The Magicians by Lev Grossman

This Friday begins my weekly book review post. Woohoo! Wild Friday night, right?

Who am I kidding? We’re all book nerds here. Heck yea that’s a wild Friday night.

Anywho, I’ve decided that for my debut review I would tackle The Magicians by Lev Grossman. I’ve come up with five criteria to rate the book on and will give it an ultimate pass or fail grade, because really, what are stars and numbers to just a simple “read it” or “don’t bother.” Plus, I couldn’t come to a consensus on a system, so this seemed like the best way for now.

So without further ado, my review:

  1. Characterization:
    This is a HUGE one for me, because if I don’t care about the characters, I won’t care about the book. Lev creates some really real characters. I mean really real. Like, crap that was me in high school and I kind of hate myself real. Now, I’ll be honest, I hated almost every character at first. They were all punks or too cool or overly sexual. But then I realized, who wasn’t like that in high school going into college. We were all a little out there. Plus they get better. And then worse. And then better again. So major score on this part for Grossman, even though a small part of me was dying inside.
  2. Plot/Narrative Arc:
    I mean, a book without a plot is just some words on a page, amiright? Okay, now that’s out of the way, I found the plot to be kind of confusing. Grossman has a way of writing where he looks at a normal timeline of events and then throws it out the window. One minute you’re here, another you’re there, and he doesn’t forewarn you before it happens. It takes some getting used to, but you do get used to it. It was one of those novels where I was trying to figure out how everything connected until the very end when it did. Made for a slightly frustrating read, but now that I’m done, I get it.
  3. Believability:
    It’s all about magic, so either a) the magical people are all having a good laugh at us mundanes reading their biographies or b) suspension of disbelief. What I had a hard time with in this novel was how unpredictable the magic was. It seemed like it had no rules, or it had so many rules that you could explain anything away by just making one up and saying, oh, that’s why that happened. The characters really helped with this aspect, because they even called b.s. on some of what was happening, which made me feel better about my sanity as a reader.
  4. Creativity/Originality:
    Here’s where I had my biggest issue. The land of Fillory (and this isn’t really a spoiler…I think) seems like Narnia. You get there a similar way, it’s a series of children’s books, magical land, kings and queens, etc. Even though there are obvious differences, part of me couldn’t quite get past that. But, Grossman is not C.S. Lewis, so the similarities pretty much end there. Some people call this the adult Harry Potter, but Harry Potter is for all ages unless you hate life, so I don’t quite agree with that statement. The Magicians is like a new adult fantasy story about magic and growing up. The characters and situations are unique, even if the setting seems a little familiar.
  5. Cohesiveness:
    This category is for how I feel the book blended the above attributes (and the ones not listed) as a whole. I would say that Grossman excels at this, especially since he loves hopping around the timeline and twining people’s stories together. There are a lot of satisfying aha! moments that I rarely caught and found very readerishly (yes, that’s a word) satisfying.

Overall, I give this book a big fat PASS. And each book in the series only gets better, honestly. My husband tells me the TV show is also excellent and gives more backstory.

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~Liz

Follow me @wethewriters on Instagram and @liz_tampa on Twitter.

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