I have just finished this book and am still in the limbo period of not knowing whether I liked it or not.
The book follows Quentin Coldwater, a high school student who feels trapped in his life. He is in love with his best friends girl and learns slight of hand magic tricks as a hobby. He's also still wildly obsessed with a childhood book series on a mystical land called Fillory (think Narnia). On a miserable rainy day he goes to an interview, finding that the man he is supposed to interview with is dead. His day turns into the adventure of his life as he finds himself accepted to a magical school called Brakebills College. The novel follows him through his college years as he learns the positives and negatives of magic, which can be devastating and dangerous at times. Quentin also learns that the magical land he fell in love with, Fillory, is actually real. He sets out on an expedition with his group of flawed friends to right the wrongs of the fallen kingdom of Fillory with their newly learned magical abilities. They, of course discover that nothing is as it seems as the journey soon becomes treacherous and life threatening.
The first half to two-thirds of the book are dense. There is a lot of information and complaining as Quentin is unsatisfied with much of his life. Even Brakebills starts to lose its appeal to him. I grew to dislike every time Quentin discussed the plot lines to the Fillory series, it seemed out of place much of the time. It also started to aggravate me how similar Fillory was to Narnia. It was like Grossman recreated Narnia and slapped another name to it adding a few bits and pieces here and there to prove it was different. Instead of Aslan it was two rams called Ember and Umber. It was changes like that, that came to bother me making it hard to read. There were a few other issues I had with this novel, including the time lapse. Time changed so fast that you barely had a chance to adjust. All of sudden you'd be six months to a year ahead of the last paragraph you read. The author, Lev Grossman, seemed to be rushing through Quentin's school years to get to the climax. If you read the book, you'll also find that some parts are just beyond the world of understandable (even in a fantasy novel) to the point of totally bizarre. You're left shaking your head going, "oh my god, what is this?"
With all that said, and I'm sure it sounds pretty terrible, I must admit the last hundred pages are incredibly addictive. All the strangeness and bizarre quality to the novel end up making perfect sense. All the stories of Fillory that I thought were boring, became very important and crucial to the overarching story line. Those last hundred or so pages become so overwhelming and page turning that you'll read it in one sitting. Everything up to the climax now fits into some part of the larger puzzle. You learn to appreciate and understand why Grossman put some of the denser material in; he had to. It was the only way to reach the surprising and gut-wrenching finale.
As you can now see, this is why I'm in a dilemma on whether to say I liked the novel or not. The beginning and middle felt like you were going through the motions of following the character. You're not attached to him but you're not totally unattached. It isn't until the end that you find the novel so enrapturing and a perfect whole.
Many reviews will tell you this is an adult Harry Potter, it's the reason I picked up the book in the first place. Do not be fooled, this book is nowhere near being like Harry Potter. The differences stop at a boy going to magic school.
If you've read The Magicians, please let me know if you felt the same.
If you haven't HERE is a link to purchase the novel. I would recommend to give it a try because the ending is just magnificent and tragic. It really saves the novel. The sequel to The Magicians has also been released, you can purchase The Magician King HERE.