Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Magacians

By Lev Grossman

Quentin Coldwater is very bright but unhappy teen. He has his whole life ahead of him but makes him happy. He has a crush on a girl, Julia, who has placed him solidly in the "friend zone."  He is on the verge on entering college when he gets the opportunity to apply to a secret school, Brakebills, that teaches magic. He passes the entrance exam, with some difficulty, and thinks he sees Julia there too. But if he did, she apparently didn't pass the exam.
Anyways, life at Brakebills seems to be everything his heart desired. As he becomes more and more accomplished at magic and makes some solid connections with his fellow students, he feels sure he is on the right track. But then he graduates.
Along with some of his fellow graduates, Quentin ends up in New York City, living off a Brakebills trust fund set up for all their graduates. This trust fund is quite large, enabling the graduates to live the high life. So what do they do with all their new found skills? Spend their days in drunken debauchery. Instead of doing something worthwhile, they just fritter their time away, drinking, partying and wasting their lives.
Then one day a fellow graduate shows up at their apartment. This man, Penny, has found a magic button that can take them to Fillory.
Fillory is the subject of a series of kids books, a magical land with talking animals and other fantasy stuff. Kind of a cross between Harry Potter and Narnia. Quentin has always been fascinated by the Fillory books and often turned to them when he was feeling miserable. His secret dream is to be in the imaginery land of Fillory. And now Penny has appeared with what must be the solution to Quentin's misery -- a way to actually enter Fillory! Now finally, Quentin can find the happiness and contentedness that has always eluded him. Or not.

This series is not for children even though it is based on fantasy series for children. Quentin and his fellow students are a boozing, fornicating, cursing bunch of young adults who are what Harry Potter and the rest might be after Hogwarts. I enjoyed the magical shenanigans of Brakebills and I did enjoy the story a lot up to the point where Fillory enters the picture. Before the Fillory part of the story, I thought it was an interesting look at the life of those with magical abilities in the real world. But with Fillory, it becomes just another fantasy story about a magical land with talking animals, and magic spells, and monsters and all the typical fantasy junk. It became a lot less interesting to me then. Why are these people so concerned about what is happening in Fillory? Just because they read a bunch of stories about it when they were kids? Why are Fillory's problems more important than what is happening at home? Why are they not back on Earth trying to help here and all worked up about Fillory? Earth certainly needs as much and probably more help than stupid Fillory. Here they have all these awesome magical powers and what do they do with them? Get wasted then run off to fantasy-land Fillory.
It's a good story, well-told, very interesting. But the Fillory part of the story didn't speak to me. Maybe that's because I didn't grow up reading Harry Potter books or Narnia books. So I will still say it is a good read.

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