Back in February I woke up one morning with the brilliant idea to start a bookclub with some friends. Since we don’t live in a central location I dubbed this little club “The Long Distance Bookclub.” The first book we agreed to read was The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Let me cut to the chase and say I fucking hated this book. I didn’t think I was going to even write a review about the book but woke up one morning and thought it was a good idea.
Harry Potter for Adults
I heard about the TV show that they adapted from the books and was vaguely interested in it mostly because it was being described as Harry Potter for adults which I took to mean adult themes and/or narration. First, The Magicians makes references to the Harry Potter series to the point where I thought the author was making fun of them. Turns out he’s actually a fan. Maybe I misread those parts or maybe Grossman has an odd way of showing his admiration. Either way, there’s a lot of allusions to and straight up shout-outs to HP and I didn’t like it. Create your own world, dude!
As for the adult themes. I’ve read other works of fiction that didn’t use another series as a starting place with more violence, sex, and alcohol than this one so I felt ripped off. Okay, so the romantic interest part is a more than HP but I sure as hell didn’t get any “for adults only” vibes from this read.
Tell Us How You Really Feel
I deleted my notes about this book weeks ago. At that time I didn’t think I’d write a review or have a group discussion about it so I deleted them. I was tired of seeing the notes and being reminded about how crappy this book was. Fuck. Just thinking about The Magicians makes me mad. Like legitimately mad.
For starters I wasted my damn time reading it. Reading all of it. I pushed through and finished this piece of garbage at the encouragement of my husband and because I kept thinking, “Oh … well … maybe something will happen? Maybe it’ll get better?” Want to take a guess at what happened?
Nothing happens in this book. A high schooler finds his way to a magic school, takes a series of tests, passes, and studies there. The first book (because there are three of these godforsaken pieces of fiction) is split into four “books”. When I say most of the book deals with the school, I mean 80%. The other 20% (I think that might be too generous…) has them being stupid adults, gallivanting in another world, fighting shit, and being bored, entitled wastes of ink.
I read half of the book and they were still at school learning. HALF THE BOOK! Very little had happened. The one thing (ONE THING!) that did happen, that was interesting, was hardly ever talked about again. My husband knows how this bothered me because I would finish another chapter and say, “I hate this book. Nothing is happening. Why can’t they go back to that Beast thing. That was interesting.” Well, the Beast reappears at the end (not a spoiler because it was the only conflict in the entire book) but then it makes me think that Grossman put it in earlier during a revision so the ending would make more sense. That seems to be the only case to why the Beast doesn’t come up more throughout the book. Which is sad because that’s literally the only real outside conflict in the entire story.
Let me explain what I mean when I say nothing happens in the book. Nothing propels the story forward. There is no motivation or end goal. There really isn’t a point in graduating from this magic school or practicing magic because it’s explained to the students that there’s one of two roads they can take. 1- Get a shell job in the “real” world and be bored. 2- Do a magic experiment or live a magic life and be miserable because either of those things will leave you isolated. What great fucking options. Even then those things don’t matter because the tiniest thing resembling conflict are the few pages involving the Beast. Then they go away until the end of the book.
I want to conclude this book rant with another one of my golden opinions. This one is regarding the end. I was so happy to reach the end of this book. It was something like 400 pages and I had read it with a day or two to spare before my library loan was up (and boy am I happy I didn’t spend money on this book!), so go me! The way I described the ending to a friend is like this: Do you remember the end of Back to the Future? You know, where Marty and Jennifer are outside and Doc pulls up and goes “Marty, you gotta come back with me!” It’s extremely obvious that they’re setting it up for a sequel. That’s exactly how The Magicians ends and it made me want to throw the book across the room, into my fireplace, and then burn it.
Why does this book deserve one sequel let alone two? How about something happening in the first book so we don’t feel duped into committing our time into the next one? Seriously. It feels like a ploy to get people to spend more money. “Oh well, I’ll spend most of the book detailing mundane school shit and then I’ll leave it with a cliffhanger so they’ll have to read the next one!” No, dude. No.
If at the end of this rant you still want to read The Magicians, go ahead. I can’t stop you. Maybe you’ll like it. Good for you. But get this, you can read the first several chapters, skip to the third book, read some of the that, and then read the fourth and be done. You won’t miss a thing.
Not the second and third book, that’s for fucking sure.