There are times when reminiscing is a good thing. Having an arctic roll for dessert can bring back glorious memories of playing Ski Sunday down the stairs on tea trays. Or of building birds’ nests from the fresh grass cuttings (just in case a passing eagle fancied popping down for a long perch). Or trying super hard to swing the swings ALL the way round in the playground.
All these things we store in our happy place.
When I read that Lev Grossman’s The Magicians was a magic novel that tipped its hat to Narnia I thought it could be kitsch and fun.
If Narnia had been conceived by Stephen King this comparison could perhaps come close to the truth. Would it be possible for Grossman’s characters to be anymore loathsome? I’m not sure you could call Quentin Coldwater a protagonist let alone a hero because he seems to have NO redeeming qualities. For the record, I’m not a reader who needs a taintless protagonist. For instance, Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin from China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station. He’s not the best guy in the world. In fact, he’s pretty sleazy, but among his glaring, douche-y faults, he has one shining, likeable quality, and that one likeable quality wants me to see him succeed in everything he tries.
Quentin? I want him to fail. I want him to lose his magic. I want his life in the fantasy world to end so that he can’t EVER go on another quest again. He’s a ‘magician’ who hacks into ATMs because he practically leaks greed and apathy. He bewitches corporations into giving him a desk job where he sits and plays Minesweeper all day and still makes bank. The other characters? Even worse. Juila, a twenty-something magician described as a ‘freight train of magical pedagogy’ throws a rock through a sports car window. Another one, Eliot, has to find the Seven Golden Keys of Filory. But he bangs on about how wonderful he is whilst doing it, and says: ‘I could imagine finding one every few years. Organize my holidays around it’.
And my goodness the plethora of pop culture references.
You can’t immerse yourself in a fantasy when you’re being bombarded with Dune references and Harry Potter references and Lord of the Rings references. Give me a fantasy where I can lose myself and not be reminded over and over again that I’m reading a book because that, though Grossman may not know it for whatever reason, is why I picked it up in the first place.
That’s right. I found this book utterly dreary from start to finish. Even the Arctic fox sex scene which made the coffee go sour in my mouth.
I hear Grossman is planning on writing more of these travesties. Count. Me. Out.