November 18, 2009

Depressives go to Narnia

Grossman, Lev. The Magicians. New York: Viking, 2009.

The Magicians--super-smart high schoolers who get picked to go to a university of magic and have adventures of the heart and knife--are certainly not inhabiting the jolly, clean-mouthed world of Harry Potter. It's not Narnia, either, or Middle Earth, or Forks, or any other recent fantasy-magicky phenomenon, although there are plenty of allusions to that type of thing. These kids curse like regular kids, and these talking animals are often drunk.

That average Earth-ish touch makes The Magicians stand out as a fantasy, and makes it fun to read. At its heart, like the other fantasy heavyweights, is an imaginative, emotional coming-of-age story. This story just happens to take its characters through trials I haven't seen before (like fighting one evil creature after another in a nautilus-shell of a creepy barrow) and experiences their ilk don't get in other books (sex, for one).

I don't want to write too much and give away the story; it's too hard to describe, anyway. But it's sort of like Harry Potter and his friends graduating from their series and then stumbling into The Magician's Nephew. It's excellent. I worried near the end, because I was so unreasonably excited about the book at the beginning, that it hadn't lived up to my expectations and I didn't care enough about the characters. But--joy--I teared up in the last chapter or so and was happy with the ending (bittersweet at best). I conclude that I enjoyed it greatly, more than my recent three-and-a-half star books, so there you go. Read it when you get a chance (unless you're someone that might get it for Christmas from me, in which case read it in January).

Rating: ****

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