THE DARKER SIDE OF MAGIC: PRAISE FOR LEV GROSSMAN’S “THE MAGICIANS” | 26th August, MMXV

—- THIS BLOGPOST HAS BEEN DECLARED SPOILERS-FREE BY THE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN PUBLISHERS

So go on, read it.

The past two-three weeks have been quite a tumultuous time for yours sincerely, having had to deal with a frenetic and exhausting flat-search in the living hell that the city of London is, the finalization of the Master’s dissertation (to which a separate blogpost may possibly be dedicated, since it’s partially about music), and the adventurous beginning of a new employment in the realm of video technologies. Thankfully, such overwhelming slices of pressing, yet compulsory time have been balanced and championed with some quality escapism accompanied by HBO’s brilliant second season of True Detective (with an outstanding performance by Colin Farrell) and, more relevantly, by US novelist Lev Grossman’s first book of his fantasy trilogy sensation “The Magicians“. Despite having published the first self-titled book of the saga already in 2009, the trilogy only seemed to have reached widespread mainstream attention over the past few years (unless I’m really, really late to the party…). In fact, its extraordinary popularity may momentarily be confined more to the USA (not least judging by the fact that the book seems to be physically untraceable in UK’s bookshops, get it through Amazon folks), although given its potential I wouldn’t be surprised to see it taking over this part of the Atlantic quite soon as well.

It is precisely for this last reason that I’d like to frame the present blogpost as both a genuine suggestion to insert “The Magicians” in your bucket-list of upcoming “must” readings and as personal praise to its plot and narrative. As I’ve already pointed out, the novel is the first book of a fantasy saga completed by “The Magician King” (2011) and “The Magician’s Land” (2014), and it tells the story of 17-year-old student and brainy talent Quentin Coldwater, who suddenly finds himself thrown into New York’s highly secret and exclusive Brakebills College to pursuit a cutting-edge education in magic and begins his personal journey into the good-bad juxtapositional worlds of real magic rawness. I have to say though, as I’m writing this I find myself being only at about two-thirds of the book, and while this of course positively restrains me from giving away too much in terms of the content, I must convey to you that I’m still unable to deliver a total judgement of the first instalment. I know, I know, this shouldn’t ever be done when dealing with literary reviews (blasphemy claims in 3, 2, 1…), but to be honest I really felt this was the right momentum to let you all know about this linguistic beauty. Also, in all frankness, even if from here on out the book really only delivers first-class shit until its conclusion, it would nonetheless still be saved by the greatness of the insights I’ve come to read so far. And by insights I mean the directness, honesty and tangibility of Quentin’s experiences at Brakebills, obviously transposed into a realm of fantasy landscapes, supernatural forces and powerful wizardry.

What I mean by all this is I guess Grossman’s literal and stylistic sensibility that allows him and the reader to perceive Quentin’s adventures as personally relatable as ever, and yet so dislocated from the very realities that shape us on an everyday basis. By placing Quentin’s social encounters, extravagant successes, and painful struggles through the brightest of days and the darkest of nights within such a surreal scenario, the author in fact constructs a deeper connection to such dynamics that trascends their own contextualisation. That is, it’s literally impossible not to emphatize with the protagonist as he goes through all of his challenges at Brakebills, precisely because the things that come to happen in Quentin’s life, from recalibrating one’s young adult self-confidence or coping with life’s ephemeral temptations and disillusionments, are exactly the same ones that sooner or later, and with varying intensities, will cross our life paths too. Some, probably too many, like to draw comparisons between “The Magicians” and Harry Potter or even more hazardously with Narnia, though I really think Grossman’s story is capable of better digging into our most inner selves than it’s the case with the other two masterpieces, probably also because it may relate even more to young adults like me. In this regard, and also ’cause now that I’ve entered the door of the fantasy world I’m probably authoritatively obliged to mention his opinion, “Game of Thrones” bestselling author George R. R. Martin likes to think the following of Grossman’s effort:

“The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea. Solidly rooted in the traditions of both fantasy and mainstream literary fiction, the novel tips its hat to Oz and Narnia as well as to Harry, but don’t mistake this for a children’s book. Grossman’s sensibilities are thoroughly adult, his narrative dark and dangerous and full of twists. Hogwarts was never like this.”

What I think it would be cool to do, for me, is to update you all on the matter a little later in time, possibly after having completed the first novel and having read the rest of the trilogy, which I predict it may happen in a not so distant future given the degree of appreciation I’m having for this. I honestly don’t know what to expect from the rest of the plot, not even what may happen before the end if this first instalment, but all in all I truly believe this is exactly what good reads should be all about. Thus, this one is definitely “to be continued”, unless I get myself invited and initiated into a mysterious and gloomy academy for magic in one of London’s suburbs, in which case, judging by Quentin’s fate, I may or may not ever come back the same…

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

L.Grossman_Magicians

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