I wrote the following without having read your post yet and I giggled out loud. As usual, we’re on a very similar page. So here is my gut reaction to The Magicians to compliment your lovely English majory analysis.
I’m peeved about The Magicians. I really wanted to love this book, but I was sucked in and deceived by the hype. I was looking forward to a darker Harry Potter with college students—a contemporary adventure fantasy set at a magical school with twenty-something characters and a fantasy story turned real. It sounded freaking fantastic. And know what makes me even more peeved? It was partly my own fault that I didn’t enjoy The Magicians more. I was too wedded to this false book premise in my head to quite accept The Magicians for what it is: a story where the characters become disillusioned with the world when the escapism of fantasy stories and magic disappears.
Most of my problems with The Magicians stemmed from Quentin and his gang of friends. They did not sit well with me. I really wanted to like Quentin. I kept giving him second chances. And third chances. And fourth chances. But he continued to be mopey and he never grew out of this moodiness. By the end, I just didn’t want to hang out with him anymore. He and his friends were all self-absorbed professional mope-sters until I wanted to kick them all and scream through the page to wake up and smell the magic. Come on, they’re at a magical college! Yeah, it has some dark sides to it, but could they please show some enthusiasm?
This disconnect between the gang and I was a big disappointment. I was looking forward to reading a book with twenty-something characters. The whole idea of New Adult lit sounds awesome because, hey, I’m a twenty-something and it would be great to have characters in the same stage of life. So, the fact that these characters were depressed, crude, and egocentric with limited worldviews may be accurate to some of us in the age-range but wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. I read books to have fun and to enjoy a book I need to connect (to some extent) with the characters. I need to care if they die. I guess you could call this a quirk of mine and I could spend a whole separate post on what constitutes an enjoyable book.
Do you have to like the main character for a book to be well written? No, not at all. After piling on all that negativity, there are parts of The Magicians I appreciated. I loved the descriptions and the imagination involved, especially in the depictions of the entrance test and the library. I was tickled by the references to Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Narnia and intrigued by the idea that a fantasy world, in this case Fillory, becomes a reality and is nothing like it’s story. These are all wonderful ideas. It just makes me more irked that I didn’t enjoy the book more.
I could go on about some structural bits I didn’t like either (like the rushed ending and limited time in Fillory) but I can’t really be bothered. I think I liked my preconceived notions about the book so much more than the actual product that I had a hard time enjoying The Magicians. Its a book who’s enjoyment comes down to personal preference, and it just wasn’t my cup of tea.
So that was more of a ramble about the book rather than response to your post, but I didn’t want it to be even longer! Write soon.
PS, I need a super sweet sign-off pic like you. Getting on that! i.e. I’ll fb you soon to find out how.