one of them, Plum. She’s 22 and fiery and super good at illusion magic. Quentin, again, is a lot better in this book than the first and second books. He’s almost 30 in this one, so he’s matured and figured himself out, and thus a lot of his whiny baby qualities are very few and far in between. I enjoyed this book the most.
1. “It didn’t matter where you were, if you were in a room full of books you were at least halfway home.”
2. “I don’t know how to phrase this exactly but what the fuck?”
- Not adult Harry Potter
- A decent trilogy once grouped together
- The banter is usually quite good, some characters are sarcastic and it’s written really well
- Dialogue flows easily
- Eliot and Q have good banter in the second book, and Plum and Q in the third
- The tv show is… not great, but I’m hoping it fixes itself
- Grossman helps out to “keep it authentic” but the only authentic thing I found in three episodes is that Quentin is a whiny baby
- 4/5 rating overall
- If you’re looking for some fun fantasy, check this series out! I have the pdfs for them and can email you if you’re interested