Book Review – The Magicians

The-Magicians-Book-Cover-e1317909429117To understand The Magicians, you need to have read any Harry Potter or Chronicles of Narnia books.  You also should have watched Man of Steel or Batman Begins.   For all its length and ingenuity, The Magicians is anything but an original story.  It is not more than one of those old Marvel “What If” comic books.  What if Harry Potter went to school in the real world, not a fairy tale world?  Would Harry ended up <ahem> “boinking” Hermione by the end of book 2 and the Weasley twins?  Wouldn’t they actually be the school dealers instead of selling pranks?  What if Narnia was real?  What adolescent boy in World War II Britain wouldn’t have chosen to stay over there where he was king rather than face the Blitz for one more day?

Lev Grossman has done nothing more than taken those stories (with a couple little whiffs of Lord of the Rings, just for good measure) and brought them to the real world.  He has asked what would happen if adolescents were taken to a school of magic?  Would they become any less adolescent?  Or would they stay the same?  In doing so, Grossman may not have created an original story but the deconstruction of our cherished myths of Hogwarts and Narnia feels spot on.   

So no one goes in with eyes closed, The Magicians is not pretty.  There’s sex, drugs, betrayals, and deaths.  None of the characters are particularly likeable – at least in their own eyes.  As is the fashion these days,  the book is about removing the varnish of the fairy tale and leaving the warts behind – trying to get down to a deeper truth behind the allegory.  For Grossman, this truth is basically that life has no greater meaning and the best you can do is enjoy where you are.  He’s not entirely successful in getting this across and, to be honest, the book is not always that enjoyable – but is still highly recommended.  He keeps it moving along at a brisk pace and it is, if not fun, at least interesting to see the mythologies of our childhood re-imagined.

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