Book Review: The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman

The Magician's Trilogy by Lev Grossman

The Magician’s Trilogy by Lev Grossman

This book touches upon a feeling I know well. A feeling that the real world is too damn boring. It’s about realizing the sharp distinction between the mind and the real world, and the associated dissatisfaction. It’s no wonder I turn to fantasy and MMOs when this is all there is.

Quentin is someone who feels just like me. And to escape, he turns to the books of Fillory, which is nothing but Narnia the world built by Lewis Carol. All the elements are easily recognizable including the two god lambs standing in for Aslan the lion.

And Quentin gets his wish – he discovers that magic is real and is thrilled about it. He spends four grueling years in a magic school – Brakebills – the Oxford university of the magic world. But a Harry Potter novel, this is not. For one, his training is done by the middle of the first book. For another, there is no evil overlord, no overarching malicious threat to give our hero a goal.

And therein lies the nub of the problem. Ok, magic is real. So bloody what? That still doesn’t solve squat. The world remains meaningless. There’s nothing to do, no world shattering foe to fight against. What does Quentin do after his magical education exactly? It’s the unspoken question of the Harry Potter novels isn’t it?

Turns out that the world with magic is every bit as mind numbingly boring and meaningless as a world with magic. The flaw you see, is in the world itself. Over three books, Quentin does indeed have magical adventures. But not in our world.

In Fillory.

Clover manages to write the Narnia novel that Lewis Carol never did. This book has some dark, depressing shit. And not because of any evil. Because the true darkness lies in boredom. In the quest of meaning. A super evil villain, is actually good for you. They give you a goal, and a sense of direction. But finding your own meaning in life? That’s harsh as hell.

The “real world” is so pathetic that even after he’s done with Fillory, Quentin wants nothing to do with it. It’s the quintessential (pun!) escapist conundrum. The Magicians Trilogy explores some very adult and mature themes, and in the process has turned out to be one of the most original and refreshing fantasy novels I’ve ever read. It could be called a mix between “urban” fantasy due to its overall setting in modern times, and “traditional” fantasy because of Fillory.

The stories are very tightly written. No meandering and beating around the bush. No long descriptions of people’s clothes, or the landscape. Just first class story telling, where the author doesn’t hang back from exploring adult ideas, adult dilemmas, and most importantly, adult boredom and frustration with the crapsack world we have to live on.

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