Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Magicians

88. The Magicians, by Lev Grossman

Quentin Coldwater is a very bright teenager who lives in Brooklyn. He lives an ordinary life, in an ordinary house, with ordinary parents. He is entranced by a series of books by an Anglophile author about English children who move between this world and the magic world of Fillory. And he is bored with his own ordinary existence.

Then, on a day when he was to have had his entrance interview for Princeton, he finds himself instead on the grounds of Brakebills College, sitting an exam which will determine whether or not he will be admitted to that school of magic. Of course, he is, or we wouldn't have a book, now, would we?

The book is pretty much divided into several parts. The first, which is the bulk of the book, and, I think, the best, is set primarily at Brakebills. The students learn about making and controlling magic, and, as in all the best colleges, have a lot of exams to pass. Here they mature, learn their strengths and weaknesses, make friends (and lovers). In the brief section that follows, we find Quentin and his friends living and partying in New York City.

But they are restless, and when one of them finds a way into the world of Fillory, they go, and we enter the third part of the book, that without which a book about young people and magic would not be complete: the QUEST! (Dum dum dum dum!) Here, naturally, they meet a variety of creatures, human and non-, who variously help, hinder, harm, trick, save them, and whom they, in turn, help, hinder, harm, trick and save.

Although I found the ending of the book to be too abrupt and unsatisfying, in the main I really enjoyed it, particularly the characters and their relationships. How do you handle being different? Having to keep a secret? How do you manage going from being the most brilliant kid in class to being just another smart kid? How do you cope with being a magician?

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