I rise from the ashes of eucalyptus leaves! It’s been quite an end of year for me, scoring a full-time job contract for the next 12 months, working hard, sleeping less, trying to overall catch up on my trashy reality TV, and most importantly: the book reviews I owe. But enough about me! It’s time to play catch up.
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.
Thanks to Goodreads for the summary.
Please be aware this review contains spoilers.
The Magicians is like Harry Potter, but on drugs. You’d know this if you watched the TV series first, like I did.
It did remind me of the Boy Who Lived a little, but only in the fact it was a book about magicians in a school no mere mortal knew of or could see. It’s what made me most excited to dig deep into this magical world and immerse myself within it.
I enjoyed the detail that went into the world building, especially of Brakebills. While I don’t intend my review to be a comparison of The Magicians and Harry Potter, I did find it interesting that Brakebills was very much like Hogwarts in its ignorance in teaching students how to cope with real life outside of magic. Do magicians simply believe you’ll pick it up? Do they not see the value in integrating magic into your everyday life?
What made me think this was the very key difference between the books: Harry could exist outside of the scope of magic, but I sincerely doubt Quentin could. Quentin’s that odd ball who’s intelligent, quiet, and thinks he’s better than everyone. I didn’t like Quentin for various reasons, and his intense need to define himself by magic was one of them. It became frustrating, wanting him to look back outside of that world of Brakebills and remember who he was before. Since enrolling, he forgot about Julia, his friend whom had gone for the test as he had and hadn’t made it in. Because he had dropped communication with her, we didn’t get to follow her story, and neither did Quentin.
It’s what made him so frustrating as a character. He was, despite how I may feel about him, incredibly real. It’s human nature to lose track of things and people. We may think ourselves better than that, but we’re not. Quentin served as a reminder of that. Julia was his best friend, but he never treated her as such.
And that leads me into the one thing I disliked most about Quentin, because it made him so real to me. He felt entitled to Julia. He was in love with her, he was jealous of her and her boyfriend. He thought himself to be better than her, yet he wanted her to want him. Quentin clung to Julia like a leech. He’s not a good friend at all. His time at Brakebills only exemplified how self-centred he was, cheating on Alice with both Janet and Eliot, caring little about the ramifications of his own magic that had brought the Beast into his own world. Quentin cares very little about the consequences because he’s focused on himself: being the best, being the brightest, being the most powerful, and being the most wanted.
It’s what differentiated him from Harry, other than simply not being the Chosen One. He wasn’t. Alice was — chosen because of her talent, her natural ability to harness magic, her family name, and her studiousness. That said, I wish we got more on Alice. She was compelling outside of Quentin, and I couldn’t wait for her to get rid of him.
This book did drag for me quite a lot, as I believe some of it could’ve been cut. That said, what pulled me through the book were the other characters. I wish we had gotten to follow Penny on his journey of discovering Filory. I wish we had gotten to see Alice struggle a little more, or even find her way in Brakebills and think more on her brother. I wish we got to see more of Janet and Eliot’s fascinating dynamic, because those two are dynamic when they’re together.
Their voices were very addictive to read and were what pulled me through the lulls I experienced. Eliot felt a bit like a stereotype of the typical pretentious too-cool-for-you alcoholic, with Janet as the pretty and popular bossy queen. Hopefully they end up explored more in the two books that follow this one.
Speaking of other important characters, I forgot about Julia and James. I actually forgot about the female paramedic who turns up here and there, and that’s not exactly a good thing, because she plays such a pivotal role. If the book pulled me in I probably wouldn’t have, but since it dragged for me, I struggled to remember these people because of how much time we spend away from them. And that’s a problem. Quentin doesn’t think on it after he first meets the paramedic early in the book. He forgets, and so do we.
The one thing I wish would change is the fact Janet and Alice are pitted against one another. Not only does Quentin slut shame Janet, but so does Alice. Janet has done nothing to either of them. Janet isn’t the one who is dating Alice and sleeps with two of their friends. Janet, if anything, is an insecure girl who comes off as overly confident and possibly insufferable, and Alice and Quentin take a holier-than-thou approach when speaking of her. Two girls being jealous of one another is a very tired storyline.
The saving grace of the story was Filory. It is such a fascinating world I wish to sink my teeth into. Anyone who knows me knows I love history. I love those little bits that make up the background. I wanted to know more about the siblings, the world itself, why the weather changed every time you left it. I wanted to know more about the Chatwins.
I’m not too sure if I’ll dive into the second and third book yet as the first dragged a little for me, but I wouldn’t say it’s completely off the table for 2017. It’s slow yet rich, with characters who are highly likeable and unlikeable at the same time. Even though The Magicians took what I felt like was too long for me to get through, it was still a good story.
Also, I have to say, I really prefer the TV versions of Margo, Eliot, and Penny to their book counterparts so far. They pop so much in the show, and it’s unfortunate Penny isn’t the Penny we see on TV.
You can read my rather quick review on Goodreads.