Today’s review is of Lev Grossman’s new novel The Magicians.
So what’s it about? Imagine a self-conscious deconstruction of the Harry Potter novels and The Chronicles of Narnia, with a little Dungeons and Dragons blended together with snippets of Gulliver’s Travels thrown in to even out the mix.
Basically, a desperately unhappy young man goes to his alumni interview for Princeton and ends up taking a bizarre examination for a college he’s never heard of, where it’s the middle of summer despite it being early November. It turns out to be a school of magic – one that is in all ways almost nothing like Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Magic exists, but it makes brain surgery look like kindergarten painting day. Everything turns out about as well as you expect.
The novel is really about happiness and how you can’t find it even if you’re given your heart’s desire if what you’re seeking to escape if yourself – approximately. Also, the absurdity of certain kinds of escapist fiction and the worlds it postulates.
It’s not a bad book by any means, but I’m not sure it satisfies.