“The Magicians” by Lev Grossman

This series came in when I still worked at the bookstore. The covers were unassuming and kind of bland, nothing really flashy or eye-catching. I had a few people tell me it was a good series, but there weren’t too many people who had read it outside of those few. Plus, there were so many other titles I wanted to read that I didn’t put this high up on my list of “might want to try”.

Then, the show came out. First episode my thoughts were “Harry Potter for people who wanted to see more sex.” and I abandoned the series. I tried again a little while later and it migrated from Harry Potter to Narnia. Like, almost direct rip-off (so it seemed, stay with me for a moment). So, I gave up again. I’m not sure what made me try the series AGAIN, but once I got past the “rip-off” part of the series, I was HOOKED.

So, when the books gravitated back to my little hands, I nabbed them. I wasn’t sure what to expect, having seen the show first. I’m always wary (as I’m sure we all are) of adaptations, ESPECIALLY when I see the show first. But, with this book, I was pleasantly surprised. My only issue is even with the books vivid descriptions, I still picture the actors from the show (they were INCREDIBLY cast by the way). I usually do it the other way around so someone else’s interpretation doesn’t muddle my own, so that is my only regret.

The show and the book loosely follow one another, but at the heart they are identical. That’s what I find makes a good adaptation. You have to vary story lines to keep the book fans entertained, but some shows venture too far and change the essence, or the heart, of the story. One of the reasons I enjoy the Harry Potter movies (besides the fact JK Rowling likes them, and everything in the movie had to go through her, so if it was in the movie, she gave it the OK) is because they change enough to be interesting, but stay true to the heart of the books. One that screwed it up royally, for example, was the Percy Jackson movie.

Back to the topic at hand – Quentin is not your typical protagonist; he is depressed, pessimistic, introverted, and not just for show or so he can be “fixed” by the love of his life. It’s just who he is and carries through the book. He views everything through a veil of darkness and, as a person who has Clinical Depression (AKA Mega Depression), it was nice to see it represented properly. It also makes for a very interesting narrative voice. While heading to a College interview, Quentin happens upon a dead body. They call the police, deal with the questions, and then a strange paramedic gives Quentin an envelope. The envelope contains the fabled sixth book of a children’s books series that shaped the lives of Quentin and all of his friends (of which there aren’t many). Also in the envelope was a note, but as he went to grab it, it blew away. Quentin follows it, on a dreary autumn day, and finds himself in the middle of a courtyard in summer. Enter Brakebills; a school of Magic. Another student, Eliot, is waiting for Quentin and escorts him to the entrance exam.

Long story short, Quentin makes it in. A whole new world he could never imagine is opened up to him. A world of mystery, magic, and danger.

SEVERAL times Grossman mentions Harry Potter, both directly and insinuating. And not in the way I was expecting. It was almost parody. Like, the main eating area being long tables with floating candles …in really ugly candelabras – the dishes and plates don’t match either. In their first class they learned that magic isn’t wand waving with fake Latin spells. It was constant shots, every chapter has one or two references. This gave the book a really weird self-awareness, which kind of made for a more fun read.

I was impressed. More than I thought I would be. I find myself, in about the late afternoon, thinking about the book and what’s happening, and what will happen next, how the show interprets what Grossman wrote, just generally getting excited to read again (I do 90% if my reading at night) …it’s taking over my brain. I’m so glad I gave the show extra chances, I knew I should have had more faith in Sera Gamble. She was a forerunner in Supernatural, so you know she’s talented and twisted. And the book is the perfect complimentary piece that represents mental illness, lgbtq issues, and many more.

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