Friday, September 23, 2011

Book Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

I've been living under a literary rock; Lev Grossman's The Magician King is already out!!  But before I read it, I had to revisit The Magicians. Have your read it? Imagine this: Dominick Dunne and Bret Easton Ellis team up to rewrite the Harry Potter series, culminating in an existentialist crisis which takes place in Narnia. CRAZY, RIGHT?

Fortunately, The Magicians pays homage without becoming too derivative. The wizarding school Brakebills is no Hogwart's; its students are deeply flawed and the school itself is ominous. Questions abound: Who is the beautiful paramedic who caused Quentin to arrive at Brakebills? Why do the fourth-year students disappear for half a year, and why are they so emaciated when they return? How was the fabric of our dimension punctured, allowing The Beast to enter? Will Quentin ever feel fulfilled?

Grossman's characters can have whatever they want--except happiness. They are brilliant and bored, and turn to a lazy sort of decadence just to pass the time. This is what would've happened to Harry, Ron, and Hermione if there had been no Voldemort, and no greater purpose. Instead of exploring the clash between good and evil, Grossman asks how one can find satisfaction when success and fortune come too easily. The theme is not as grand as that of Tolkein, Lewis, or Rowling, but the unresolved questions create an exciting tension, and the magical settings are fun to explore.

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