The Magicians – Lev Grossman

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I wanted to read The Magicians the moment I saw Diane’s review. An adult version of Narnia really appealed and further comparisons with Harry Potter made it all the more interesting to me. I then started to see some more negative and mixed reviews and began to suspect that I might not love this book as much as I first thought.

The Magicians begins with a boy turning up for a Princeton University entrance exam. He finds his interviewer dead and then a mysterious note leads him to into a strange new world, where he finds himself studying magic at Brakebills University. 

Unfortunately I quickly realised that this book wasn’t going to live up to my expectations. It lacked emotion and the plot felt like Harry Potter with the sparkle removed. There was none of the humor or imaginative detail that made Hogworts special and I quickly became bored with the book. The plot was slow moving and I felt there was too much waffling and unnecessary information.

That August the Physical Kids straggled back from summer vacation early. They spent the week before classes camping out in the Cottage, playing pool and not studying and making a project out of drinking their way jigger by jigger through an old and viscous and thoroughly disgusting decanter of port Eliot had found at the back of a cabinet in the kitchen. But the mood was sober and subdued.

I waded through the first 200 pages before finally deciding that life was too short to finish it. This book has been very popular this year, so I’m pleased that I picked it up and am able to join in the conversations about it, but it is a shame that a book with such a promising premise failed to contain any magical writing.

stars1 (DNF)

Did you enjoy The Magicians?

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  1. Oh no!

    From the start of this review I was almost going to click on Amazon and see how much it was, thats why you should never skim read hahaha. This sounds so promising and yet seems to fall so utterly flat. What a shame.

    1. Jackie says:

      Simon, I felt like rushing out and buying a copy when I read Diane’s review – luckily I waited and found this copy in the library. I’m pleased that you didn’t skim – I’d have felt guilty if you’d bought a copy!

  2. Sandy says:

    Right, the reviews have been mixed, but the overall takeaway for me was that it was a H.P. wannabe. There are many out there, and they will never EVER measure up in my book. It is really too bad for an author if their burning desire is to write a book about wizards at this stage in the game. Pick any other topic (vampires, fairies, memoirs about bad childhoods…) just don’t write about wizards. I wouldn’t touch the book with a ten foot pole.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, You are right. It is so hard for an author to write a good book when they will be compared to such a successful original. I’m surprised that you wouldn’t consider looking at this book – I always want to know what they’ve done with the world they’ve created.

  3. Jenny says:

    You may not have gotten far enough in for this to matter, but it really bothered me how certain plot elements, and I am talking about Quentin’s friend Julia and her magical aptitude, came back several times in the course of the book, but didn’t get the attention they’d have needed to be interesting. Frustrating.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, I think this book did have a big problem on focussing on the right thigs. It seemed to go on about something really dull, but then an exciting section would last for a short time -the pace was all worng.

  4. Stephanie says:

    I have been waffling over this one for awhile now, but after reading your review I think I’ll pass. Just doesn’t seem like my thing.

    1. Jackie says:

      Stephanie, It is so hard to decide which books to read sometimes, but I’m pleased that I helped you to make a decision.

  5. Steph says:

    Ugh. As you know, Tony & I were not fans of this book, and we did slog through to the bitter end… and what a waste of time it was! Everything about it was so lackluster and unengaging (the opposite of magical!), and felt like a badly done rip-off of more successful fantasy novels (some might say it was an homage, but I really felt like Grossman was just trying to cash in on the rising popularity of the genre). I thought this was an awful book, and all I can say is that at least I will know not to read the planned sequel!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, I agree with your every word! There was nothing magical about this book (apart from the blurb!) I won’t be reading the sequel either.

  6. She says:

    Ah, I’ve heard similar things about The Magicians– I am so sad. It sounds so awesome. I think I still want to read it, though. :/

    1. Jackie says:

      She, It is strange how I knew this book was going to be bad, but still wanted to read it. That is amazing marketing! I’ll be interested to see if you agree with me.

  7. Melody says:

    Yeah, I’ve read some mixed reviews on it too but I bought the book before I read them, LOL. I suppose this book will be sitting on my pile for a while until my mood for reading it strikes! :P

    1. Jackie says:

      Melody, I nearly did the same thing as you, so you have my sympathy! Perhaps you’ll be one of the people who love it!

  8. softdrink says:

    You were smart to quit. I pushed through to the end, and I’ll probably end up reading the sequel because I live in eternal hope that it’s just got to get better. I have the feeling that I’ll be wrong, though.

    1. Jackie says:

      softdrink, It is good to know that I made the right decision, but am intrigued as to why you want to read the sequel – it must have had something that grabbed your attention at the end? I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the sequel and know that if you start raving about it I should rush out to buy it!

