My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was a difficult novel to rate. There were definitely things that I liked about it, but there were also some things that bothered me. I gave it a 3, but I think I would really prefer to give it a 3.5. I wanted to like this novel more, but I had a hard time getting past a few things.
#1 – A large part of the novel takes place at a school for magicians. Although I believe that Grossman wrote this largely as a response to Harry Potter and many things are very different, the novel is still very derivative. There are just so many similarities and I found myself comparing the two constantly. It was impossible not to.
I found it particularly bizarre when the characters referenced Harry Potter in the novel. I didn’t know what to make of that, but it just seemed weird.
#2 – All of the main characters have read this fantasy series about the magic realm of Fillory as children and it’s obviously meant to conjure up images of Narnia. But why isn’t it just Narnia? Why invent this separate world? It’s difficult to reconcile as a reader. Once again, I spent a lot of time comparing Fillory to Narnia, instead of being absorbed in that world.
In the world of the Magicians, Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings exist, but apparently The Chronicles of Narnia do not? That just feels like a cop out.
#3 – As a Buffalo area resident, I can’t say I was thrilled when Grossman referred to the city as a “vision of the apocalypse.” But then I realized that Grossman could not have ever actually been to Buffalo when in the next paragraph he described the sun setting against Adirondacks in the distance. If Grossman had even been to Buffalo, he would know that’s just laughable.
So what did I like?
#1 – I liked the story. It was a little predictable at times, but it wasn’t your standard hero story and that was somewhat refreshing.
#2 – I liked the characters. Even though they were all thoroughly flawed, they were still somewhat likable. If nothing else, I could relate to them, or at least Quentin.
Ultimately, I did enjoy the novel. It grabbed me and kept me interested. However, if a novel is really good, you should get completely immersed in the world, not spend the whole time comparing it to other (greater) works.