I really liked this first book and performance. Well conceived universe that was somewhat contained in size and scope. The main character spends much of book 1 as a child/youth. The unfortunate BUT is books 2 and 3 become unbearably inconsistent and leave you wanting to slap the main character half the time for being so dense and stupid.
Love this series, but this one sort of plods along and then just suddenly ends. Almost felt like... "ok, reached page 325 and everything else goes into next book"
Similar to first book in moving point of view across dozens of characters - almost always at some kind of critical point for that character (very irritating). The interesting part of this 2nd book is that it lays down more of the total picture/history of the world. The disappointing part was that there were issues with the plot - the Other Lands are populated by race that is sustained on souls and is supported by a slave quota of children that's said to be in the thousands sent by the "known world." Problem is these slaves can't reproduce and yet you get the impression there are millions of them in the Other Lands... can't get from a few thousand kids a year to millions with people who can't reproduce in a normal lifespan.
I found it frustrating that as the books have continued, the creatures are getting out of proportion to the rest of the environment. I can only guess to emphasize the point that the upcoming war will be hopeless for the people outside the Other Lands. It's now to the point that creatures of dinosaur size apparently exist alongside everything else - why?. Human-type races range from normal size to 8 foot - why? Would be more enjoyable if the created world had had a little editing applied.
Quiet an epic undertaking simply because the author choose to present the stories of at least a dozen different characters. This is the primary flaw of the book - every chapter jumps the plot to someone else. If it were consistent (a few main characters, for example), you might forgive the uneven storytelling, but for every 5 or 6 chapters from a different character viewpoint, a random chapter of a completely new character (often irrelevant) is thrown in. Just as the plot gets to the actual start of major action, it jumps forward 9 years with no explanation - one chapter ends as the war starts / next chapter you're 9 years into the future.
For me, what saved the story somewhat was a narrator who read the novel like it was an academy award performance. Generally, the narrators read the book with various character voices thrown in and not much else. Dick Hill actually performs and gives vivid personality to the characters. It's obvious he's "worked" hugely on this story before voicing it. Some may not like a movie-like, situational read, but I found it helped the story in this case. If he were not the narrator for the next 2 novels, I might not have decided to buy them.
The Magician King picks up where the 1st novel ends in the typical style of Grossman's narrative. The primary difference between this novel and the previous is the characters are a little less annoying. Previously, few redeeming qualities existed in any of the major characters. If there were 2 choices - the characters always took the baser, more vile option. In the Magician King, the characters are more believable because they sometimes do try to do what seems the better action. The narrative still is written at a cursory surface level - i.e. events or mythology get glossed over as if it would take too much time and effort to explore or explain things. But, in the Magician King there's at least a plot driver vs a meandering nothingness that was the first book. Biggest complaint is the ending - about as satisfying as Stephen King's Dark Tower ending.
Occasionally you come across an author who seems more interested in seeming clever with his wordsmith than being a good storyteller. The prose in the Magicians is constantly constantly constantly being interrupted by some of the most idiotic and out of place thoughts. Example, as you're running for your life from a hoard of creatures intent on killing you in an underground lair in a magical land, you slide across a table and think how that's like sliding across a Firebird car - who would really think that? The problem is these constant, random distractions seem to have no purpose - they don't propel the story. They don't explore the characters. They simply seem to be there because it might make the author seem clever. Way too little attention was placed on the art of telling a good story - in fact, the story itself seems very unoriginal.
Lev Grossman liberally grabs from previous fantasy-like universes like Potter and Narnia, makes a few adjustments and then populates the whole "new" world with some of the most absolute unlikable and objectionable characters he could think of. Not a single character seems able to have a pleasant thought or do a good deed. Previous reviewers seem to think this an "adult" version of Potter. I guess "adult" is defined as a story populated with vile characters lacking any kind of basic morality. These characters are depressingly unhappy from page 1 for no apparent reason and act out against other people and each other simply on this basic, silly conceit.
At the core, the primary fault I have with the book is its extremely poor construction. The stages/periods in the book seem only half woven together. You rip ideas from other universes and only weakly attempt to place them in your own? Throw-away moments and random plot points fill the book. You just sit and ask WHY? constantly in this novel.
Not exactly sure why this book was titled Well of Ascension as only the last hour or so really pushes that plot point. Most (98%) of the plot deals with somewhat repetitive politics and activities in Luthadell. Most of the minimal lightness/funny moments from the first book are gone as the plot trudges through the normal middle book main character mental tortures so many trilogies follow these days. Could have cut at least 8 hours in the plot and you'd never have noticed.
This first volume has a storyline with sort of like a cross between Oceans 11 and Pymalion. While unusual in many respects, it's overall an interesting story. Occasional mis-pronounced words leave you trying to figure out what the narrator just said.
Loved book 1. Liked first half of book 2. Hated 2nd half and book 3. The hero goes from being a child in an adult world, to being a young adult with the mental aptitude of a child. The main character can't seem to make an intelligent decision or stop his incessant whining and 6 year-old behavior. It's just not believable that one could be as stupid as Fitz and live. The more I listened, the more irritating the plot became about mid-way through the conclusion of the trilogy.
I REALLY don't understand why so many authors lately insist on having their main characters spend huge sections of the plot being physically tortured in detail. The unfortunate situation here is book 2 just sets up a repetitiveness of torture and abuse of the main character that continues over and over and over well into many hours of book 3.
Bright spot was superb job by Paul Boehmer.
After great start with first 1.5 books of trilogy, the last 1.5 books became never-ending situations of ineptness and self-loathing for the main character.... leading to cycle after cycle of running, capture, torture and escape. Since the main character is "writing" the story down as the narrator, it's sort of stupid to send him through so many beat-down situations - you know he lives.
The plot sets up situations you can see a mile away, but the stupidity of the "hero" leaves you shaking your head. It's just hard to grasp that the villain has ZERO consequences through 3 books until the last few pages. His plots are known by everyone at the end of book one and there were no consequences???
The one bright spot was Paul Boehmer - one of the best jobs I've ever listed to.
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