Although the idea was reasonably good, this book completely failed to win me over. Foolishly, I kept listening on and on, convinced that soon the main character and his friends would give me a reason to care about them, and it just never happened. I also instinctively knew that the story wasn't really about kids attending a college for magicians, and I was curious to figure out what it really was about. How disappointed I was when, 7/8 of the way through the story it finally became clear, and it was even more dull than the story had been up to that point. I have never written such a negative review, but I don't want others to pay for this expensive book and then spend hours listening to such a disappointing story. If the general idea of young adults entering into a fantasy world that turns out not to be the Narnia they, (and mostly, the author), obsessed about as kids, try the Fionavar Tapestry, which is more engaging and gives the reader more reason to care.
People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.
Let me top this off with the bottom line: There are thousands of Audible titles that I will consider listening to before I ever go back to this series. No, not even if I exhaust the rest of the Audible library.
So this is how you go from four stars to one and a half stars: You start out well, with potential for five stars, by casting a misfit from Brooklyn as a college student who goes to a magical school instead of Princeton, learning about magic and the magical world as a young adult (rather you-know-who as a middle schooler).
But then you go down to three stars when you rush through five years of college with nothing much happening -- which, I've since read, is supposed to be the point, except that it's, in a word, pointless. I'm sure you can name me a classic or two of modern literature that is about people being bored, and I'm just as sure that Lev Grossman is hardly comparable to the classic authors who wrote them.
Nearly ten hours in, you go down to two stars when your "hero" realizes that after nothing much happening to that point, the adventure is about to begin. He actually says exactly that to himself, in case you as reader have failed to notice that you've so far wasted nearly ten hours of your life listening to nothing much, hoping that it may eventually lead to something interesting.
Then the adventure becomes completely nonsensical, by which i mean, nothing makes sense, nothing is connected to what has come before and what comes later, and everything is completely inane. This too may have been the point, with Narnia now the target of the author's cynical satire in place of HP. But what good is a joke if no one knows it's a joke? And if it's not in the least bit funny? Or fun? (Not to mention that, as nonsensical as Narnia may be, it actually has meaning on a higher level.)
That knocks the story down to one star, although there is a shred of redeeming quality in the first few hours for the overall rating to remain at two stars, for a net of one and a half. This book is, plain and simple, an overlong exercise in mental you-know-what, a book critic writing a book that is actually a poorly veiled criticism of two of the most beloved fantasy series ever. I for one and not pleased to have this fraud perpetrated against me.
The Magicians has been called Harry Potter for adults, by no less than the author himself, who justifies his carbon copy of the HP formula by claiming some sort of parody. I call bullpucky. Harry Potter is (figuratively) magical and enchanting while tackling many of the same themes. This book is no more and no less an exercise in mental you know what by a critic egotistical enough to believe that he can write a worthwhile book himself, and in the end is less than a pimple on the scar on Harry Potter's forehead.
Overall this book was entertaining, and the story, particularly the first half, was engaging. As previous reviewers have mentioned, there are times when it gets tedious. Also pointed out to some extent is the fact that the characters can be somewhat unsympathetic. I think this is compelling, in that the author is attempting to create a "reality story," fraught with human failings, in a fantasy context; so that there is not a clearly defined hero.
I disagree with those who claim that this book is a collection of stolen ideas. The book is a play on the Narnia concept as a vehicle for a modern day coming of age story, and is far from an allegory. Furthermore, the fact that a major setting is a school for magicians no more makes The Magicians a rip-off of Harry Potter than such presence makes Harry Potter a rip-off of Discworld. I found this story to be quite original and a refreshing departure from the typical fantasy/magician story.
Lev Grossman writes a good story, with a mature view of the world and a tart view of magical tales. If you're an adult who enjoyed Harry Potter, you'll find a witty twist in the series, well worth your time.
That said, I wish I'd read these books instead of listening.
Only after I finished all three books, and starting another narrated by Mark Bramhall, did I realize why I have a faint distaste for this series:
Every character in The Magicians et al sounds snotty, supercilious, or whiny. I thought that was Lev Grossman, but having sampled another author's works read by this narrator, I now know, it's Bramhall.
