Friday, February 10, 2012

Book Review - The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians
Lev Grossman
Series: The Magicians (1)
416 pages


While perusing some of the prominent book review sites I have seen a lot of reviewers agree that Lev Grossman's The Magicians is comparable to Harry Potter or Narnia. I can see how the comparison is inevitable but I have to respectfully disagree with that assessment. Grossman's work does deal with a school for young magicians and a fantasy land that can be entered through a water fountain but that is where the similarities end. In my estimation, The Magicians is more urban fantasy than either Potter or Narnia and centers on more current issues while being somewhat less juvenile. While Potter is an epic coming of age story and Narnia a cautionary tale of good versus evil The Magicians is more a narrative guidebook for young adults coping with very real adult issues. How will I fit in with the rest of the world when I have to go out into it alone? How do I muddle through a budding new romance and/or the loss of love? How do I cope with my pain, my anger, my social status, or my relationships? And, how do I set my moral compass in a world so corrupt and unfeeling? All these issues and more, I think, are handled expertly and convincingly by Mr. Grossman. And while there may be no real answers to any of those questions Grossman guides us through the landmines of maturity without detonating any of the explosives.

There is another thread of reviews that declare that this story does not paint the various worlds deep enough and that a lot has been withheld but I do not believe those reviewers understand the complexity of creating a series of books or the difficulties of successful world-building. What they are looking for will, I think, be revealed in the upcoming books in the series.

The Magicians is a complex, fascinating, and truly enjoyable read. Mr. Grossman's style is engaging and clear and the plot is solid and the characters truly come alive on the page. I found the book to be everything I had hoped for, not a gap to fill the young adult hole left by the last Potter books, but a unique story unto itself and worth your while. The Magicians is a definite must read and I enjoyed it so much that I purchased the second book in the series so that I could delve back into the world Lev Grossman has created. Add to that the very real teenage characters he's created and brought to life and you have a wonderful and complete urban fantasy about young adults learning to cope in a strange but very authentic world.

This is a gripping, entertaining read that should appeal to all fantasy fans (urban or otherwise), magic lovers, and those who might learn from the trials suffered by most young adults.

4 out of 5 stars

The Alternative
Southeast, Wisconsin

The Magicians Series:

1. The Magicians 2009

2. The Magician King 2011

Additional Reading:

Lev Grossman Website

Lev Grossman Wiki Page

Magicians in the News

Village Voice Review

1 comment:

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Delivering a sucker punch to the brain-pan, Grossman is at times hysterical and depressingly honest. With a rye wit found in few books, the Magicians novels deliver both the implausible that we all yearn for and the innate understanding of balance that is our gravity, uniquely wrapped in a page-turning fairy tale that can only be appreciated by those who have dreamed big and fallen hard.