Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Magicians, by Lev Grossman (hardcover, $26.95)

This book should be charming and worm its way into your consciousness. The main character, Quentin Coldwater, is an American Harry Potter who swears, has sex with his girlfriend, and gets drunk a lot. And that's why it's not so charming after all.

There are lots of things right with the book, including a fabulous magical world set in a Hogwarts-like institution. It also has an "Earthsea" (Ursula Le Guin's seminal work on using magic and its moral consequences) philosophical dilemma for its main characters. If the professors and students didn't swear so much and hide some odious human secrets, it would be perfect. And this is the problem: Lev Grossman (book critic for Time magazine) can't find quite the right tone to bring off his coming-of-age/wizard-in-training book. His readers are too well steeped in the more polite language and culture of J. K. Rowling's series to easily assimilate the R-rated private schoolboy rituals and angst. And it's hard to imagine The Dead Poets Society with magic bunnies and a "Cozy Pony."

I wish there were a do-over for this book. I know Grossman would get it right the next time around.

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