I got my heart’s desire, and there my troubles began.
Well. The majority of comments certainly nailed this one. Two interesting premises in a trenchcoat wrapped in the guise of cynicism and dark humor, underscored by the most depressed to the point of hard to read main character I think I’ve read in a long time.
Interesting enough I’ll give the sequel a try (I really liked the ending twists(ish)). I wish it were better.
Writ a bit longer:
The first half is basically ‘what if Harry Potter, but grittier/more adult?’ They’re brought in as late teens to a school with just as little sense and control as Hogwarts ever had. Only this time, things actually go about as badly as they should, with drinking and sex and who knows what else run rampant. It’s a miracle as many of them survive as they do.
Halfway through, hard turn into ‘what if Narnia, but grittier/more adult?’. Off to a fantastical magical world–were things are terrible and the humans come to ‘save the day’ aren’t really any better. But that’s all you really get.
Oh. And along the way, geese’d. spoilers or something.
Like I said, it’s more than interesting enough to get me to read the book.
But unfortunately, take that and turn the grit to eleven and focus the entire story around an otherwise gifted teenager wracked through the entire story with depression and a whole host of other issues.
Wasn’t there a spell for making yourself happy? Somebody must have invented one. How could he have missed it? Why didn’t they teach it? Was it in the library, a flying book fluttering just out of reach, beating its wings against some high window?
It’s … too real. People get depressed. Especially/often gifted people. But it’s not what I wanted to read about. It’s not fun to read about. And if you’re going to build a character this way–there has to be something even more to make up for it. The Magicians doesn’t have that. For as much as I ended up liking the book it was despite the main character, certainly not because of him.
Stop looking for the next secret door that is going to lead you to your real life. Stop waiting. This is it: there’s nothing else.
I do actually like the supporting cast. Quentin (main character) sucks. Elliot is damaged goods, but seems like a decent person somewhere (deep) under it all. Alice is straight up good people (and Quentin is an idiot–you’ll see it when you see it–and all the worse for not being able to move on). Penny is surprisingly fun to read. Austism writ well. The teachers are weird and the fantastical characters are suitably non-human.
“Look, who’s the talking bear here?” Quentin snapped. “Is it you? Are you the talking fucking bear? All right. So shut the fuck up.”
Overall, like I said. It’s an interesting premise with overdone grit. It really does feel like it should have been two (or more) books.
I didn’t hate it, but I can certainly see how opinions tend to be divided about it.
And I’m going to give the sequel a try.