“Magic, Quentin decided, wasn’t romantic at all. It was grim, and repetitive, and deceptive.”
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The unlikableness of the characters and the lack of a plot with any sort of direction are really the only things worthy of note in this book.
It is entirely understandable why so many readers did not connect with this book. Quentin Coldwater, along with pretty much most of the rest of the cast of characters, is a whiny narcissistic jerk. It can be really hard to connect with him and the reader’s relating with him as the main character is really what’s going to decide if a person finds this book enjoyable.
Reason being, there just isn’t that much to the actual story to keep the reader engaged so it kind of all hinges on Quentin.
The beginning takes some time to set up Brakebills, the magical school, and developing Quentin’s relationships with classmates so there is not a whole lot of plot progression in this section but that is kind of standard. Unfortunately, it goes beyond this to not really having any plot until toward the very end.
It makes me wonder a little bit about myself but I actually was able to connect with Quentin. I hope it’s not because I’m a total prick but more because a lot of his problems, I can kind of relate to.
Quentin grew up reading the Fillory stories and even when he kind of grew out of them, he had a hard time letting them go, leaving that fictional world behind. As someone that grew up on Harry Potter and was ridiculously obsessed with it for a while, I can relate to this. Especially as it goes deeper into being so involved with this fictional world that he starts to feel like he doesn’t belong in this “mundane” world, he dreams of a land of magic where he would have no problems whatsoever.
“What did it matter? What the hell was out there that was worth all this work? What were they doing it for? Power, he supposed, or knowledge. But it was all so ridiculously abstract. The answer should have been obvious. He just couldn’t quite name it.”
Quentin’s problems also center around how miserable he is. He is constantly dreaming about “if I had this one thing then my life would be perfect” and that one thing is always shifting as he achieves it (i.e. practicing real, actual magic) but it is still not enough for some reason, the reality is not what he imagined it would be.
I found this really relatable because I think most people at some point in time have that thought of “if I had a boyfriend/girlfriend, or if I didn’t live here, or if I weren’t working at this job my life would be so much better, I would be so much happier.” These things can bring happiness and satisfaction but, like in Quentin’s case, if your misery goes deeper than your particular set of circumstances then it will follow you into each new set of circumstances.
These things are what allowed me to connect to Quentin and even some of the other characters. I can’t say that I like them as people, but I do like them as fictional characters.
This is a difficult one for me to rate because while I obviously enjoyed everything above, I can’t deny that the story is sorely lacking and could have been incorporated better. For those that are interested in the story but don’t know if you can stomach the characters, I would actually suggest watching the TV show instead. The show did not have the in-depth characterization that I talked about but it does have a much better story.
I did not hate this this book. Did I hate some of the characters? Yes. Did I think the story felt pointless and that it had no direction? Also yes.
Despite the small list of things I didn’t like, the magic system and the eventual moral behind this book do redeem it in some ways.
Based off this book, I do not think Grossman is a bad author. He went with a style choice and he stuck to it. The characters were suppose to be whiny and pretentious. There are many books that make the main character unlikable and I can say I usually do not enjoy that.
The Magicians seems to be a hit or miss kind of thing for many people. The reviews are all over the place but for me I simply did not enjoy myself.