Hoo boy. I read this book back in 2010, can you believe that? And can you believe that that was nearly two months ago? Anyway, I held off reviewing because this book was the subject of my very first ever bookclub meeting. But we've met, had coffee, lunch and chats, and now the book is free to be reviewed. That, and I have to take it back to the library by Friday because I'm out of renewals on this one.
But I ramble. The Magicians is a sneaky little book in that it is not so little and actually more like two books in one. Really. It's even divided into Book I and Book II, which, to this bookworm at least, read like two volumes in a series, not two parts in one book.
That's a minor drawback, though. Book I introduces both Quentin (our handy protagonist) and the reader (that's you and me) to the world of magic and life at Brakebills, a school for young witches and wizards... Sound familiar? It is, a bit, but not to the point of distraction. Harry Potter has cornered the market on wizarding schools, to be fair, and Grossman does an excellent job of making his different from Hogwarts. First, it's more like college than high school. Second, parents do not know where their children go. Third, magic is dependent on high intelligence, not innate skill.
Book II takes both Quentin and his friends and his lovely readers away from Brakebills and into an adventure in Fillory, which quite familiarly is the subject of Quentin's favorite books, in which a group of children all find their way into a magical land through the back of a wardrobe. It's not quite that blatant, but Book II is almost annoyingly similar to some well-known adventures in Narnia.
Almost. Again, Grossman avoids the trap of the too-familiar with just enough touches of his own making and a decent helping of teenage angst and sexual tension. This is definitely more grown-up than Narnia, more serious than Harry Potter, and more accessible for non-pre-teen readers.
Bottom line: All in all, The Magicians is a fun book for those looking to graduate from Harry Potter without stepping foot out of the fantasy worlds we all know and love. While not entirely original, Grossman's forceful prose moves the story (or stories, if you will) along at a steady clip, pulling readers into a magical world at once familiar and completely unexpected for what promises to be a wonderful series. The sequel is planned for a Fall 2011 release. Get reading and you'll have plenty of time to catch up.