Book Review

The Magicians
By Lev Grossman

I am not an avid reader though I occasionally tear through a book I thoroughly enjoy.  The Magicians was one of the those books.  Not being an avid reader I imagine there are other examples of this sort of fantasy novel out there, but I haven’t come across them and I can’t imagine they are recommended by Junot Diaz.  The Magicians is set in contemporary Brooklyn and tells the story of Quinten Coldwater, a morose introverted teen whose wildest fantasy comes true.

I enjoyed this book because Grossman develops a pretty elaborate world that his characters inhabit but rather than focus on the lore and politics of this fantastical world the book spends more time in the head of its protagonist; who is jealous, petty, and repeatedly falls short of hero status in his capacity as both a magician and regular human being.  Grossman also adds odd details – like a huge fiery cock and balls on a fire golem – that seem more a contemporary take on  fantasy creatures of story tellers past.  Something about sex organs seems to contemporize things, I mean imagine the balrog in Lord of the Rings with a huge smoking cock… I digress.

Grossman creates a world that is much more human than fantasy.  Magicians are just people and though they can do magic, they have to figure out what to do with their magic ability once trained to use it.  The arch of this coming of age story should strike a chord with anyone who graduated college happy to be done but confused about what to do next.  Especially the D and D set, as well as anyone who feels like they should have tried harder.  By the end of the book I was a little sick and tired of Quentin constantly moping about despite having his dreams come true.  I think there is a gender and privilege criticism in their somewhere but I haven’t quite teased it out.  And, apparently the second book parallels his story to that of a lesser female character from this book.

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