If you have a choice, and can read -- I have eye sight problems, so rarely do -- buy this series in written form, and supply your own voice.
I think that my main issue was with the character of Quentin. The description of him as miserable is an accurate one, and it made caring for him and his ordeals difficult. He aroused not dislike in me, but apathy. If I am not interested in a character, I won't stick with the story.
The narrator did a very good job in giving each of the characters their own voice. You got a sense for the character through him.
The story was confusing and boring at times.
No because it would be compared to Harry Potter. Harry Potter would put The Magicians to shame.
I didn't find this book really that great. The first part a rushed magic school and the second part a mysterious fantastical land accessed through the real world that was hinted at through books in the world. The foreshadowing for that part of the book was huge, you had to know it was coming. Yes, there is sex and teenage issues in it that games with more adult and a more gritty than a young adult novel, but it's not fantastic. It was a decent book, but it didn't grip me in a huge way.
So the "world" so to speak of this book was awesome. Some of the plot twists were awesome. You can tell the author put a lot of thought and effort into the setting everything perfectly to tie together in the end. However the characters were so whiny, childish and depressing it became very difficult to continue listening. I read to discover other worlds. I read for entertainment and to escape. Every time I put down this book I was pissed off. I almost never quit books early, but with this one, I was fed up and actually went to stop it early when I discovered there was on 40 minutes left. The last twenty minutes of that forty were the best part of the whole book. Thinking optimistically I even tried book 2, based on that last twenty minutes. Believing, incorrectly, that the brooding, mean spirited, irresponsible, drunken jerks for characters, main character particularly, had been intentionally "going through a hard time" and had started on the road to growing up. Characters growing and maturing is magnificent and true change isn't something I have found very often... So I was hopefully optimistic that the series would evolve into something less, well, whiny. I started book two and no luck and turned it off after a few hours of the same old bad attitudes. Maybe if I finished more of book two he would eventually grow past the entitled, selfish, 13 year old drunken spoiled brat phase, but I'll never know... I do believe the author was going somewhere good, lots of good ground work, but dang it was depressing as heck to be sucked into that characters pissy mind. I'm returning book two. I'll probably keep this one based on that I wouldn't return a totally finished book to a book store because I didn't like it, but IDK, it might go back too.
Yes. though I gave book two a quick shot.
He did excellent. Great voices, never mixed up the characters voices with each other. Captured spoiled brat personality very well.
The main one. And maybe all the rest. The only one relatable and decent gets killed off, or killed off for all practical purposes anyway.
Absolutely. This is phenomenal storytelling, true-to-life, and an overall enriching experience, especially when considered with the sequel. The characters are dynamic, the conflicts exciting, the resolutions unexpected and satisfying, and the villain absolutely brilliant and terrifying. I hope to see much, much more from this author.
Getting right down to it, basic sentence structure, word-choice, and flow of narration. It is expertly done. I also loved how human the heroes are, being completely relatable instead of thinly-drawn paragons that we see too often in fantasy series. This is as much a growing-experience for the characters as to the reader/listener.
Bramhall is perfect. It is hard to pick a favorite, but his Eliot was particularly good.
It is impossible to describe why without spoilers, but the final act is incredibly moving and satisfying.
I am utterly baffled by the criticisms that come in some variation of "this isn't Harry Potter." I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan, but come on people, that is like criticizing The Notebook because it wasn't as scary as The Exorcist. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. The Magicians is fantasy literature at its best and is meant for a mature, intelligent audience. If you are truly unsatisfied with the ending, which I found to be quite happy actually, I hope you give the second book a chance, because it is leaps and bounds better than the first, which I dearly love anyway.
The only criticism I would level against this book is that the pacing seemed a bit too fast in the school section. I would have enjoyed that as its own book.
This had much less global appeal than I had hoped - I am not a fan of this type of book, and found the School of Magic premise not my thing. But, the story arc was good, characters interesting and well developed, and nicely written overall. I listened to the end and enjoyed it. It had a melancholic sweetness that I appreciated.