I started with the TV show, but I’m glad I ended up reading the books. Anyone who wants a mature version of Harry Potter crossed with an abrasive adoption of the ‘Narnian’ world.
Unlike a lot of adventure fantasies, Lev Grossman, the author, in his books does not dwell on perfect characters, at no point do you wish you were Quentin Coldwater or Alice or Janet (who was changed to Margo in the TV series for some reason). Of all the characters from the books, the one I loved the most was Josh – I think I’d make a great Josh!
The first book deals with the wonder of – for the lack of a better word – a muggle coming to terms with the fact that magic exists, he himself can wield it and the horrors that come with it. We see the world pretty much from Quentin’s melancholy viewpoint, it’s his journey that the book, and pretty much the entire series focuses on.
What I liked
The characters – most of them Quentin is one of the more unlikely heroes I have come across. I did not like him one bit, but I did! He is not the unwilling hero who has to rise to the occasion and exploit his full potential, in fact, Quentin is a whiny SOB who really really badly wants to be the hero but simply lacks the potential to be one. There is nothing special about him at all. He, in fact, is a geek, a fantasy nerd who’s always wanted to be a part of something magical, to go on a journey, on an adventure and be the one who saves the day. His desperation to be a hero is beautifully balanced by his inability to do so. He does emerge the hero, but it’s often because of circumstances and his fellowship.
Quentin is one of the more unlikely heroes I have come across. I did not like him one bit, but I did! He is not the unwilling hero who has to rise to the occasion and exploit his full potential, in fact, Quentin is a whiny SOB who really really badly wants to be the hero but simply lacks the potential to be one. There is nothing special about him at all. He, in fact, is a geek, a fantasy nerd who’s always wanted to be a part of something magical, to go on a journey, on an adventure and be the one who saves the day. His desperation to be a hero is beautifully balanced by his inability to do so. He does emerge the hero, but it’s often because of circumstances and his fellowship.
Alice Quinn is the Hermione of this universe, great at everything, what separates her from Hermione is her lack of empathy. Janet is a self-proclaimed bitch (I hate using that word BTW) – however, (IMHO) I prefer the TV version of Janet (Margo on the TV show), Eliot is Eliot, he is as I saw him on the TV screen, maybe a tad less flamboyant on paper as compared to his on-screen counterpart. Julia doesn’t have much of a role in this book, she is used sparingly. I must say though that the book does a much better job of building empathy towards her character than the TV show.
The pop-culture references in this book keep coming and they are brilliant. They do not seem forced, though again the TV show here does a better job of inserting the pop-culture references as opposed to the book. The references give both – the book and the TV show – quite a meta feel.
The manifestation of magic is not the same as Harry Potter or LOTR here. The way magic is channeled in this universe is quite unique, there are still spells and potions, but the magic in this universe has a physicality to it in the way it’s cast. Also, there are no clear defining lines to how magic behaves in this universe and that allows the author to do a lot of interesting things.
The language: Lev Grossman doesn’t make his characters hold back when it comes to expressing themselves.
Fillory is a cynic’s Narnia, it doesn’t follow any muggle-verse rules. Magic is it’s own character and so is Fillory. It’s a living breathing being in itself. The whole mythos behind Fillory, its gods and inhabitants are left open, and that kind of works in favor of the story.
The concept of f**ked up Gods or the f**ked up concept of Gods? The way Fillorian Gods or the Gods in this universe work is not entirely defined well, Lev Grossman doesn’t dwell on the inner workings of the theology of this universe. The Gods here are not worshipped, rather they are Gods in the sense that they simply are more powerful than and have created other beings and worlds. They are not benevolent, at times they are rather ass-hole-ey.
The Beast makes for a compelling and often a scary villain, and I must say the book does it better/scarier. I would not like to run into him at any point, anywhere in my life! The backstory of the beast is great, the book takes its sweet time revealing the identity and the motivations of the beast. The only thing I’d say is I wish there was more beast in the book. The resolution to the beast storyline was something I was a tad unsatisfied with.
World building – I love books that are able to build intricate beautiful worlds that are still easy to understand and navigate through. The Universe that Lev Grossman builds is fantastic. The rules change from one realm to another, although he explores only 3 realms – Earth, Fillory and the Neitherlands in this book, he does give hints to many other realms that exist in his universe.
What I disliked
Not much. I did not like Penny‘s character in the book at all. It wasn’t fleshed out well, as opposed to other characters his motivations seem pretty random.
I wish Lev Grossman had built on some of the other worlds as well – hopefully, he will in the future. The Magicians has a universe that is quite vast and should be explored further; the Neitherlands go on and on and on and I wish someday we can see them from Josh’s eyes and be a part of his exploits.
Who should read
Anyone who is into fantasy/adventure genre. The language in the book can be strong at times. Like I said the Characters don’t hold back and talk how people their age talk in real life. So if you’re planning to give it to your child I recommend you skim through it and decide for yourself.
Other than that, this is a book that anyone who loves to read fantasy and go on adventures with the characters across magical realms must read.
Fast paced, surprising, grim yet fresh!
Next book in the series
The Magician King >>