I’ve plowed through two of Lev Grossman’s books in the past couple of weeks, The Magicians and Codex. I enjoyed both, and have a few thoughts. I’ll discuss The Magicians here, and Codex in a subsequent post.
- Grossman deliberately (I’m assuming, doh!) tries to blow up the Harry Potter/dark fantasy movement. His heroes are not heroes, constantly struggling with doing the right thing, and no one is above reproach as they all do fairly terrible things to each other.
- His heroes are human, sometimes disturbingly so. They drink too much, don’t dedicate themselves to their craft, ignore their professors (who seem to have very little influence in their lives, a much different approach than the veneration given Hogwarts faculty), cheat on each other, and have no purpose to their lives.
- His Narnia is so un-Narnia that I actually liked it. Betrayals made sense politically, and the all-powerful NPCs were not as powerful as the all-powerful playable characters. #gamerlingoftw
- The book-within-a-book theme was also interesting. At first I thought that the constant references to another fantasy series were simply some sort of way to invoke the genre, but Grossman is obviously way smarter than that and used the idea of Fillory as more than a mere cypher saying ‘hey, look, I understand the genre and am smarter than it.’
- Emotional pain shows up physically in the main characters, something Rowling played with but could never quite pull off. Quentin, for instance, finishes the novel with a wooden arm that is both beautiful and sadly reminiscent of his own lack of heroism.