16 September 2009


So Lev Grossman's The Magicians, which I read, yeesh, a month ago already, was pitched to me as "Harry Potter goes to college," to which I said, and I quote, "Oooo! Neat!" And it's got a beautiful cover. Don't laugh; the marketers know their shit these days, and similarity in jacket palettes can often reflect similarity in tone and style. But The Magicians let me down on both counts.
It's not a bad book, really--I mean, I read the whole thing--but underwhelming. It's really half Harry Potter, as the hero, Quentin Coldwater, is lifted from his everyday Brooklyn existence to matriculate at the exclusive Brakebills Academy for Magical Pedagogy, and half Narnia: Quentin and his aimless twentysomething fellow graduates discover by chance that Fillory, a fantasy kingdom detailed in a series of English children's books they'd all read and absorbed as children, is real. There are some great scenes in here (I think first of the slightly drunk talking bear they meet in Fillory, who drones on for hours about the relative merits of different bee species), and the central dilemma--what if everything you've ever dreamed of is real, and you're still miserable?--is harrowing, especially to a fellow fantasy-devourer like me. But the writing is sub-par, heavy on exposition and telling-not-showing, especially in the school sections. Instead of, "Wow, what an ambitious adult take on Harry Potter," I kept thinking, "I wish I was reading Harry Potter."
Lesson learned: you can't always judge a book by its cover. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, though? Totally accurate.

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