On Nelson Mandela
"The Humanities Crisis"

The Magicians: A Novel

The Magicians (The Magicians, #1)The Magicians by Lev Grossman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was among the most disturbing books I've ever read.

Because it challenged my childhood fantasies and some of my deepest longings. For I'm one of those kids who fell in love with Narnia and Aslan, a love which has never faded. When I meditate, I go to Narnia. When I imagine heaven, it looks like Narnia. When I imagine myself encountering God, God is either Aslan or an elderly black grandma who has baked me cookies. The Narnia stories fill me with wonder and awe, the awaken my spirit, they energize me, move me, make me cry. They bring me into the sublime. They have shaped me thinking, my preaching, my dreaming, my loving, my very becoming. They are the single greatest influence upon me, outside of the flesh-and-blood mentors of my life.

And Grossman disturbed all of that. Because what if the fantasy really came true? In this story, it ends up being nothing like the good, old stories, but just as complicated and messy and disappointing as reality itself.

So, I was compelled by the book, but hated what it was doing, while also admiring its honesty and profundity and, in places, it adept and powerful words.

At didn't think this at first. Part I, while Quentin, our young magician, is in his version of Hogwarts, I found it mostly amusing to imagine what if the fantasy was real but not what you expected. I didn't feel the force of it yet, maybe because Harry Potter was a series I read as an adult.

And this first part is uneven. At some points it moves too quickly, at others it stalls. Some intriguing or fun ideas are not carried through. It is not well crafted.

But it gains force as it moves on. Still, it has its weaknesses. Grossman is not as good a writer as Lewis or even Rowling.

So, I slowed down my reading today. I was near the end and on one hand wanted to rush through. But I also knew that I needed to pause at clear breaks in the story and not take it too quickly. I kept wondering how he would bring this all to an end.

*** Spoiler Alert ***

And frankly, I was deeply disappointed with the conclusion. It felt inauthentic to the story. I knew that there was a sequel, but that just didn't seem right. And the ending seems like a cop-out.

It appeared that the only authentic ending was for Quentin to be trapped in existential ennui, maybe even die of acedia. It would have been horrifying, but the better ending.

View all my reviews


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