Monday, July 24, 2017

Audiobook Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Title: The Magicians (The Magicians #1) 
Author: Lev Grossman
Publication Date: August 11, 2009
Publisher: Viking
Pages: 402
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Like everyone else, precocious high school senior Quentin Coldwater assumes that magic isn't real, until he finds himself admitted to a very secretive and exclusive college of magic in upstate New York. There he indulges in joys of college-friendship, love, sex, and booze- and receives a rigorous education in modern sorcery. But magic doesn't bring the happiness and adventure Quentin thought it would. After graduation, he and his friends stumble upon a secret that sets them on a remarkable journey that may just fulfill Quentin's yearning. But their journey turns out to be darker and more dangerous than they'd imagined.

The Magicians has been on my audiobook wishlist for years. It's one of those books I knew I would never get around to actually reading if I didn't find a copy to listen to, but I also had to wait until I was in just the right mood for an adult fantasy novel. When I saw the TV show pop up on Netflix, I figured it was finally time to give it a try! I went into it with the knowledge that it wasn't young adult, but also a little confused because a lot of people seem to think it is. I went in slightly confused about the target audience, but with a totally open mind, having not even read the synopsis.

Quentin is the main character of this book and he is by no means a perfect one or necessarily easy to love. The story begins with Quentin as a gifted student in high school and progresses through college and beyond. He starts out as a slightly snotty kid and does learn a little humility on his journey, but I can see why people would have a hard time sympathizing with him. He is a character with a lot of personality flaws - he has a huge ego and he's selfish. That isn't to say he wasn't a fun character though! I never felt like I could really put myself into Quentin's shoes (I'm not the best at everything, let's be honest.) but I did have a great time following his story.

There is a whole cast of characters in this story, but one of the more important ones is Alice. Alice, Quentin's main love interest, is much, much easier to love than Quentin himself. I found myself identifying and sympathizing with her throughout the book and really felt that, although Quentin was the main focus, Alice really brought the story to life. Various other characters make up Quentin's main social network and I loved each of them for different reasons! Usually it's difficult for me to keep up with so many characters at once, but each was distinct and important.

Not surprisingly, the story is all about the magical world - think Harry Potter for American college kids. There's sex, alcohol and drugs. This is in no way a young adult book, in case anyone had any doubt! This story is intricate, sometimes very dark, and spans several years, and I loved most of it. There were moments when I wished we could skip ahead past some of the more monotonous scenes of college kids living together, but it was all at least kind of relevant in hindsight. Some of the book was slow and occasionally I wondered where things were going, but the magical world outweighed that for me. A comparison can be made between The Magicians and Harry Potter, but this story is truly unique and the similarities end at a magical school setting for part of the book.

The world of The Magicians is truly magical in a way that seemed completely believable. Unlike magical worlds in other books that require a huge suspension of disbelief, the way magic was seamlessly interwoven with the real world made it especially impressive. I think part of it might have been the way that Quentin so easily accepted it, having been raised on stories of magical lands similar to Narnia.

I don't want to give up much about this story because experiencing it for myself knowing very little about it was fantastic! Overall, I really enjoyed The Magicians. I do think it would have wider appeal if Quentin was a slightly more sympathetic character and that the story seemed to meander at times, but I ended the book having enjoyed the journey and eager to read the next book! I would highly recommend this to readers of adult fantasy, but definitely avoid it if you're expecting a young adult read.