My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I tore through this book over the course of a long weekend, but even as I read, I promised myself I would reread it someday so I could savor the prose. The Magicians reminded me a lot of Little, Big, with the sense of a magical world just a step beyond our own, the beauty of which is mirrored in the language used to describe it.
I liked the confused, depressed teenagers that peopled the book. Quentin really is Harry Potter with a bad attitude. The problem is that Harry changed and grew over the course of his adventures, but Quentin never learns anything other than how to do magic. He doesn’t understand life, people in general, his girlfriend, or himself. Maybe the difference is that Harry had adults who cared for him where Quentin doesn’t seem to have anyone other than his girlfriend, and she’s broken in her own special way. Quentin is simply plucked from his life, taught magic, and kicked out into the real world to find his own way. Doesn’t this boarding school have Resident Advisors, Guidance Counselors, or even teachers who like and want to help their students?
I liked the Dungeons & Dragons adventure in Fillory, but since the characters never played the game themselves — and anyone not in high school in the 80s might not recognize it — I wondered what the author’s point was. Is it satire if the thing you’re satirizing is so far out of date few people recognize it?
The story stutters through a series of endings. Since Quentin never has a goal — and shies from those placed in his path, like graduation — it was hard to keep up the enthusiasm that had me turning pages so eagerly in the beginning of the book. In the end, the book merely stops with a naked plug for the sequel. Don’t know if I will take the bait.
I do plan to reread this book again someday, though. The prose was just that pretty.