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The Magicians

Everett True
Yesterday read a book all the way through, from about 5 to 11 pm with a break for dinner – very unusual for me. The reason being that it was extremely good! The Magicians, by Lev Grossman. I'd seen recommendations from various people, most recently sturgeonslawyer who prompted me to give it a go (thanks, Dan'l).

The book is a deeply impressive intellectual achievement, and also gripping, funny, moving and thought-provoking. The capsule description (a kid goes to a magical college and thence into a fantasy land) makes it sound derivative of, among other things, Harry Potter and Narnia. But actually it is a thoughtful and insightful commentary on how the subgenres represented by those two series operate, and what they imply. I guess the closest I can come is that it bears the same sort of sideways relationship to them as Rosencrantz and Guidenstern Are Dead does to Hamlet.

But that makes The Magicians sound like a nerdy exercise in alluson-spotting, whereas (although that is true to some extent) it also works very well as an entertaining novel. Grossman really is a very skillful writer. Some of his sentences and images are extremely beautifully formed. And the energy and conciseness of his narrative is admirable – he spirits you along through quick successions of events, covering a lot of story very quickly, but without neglecting his characters' development along the way.

I see there's a sequel: interested to see how that works. The book seems to have said all it needs to in itself, so I'm not sure where he could go next. Anyone read The Magician King?

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
bateleur
16th Jan, 2012 12:29 (UTC)
Interesting - I might take a look at it, then. It was recommended to me once before, but by someone I don't really know. I took a quick look on Amazon and it takes such a beating from its Amazon reviews that I was instantly put off!
undyingking
16th Jan, 2012 12:39 (UTC)
Yes, I had a look at the reviews, it's quite extreme! Many of the critical reviewers seem to have actually been wanting it to be just an imitative work.

At a penny plus postage, I reckon it's worth giving a go: you'll know inside 50 pages if it's for you or not.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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