Lev Grossman’s extraordinary and subversive fantasy novel, The Magicians, has been released in paperback...
This is a familiar-sounding setup, but Grossman’s extremely clever hack on the fantasy novel is in his complete lack of sentimentality about magic. Quentin has lived his whole life waiting to be taken to an imaginary magic kingdom (“Fillory,” a thinly veiled version of Narnia) but he quickly discovers that real magic — like stage magic — is about an endless grind of numbing practice in the hopes of impressing someone — anyone. All of Brakebills, from the faculty to the student body, is broken in some important way, and Quentin is no exception. In a place of scintillating minds and bottomless commitment to craft, Quentin’s life is not substantially better than it is in Brooklyn. Brakebills isn’t Hogwarts (at one point, the narrator notes that magic wands aren’t used at Brakebills, being regarded as a kind of embarrassing prosthesis — like a sex toy for magic).Quentin’s cycle — mundane, magic student, magician in the world, questing adventurer — serves as a scalpel that slices open the soft, sentimental belly of the fantasy canon, from Tolkien to Lewis to Baum, but still (and this is the fantastic part), it manages to be full of wonder. Wonder without sentimentality. Wonder without awe.
Lev’s touring with the book right now.
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