  9. I am sorry this one did not work for you, Jackie. If I wasn’t on a buying-ban-for hardbacks-not-priced-lower-than-I-could-buy–the-paperback, I might have rushed out for this one. I still want to give it a try for myself. Forever, hopeful. :-) From all the mixed reviews I’ve read of it though, my expectations won’t be as high as they were when I first heard about it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Literary Feline, I’m pleased that I didn’t read it as soon as I’d heard of it. My expectations were quite low when I began, so it is a shame that it didn’t even meet my low expectations. I hope that you have a better experience with it.

  10. Shona says:

    I have read some excellent reviews and some not so good reviews for this one . It was as if there were lot of expectations and in the end it was a big let down.I will wait for the paperback to arrive here so that I can form an opinion on The Magicians

    1. Jackie says:

      Shona, I’ve got a paperback copy, so hopefully you’ll be able to get one soon.

  11. Dot says:

    What a shame that you didn’t enjoy it as the idea sounds great!

    1. Jackie says:

      Dot, It does sound like a great idea, but I think it was just too ambitious!

  12. Beth F says:

    The only reason I finished it was because it was a book club pick and I wanted to be able to discuss it at our meeting. It didn’t do anything for me either — and I really, really wanted to like it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, I could easily have finished it if I wanted to, as it was a light read, but I’m pleased to hear that you didn’t think it was worth the effort. I really wanted to like it too – such a shame!

  13. Stacy says:

    Well, the premise appeals to me, but it looks like the book wouldn’t!

    1. Jackie says:

      Stacy, You never know – this book is getting very mixed reviews. Try the first few pages and see what you think!

  14. Belle says:

    I was so excited about this one when I first heard about it, and I put it on hold at my library while it was still on order. By the time it came in and I’d picked it up, I’d already read quite a few reviews that suggested that it was on the dark, depressing side – this was mentioned in both positive and negative reviews. I knew then that it probably wasn’t for me. I love my magic and enchantment to be hopeful and inspiring – that’s what draws me to Harry Potter, what drew me to the Golden Compass, to A Wrinkle in Time, to Edward Eager’s books, to all the magical books that I adored when I was growing up and never got too old for. So I returned The Magicians to the library unread!

    1. Jackie says:

      Belle, I haven’t read a Wrinkle in Time, but am thinking I should add it to the wishlist now. I think you made the right choice in returning it to the library – I think you’d have been disappointed too.

      1. Amy S says:

        a Wrinkle in Time was always one of my favorite childhood books and I’m going to re-read it for a “challenge” which I’m going (though haven’t done many yet or any)

  15. Amy S says:

    Sounds unoriginal for sure and lacking sparkle as you mentioned so I’m not adding this though I hadn’t heard much buzz except via my RSS feed. I could never give up a book after 200 pgs but I understand you reasoning behind it. I usually give a book 50 pgs and if it doesn’t grab me, I release it back.

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, You’re right – I normally gove up on books much sooner than that (50 – 80 pages is normal) but this one was light and easy to read. I just wanted to know what it was about and I think I managed to get a good feel for it despite not reading the ending. 50 pages was enough for me to realise that this book wasn’t for me, but not enough for me to know what the school was like.

  16. Rebecca Reid says:

    I heard this was just disappointing! So sad.

    1. Jackie says:

      Rebecca, It is sad – I was hoping it would be good.

  17. S. Krishna says:

    I stuck with this one and thought it was okay. I’m curious about the sequel though.

    1. Jackie says:

      S. Krishna, I won’t be reading the sequel unless someone says it is miles better than this one. I look forward tofinding out what you think of it.

  18. Jessica says:

    Oh dear, I thought the premise of this book sounded really good. I love a good magical adventure however maybe won’t rush out to buy it in the new year now.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jessica, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time! I’m sorry to let you know that I didn’t enjoy it, but lots of other people did, so don’t cancel your order yet – try reading the first few pages and see what you think.

  19. Jeff says:

    What a complete waste of time. I got as far as 150 pages waiting for the waffling to stop and for something interesting to happen – it didn’t, so I gave up.

    The content is so blatantly a poor rip off from Harry Potter. Unknown powers, misfit, unexpected invitation, strange journey to school for wizards, etc, etc, – everything but a proper or original storyline or any action.

    I’m so glad I read your reviews to realise that I wasn’t alone with this view. I hate giving up on a book – but this one doesn’t deserve the effort.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jeff, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time! It is nice to know that I am not alone in my opinion. It sounds as though you were sensible enough to quit slightly before me!


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