Book Review: The Magicians

I had high hopes of this book – the first in the series by Lev Grossman. The Times described it as ‘…Harry Potter for grown-ups’. Now, being a massive Harry Potter fan, I settled down, expecting to be taken on a gripping, enchanting and thrilling journey.

The blurb says:

Quentin Coldwater’s life is changed forever by an apparently chance encounter: when he turns up for his entrance interview to Princeton he finds his interviewer dead – but a strange envelope bearing Quentin’s name leads him down a very different path to any he’d ever imagined.

The envelope, and the mysterious manuscript it contains, leads to a secret world of obsession and prililege, a world of freedom and power and, for a while, it’s a world that seems to answer all Quentin’s desires. But the idyll cannot last – and when it’s finally shattered, Quentin is drawn into something darker and far more dangerous than anything he could ever have expected…

One of Grossman’s strengths is his power of description and he makes you feel like you’re right there, in the scene. He certainly knows how to create mystical and vividly shocking worlds. Grossman’s characterisation skills also make each character stand out: how they look, how they feel, jagged flaws and all.

And yet, I struggled with the book. Stepping back, I think it’s Grossman’s style. I found the storyline very disjointed. One moment, it dragged and nothing seemed to have a purpose and then all of a sudden, the story hurtled forward at breakneck speed. I’m also not a fan of long, lengthy chapters, which these are.

So, for me, it was a book I had to work at. Yes, I was taken on a gripping, enchanting, thrilling journey but only for some of the time. Just when I thought yes, this is what I’m looking for, it would let me down. I also found I didn’t particularly like the main protagonist, or any of the other characters for that matter, or care what happened to them.

But don’t let that put you off. Try it for yourself. After all, it’s been a very successful TV series.

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