Book Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman 

6699637Format: Paperback, borrowed
Links: Goodreads | Amazon UK
Blurb: In a secret world of forbidden knowledge, power comes at a terrible price …

Quentin Coldwater’s life is changed forever by an apparently chance encounter: when he turns up for his entrance interview to Princeton he finds his interviewer dead – but a strange envelope bearing Quentin’s name leads him down a very different path to any he’d ever imagined.

The envelope, and the mysterious manuscript it contains, leads to a secret world of obsession and privilege, a world of freedom and power and, for a while, it’s a world that seems to answer all Quentin’s desires. But the idyll cannot last – and when it’s finally shattered, Quentin is drawn into something darker and far more dangerous than anything he could ever have expected …


Review: First of all, thank you to my boyfriend’s work mate for lending this to me. I’m sure he probably didn’t expect me to have it for quite so long… (like, half a year) but we’ll get to that in a minute. The Magicians is a book that sounded right up my street and I have a lot of thoughts on it so if this review goes on for 14 pages, please bare with. The Magicians is about a boy, Quentin. Quentin is going about his mundane life when he finds he can do magic – real magic – and when his interviewer for Princeton university turns up dead and Quentin receives a mysterious envelope containing a manuscript from a sequel to a story he loves dearly, he ends up being enrolled in Brakebills – a school for Magicians. He meets friends, finds love, practices magic and learns to do things he never thought possible but such deep knowledge of such a forbidden and secretive world comes at a terrible price. 

I have so many thoughts about this book I genuinely do not know where to start. In fact, I’ve been putting this review off for days now just because I feel like I won’t be able to string a sentence together. I adored the beginning of the book – it was exciting and intriguing and written in a way that draws me straight in. I would place this book under the Young Adult category but it winds in drama, Fantasy and a whole lot more. It’s very dark in places, very real in others and does really have a little bit of everything. However, one major criticism I would have is that upon getting about a third through, I felt like I was missing something, like I’d started in the middle of a series rather than the beginning. It was like going into Harry Potter and the author expecting you to know what a Muggle was and what divination, a Quaffle and a Slytherin was with no prior explanation. It was odd. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention but there was an awful lot of made-up information (which is fine, and crucial in a Fantasy novel) which flew right over the top of my head.

It did feel like this book took me an age to get through – half a year to be precise. I loved the beginning but the middle section is where I really struggled. The main chunk of the book when Quentin is at Brakebills was exceptionally slow-paced and got a tad boring. Although perhaps the author was trying to mirror how Quentin felt at this time, who knows. It was such a long winded book that some things that happened at the start felt like they had absolutely no relevance to the story and had me wondering why they were even in there in the first place but, now having finished the book, and realising just down deep and complex it is, of course nothing was irrelevant. Not a single damn thing and that was an element I really loved. Everything made sense at the end.

So, quite honestly, I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on through a big chunk of the book but somehow it kept my attention until the end. I loved the beginning, hated the middle but adored the ending. There were a few too many characters for me and I couldn’t keep up as to who was who sometimes and the main character, Quentin, was a bit of a nonse. I was bored at parts, I was shocked and completely wowed at others and all in all, I’m exceptionally torn in my thoughts about this book which I’ve never been to this extent before. I loved it, I hated it. I just don’t know. But turning the last page made me want to read the sequel, so it can’t have been that bad. Can it? 

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10 thoughts on “Book Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman 

  1. I think a lot of people, including me, would agree with you. The pace of thr book wasn’t exactly the best, however, there’s still something introguing about the story. It didn’t take me as long as you to read it, but it was still a way slower progress than usual. I know a lot of folks who gave up after that first book, but I had the whole box set and I personally liked the second book the best, followed by the third and the first in the series is actually my least favourite, which is a rare thing to happen.

    • Oh really? That’s interesting. Well the same friend who lent me this one has the second one ready for me for whenever I want it so I will definitely get around to reading the sequel soon. It was pretty wordy and a mouthful sometimes so I’ll give myself plenty of time to read the second one too but I’m intrigued to see where the story is going. Not so much excited but definitely intrigued.

      • I completely understand. I think the Harry-Potter-ish aspect of the first book just didn’t really work out all that well, however, the second one goes more into the Narnia-ish direction and that works way better in my opinion. Hope you can find a way to make the reading fun and not just a chore.

    • I’ve watched the series and was quite taken aback at how different it was. My boyfriend and I watched it together and he loved it – but he hasn’t read the book (and doesn’t intend to) so he had a very different experience watching it than I did. I wasn’t sure about the Julia storyline. Or the ending.

  2. This was an engaging review. While I’ve never read the book let alone the TV series it inspired, it was still intriguing to read your thoughts on.

    Maybe what is just as interesting is that you wrote a book review for your blog, for the first time in a long time. Are these going to become more frequent?

    • Thank you I’m really glad you liked the review! It has indeed been a long time and I’m most certainly hoping they will become more frequent this year! It’s one of my 2017 goals to read more and I’m enjoying it so far (: would love to go back to my book blogging roots a bit more xx

  3. I 100% agree with you in that I spent a large portion of the book wondering about certain things Grossman mentioned, especially in regards to how many of the Brakebills students became so laissez-faire about magic and how Grossman himself glossed over a large portion of Quentin’s time… but I also agree with the assumption that he did this to accentuate the fact that Quentin was so bored and so arrogant that he believed even magic school, what he wanted his entire life to be true, wasn’t worth it. And I also 100% agree with you that everything made SO much more sense at the end, that all the discrepancies or issues I had with the book were revealed to be me to be deliberately an issue by Grossman. I am so interested to see what you think of The Magician King and the rest of the series!

    • Fabulous comment and I’m so glad my thoughts came across so clearly because you obvious had exactly the same ones during this book! It is an odd one, isn’t it? I felt so torn through the whole thing but something was keeping me pulled in and willing to carry on even though I was as bored as Quentin probably was through a whole chunk of it! Interesting point about maybe Grossman trying to portray how bored Q was and how the whole “magic” thing wasn’t even enough for him even though he’s been looking for it his whole life – I definitely think you could be onto something there. Maybe this element has a much deeper meaning? Who knows!

      • I’m not sure if you’ve had a chance to read the rest of the series yet, but I definitely think Grossman intentionally makes Quentin this way! He becomes a lot more bearable by the end of the second book, and again – definitely on purpose. He starts to basically realize how annoying and petulant he’s being, so it’s nice to see him change haha. I’ve yet to read the third one but I hope that holds true!

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