Quentin Coldwater is brillant but miserable. He's a senior in high school, and a certifiable genius, but he's still secretly obsessed with a series of fantasy novels he read as a kid, about the adventures of five children in a magical land called Fillory. Compared to that, anything in his real life just seems gray and colorless.
Everything changes when Quentin finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the practice of modern sorcery. He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. But something is still missing. Magic doesn't bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he though it would.
Then, after graduation, he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real.
I have heard this book referred to as the adult version of Harry Potter. If that is so, then Grossman seriously missed the mark. I have always struggled with series. My attention tends to wander and I loose interest about half way through. Especially when that series is longer than about three books. So for a series to captivate my interest when it brings seven books to the scene — it is really a well done story. Harry Potter managed to accomplish this feat. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing for The Magicians. From beginning to end I felt like Grossman was simply trying to capitalize on the success of the Harry Potter series, without bringing anything of value to the table. Simply put –the book goes on and on, with little to show for it, and no appreciable uniqueness at all.
The story really was poorly done. Mainly because there didn’t seem to be one of any significant notice. The setting, the situations, the scenarios — they all seemed to be a revisiting of Rowling’s creation, with a whole lot of adult content. In fact — I felt like the adult content is all that Grossman used to try and set this one apart. The drinking, the language, the obsessive nature, the sex (sexual abuse at that), somehow it got to be too much and all without purpose. I felt that Grossman was trying to rely on shock value and crudity to build this story and demonstrated an absence of creativity, vision and even individuality.
All of the characters seem to be built around character flaws and failings. There is little of strength in any of them. They portray teenagers — nascent magicians or not — as boozing alcoholics with little or no direction, guidance or supervision. This, in fact, I found strange, since the entrance into the school of magic was apparently challenging and designed to identify budding magicians with strong character traits and above average skills and abilities in the magical arts. Throughout the book, I found myself wishing it was over because all of the characters were unbelievable, and annoying to varying degrees.
The plot was lacking altogether. I was never sure where Grossman was going — or trying to go. It seemed to get bogged down in each and every scene — while struggling to tie them all together into a story that actually had any purpose or point. It simple seemed to wander aimlessly through various scenes and failed completely in capturing my interest enough to want to read any more in the series. Overall — I thin Grossman failed in his attempt to develop a book of any profound insight. Instead, he seemed to rely on the inventiveness and creativity of other authors, in both obvious and unsuccessful ways.