I have fallen under another book spell. The Magicians series by Lev Grossman has been on my radar for a few years. This summer I picked up a hardback of Magicians Land (2014) to go with The Magicians King (2011) which I had also found in my beloved Friends’ bookstore a year before. As I couldn’t start mid series, I put myself on the ebook waiting list of the library. It arrived!
I am not even 100 pages into the book The Magicians (2009) and I know I will be absorbed and lose several days consuming this series. I was absolutely delighted with the writing, the characters, the mystery and finally, the magic. Actually it’s all magic!
The Magicians won the 2010 Alex award, given to ten adult fiction books appealing to young adults, and the 2011 John W. Campbell award for best new writer. (NB finding this award list has given me a whole new set of authors as I found many favourites including Naomi Novik, Mary Doria Russell, Gail Carriger, Scott Lynch. GRR Martin won in 1973, currently held by Sofia Samatar.) Grossman has been a journalist, essayist, writer for numerous magazines. “I wrote fiction for 17 years before I found out I was a fantasy novelist.” (I loved his interview with Neil Gaiman.) The Magicians was labelled “Harry Potter for adults” but it is much better than that. Briefly, it is a contemporary dark fantasy series about Quentin Coldwater and other extremely gifted people who are admitted to Brakesbills, a secret private college of Magic on the Hudson River.
Don’t expect Harry Potter. These are intellectually gifted, relatively normal teenagers, self absorbed, bored, insecure, and unprepared. I found it a bit hard to believe that Fillory (Narnia) could be so intensely important to a college bound student. It is an eclectic group of complex students, each dealing with his or her issues, reality and magic. While it is an original tale, there are a few universal truths about understanding the ramifications of your actions. There is a dour realism to this magic and you don’t have the benefits of special effects. Magic has to be learned, like Latin. It is taxing and has consequences. The graphic sex, drugs, violence and swearing (with alcohol, cliques, depression) put this firmly in an adult series. I would have edited out at least half the swearing.
Interesting, complicated thoughts and discussion:
You have to grow up to be happy. You certainly need to live.
How to interact with people who are just as bright as you are, or indeed smarter, for the first time in your life. And the rest of your life.
Not necessarily fantasy as I can relate to most of these people.
If I had read some of the reviews, I suspect I would not have started this series. (Disaffected twenty somethings as a sequel to disaffected teens)
Magic might be the tools left behind after the inverse was created.
Reading a series to completion was worth waiting for.
“He who completes a quest does not merely find something. He becomes something.”
“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.”
“It didn’t matter where you were, if you were in a room full of books you were at least halfway home.”
― Lev Grossman, The Magician’s Land
“Magic: it’s what happened when the mind met the world, and the mind won for a change.”
― Lev Grossman, The Magician King
“In a way fighting was just like using magic. You said the words, and they altered the universe. By merely speaking you could create damage and pain, cause tears to fall, drive people away, make yourself feel better, make your life worse.”
“The truth doesn’t always make a good story does it?”
― Lev Grossman, The Magicians
Recommend the audio book read by Mark Bramhall.
4 stars, entire series
To China Mieville, Donna Tartt, Douglas Coupland
Jo Walton (Among Others, 2011) and Peter Straub (Shadowlands, 1980)