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I know it seems like I'm being rather direct when it comes to summing up my feelings about the book, but in The Magicians case I am actually paraphrasing one of the most commonly used sentences that is seeded throughout the book. Some regard straightforward fantasy stories to be the worst, predictable and riddled with cliches. I find these books to still maintain a charm and sincerity that makes its writing memorable. Magicians, on the other hand, is irredeemably awful, a self-aware fantasy that can't shut up about how much it hates itself.
The book begins with the main character, Quentin, attending Brakebills, a school where the attendees learn magic. The problem is that Brakebills sucks. The school has a useless game with too many rules called Welters which the characters approach with the same enthusiasm as South Park approaches with baseball. The teachers are has-beens and deviants that couldn't hash it out in the real world. The lessons are tumorous paragraphs about the boring applications of magic. The narrative forces the reader through this colossal structure of utter tedium for half the book. You'll be as relieved as Quentin is when its all over, which just asks the question, why write it?
This is the major failure of The Magicians. The author includes insipidly stupid plot developments and character designs and then proceeds to have the characters poke fun at them. The author seems to point the finger at other mediums like Narnia, Harry Potter, and D&D for these elements being dumb, but its really Grossman copying these elements and then caricaturing them that actually makes them terrible. A ferret armed with a bow staff, evil fauns, a middle aged man with a fern in front of his face as the main villain, no fantasy novel that took itself seriously would include these elements. The author tries to make a statement about fantasy when he has nothing but contempt for it and lost perspective of what attracts people to it.
When stripped of the content its attempting to satirize, the book is about an a group of assholes trying their best to undermine each other self-esteem while pretending they are friends. Quentin, in particular, treats everything as terrible until it proves itself to be otherwise. Its hard enough to trek through this HP-Narnia fanfiction just on how bad it is, but Quentin makes it so much worse, by treating everything and everyone like shit. His main contribution to the climax is bleeding out on the floor, while everyone else actually fights the main villain. It's a pity, he lives.
The Magicians tries to be a deconstruction, but really just hands you a taxidermy corpse and tells you its your childhood. There is no sincerity in Magicians, no drive, no ability to actually breath. Its a lifeless imitation, that only makes you feel relief when you finally put it down.
(This review is for the book only. I have never seen the TV series.)
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