I am reposting this 2012 review because the Kindle Edition is on sale today only (Aug 10) for $2.99.
Summary: An adult look at what it would be like to be a magician, and get everything you could possibly want, and still not find meaning or purpose in life.
I tend to buy audiobook in groups at Audible.com. They often have sales where you buy two and get one free, or buy four and get $10 off a future purchase.
In April it was a buy 4 and get $10 off a future purchase sale. So I purchased, Shadows in Flight, And Both Were Young, Ready Player One and The Magicians. Unusually for me, in less than two weeks, I have finished three and started the fourth.
In general, I don’t like to read much about fiction books before I buy them. I want to know if they are mostly well reviewed and if people that I know liked them. I have heard a lot of good press about The Magicians. It is often compared to Harry Potter. (Probably unfairly to both books.) But other than that I did not know anything about it.
Quentin, like in Harry Potter, is offered the opportunity to attend a school of magic. Quentin is 17 and ready to go to college. He is a very bright student but has always been fascinated by magic. He does not have a lot of friends, and so has spent a lot of time working on magical sleight of hand.
What he discovers at a real school of magic is that it is an awful lot of work. But Quentin is used to hard academic work. After a few years he has formed a close group of friends, eventually a girl friend and a deep understanding of magic. But he is not satisfied.
In general I liked the parts of the book at school. It is full of alcoholic (or near alcoholic) college students that sleep around, work hard, but are really unsure of what the purpose of their lives are. Once they graduate, it gets worse. (Some slight spoilers are ahead.)
They are magicians. They can get anything they want. They have near unlimited access to money, power, sexual partners, alcohol, etc. Up until now, nothing has really given their lives purpose or meaning.
Quentin has always been fascinated with the world of Fillory (blatant homage to Narnia). Fairly late in the book, Quentin finds that Fillory is real. Suddenly, his dreams are again possible and he might be able to fix the many parts of his life that he has screwed up.
But in this book, the boy who has had every dream come true realizes that none of it matters. In the end, everything he thought he wanted did not give him meaning. He is the boy (he never really feels like he has grown up to be a man, although he does many adult activities) that rejects all the toys and experiences that life can bring and instead chooses to sulk when that one more thing does not bring him happiness.
This is a hard book to like. The characters are mostly unlikable (but well written and pretty fleshed out). The story is depressing. I was not impressed by the alcohol, drugs and sexed up Harry Potter. I do understand why people like it, it is well written, but I feel worse off for having read it.
But still in the end, I am tempted to read the second book. I am pretty sure it will be about the same, so I will probably talk myself out of it. There is something here, but I just am not sure most people really want to slug through the book to try and figure it out.
Bookwise Note: The second did not change much.