I did not find Quentin, the main character in this story, to be very interesting. He is very smart with a great future ahead of him. But he is also spoiled and arrogant. He gets his wish to “be somebody special” when he is admitted into the exclusive Brakebills University, a school that trains magicians. But he shows his appreciation by becoming even more spoiled and arrogant. He wastes a lot of his time drinking and partying with his friends. And he lies to, ignores, and shuns his parents because they are just ordinary, clueless parents. It seemed to me that I was expected to just accept all this, because Quentin and his friends are young adults, learning how to be adults, and that’s what young adults do.
But I couldn’t. I could not identify with Quentin and his friends. I did not have any sympathy for them. In fact, there were several times in the first 100 pages where I thought of giving up on this story. One thing that kept me going was my hope that Quentin would get what he had coming to him, that he would have an experience that would force him to grow up a little, and he would become a little more likable as a character. That point never really came. Through most of the first half of the book, I found myself slowly pushing through the story five pages at a time. Finally, I got to the part where Quentin and his friends reached the magical land of Fillory. Then interesting things began to happen.
In fact, for awhile I started to feel like we had ourselves an adventure. All the kids were familiar with Fillory from a series of books they had read when they were younger. But they found that the real Fillory was quite different than in the stories they had read. Something was amiss. Things started going wrong. And it quickly became very dangerous. For me this was the best part of the story. Quentin and his friends were attacked on all sides and had to fight and run for their lives. Some of them were killed. It was lucky that all of them were not killed. And then as quickly as it started, it was all over. They had managed to escape and defeat a very bad guy. But there was no feeling of triumph. Their victory had cost them dearly. It had changed them, scarred them.
I think Quentin was so saddened and shocked by his experience in Fillory that he decided he had enough. He escaped back to our less-than-magical world where he vowed to give up magic and just pursue an ordinary life at an ordinary job with ordinary people. But we all know that will not last for long. Spoiled and arrogant Quentin got his wish. He got his adventure. And he paid the price. Now he will definitely have to have another one. Although I have not yet read the second book in this series, I have a feeling that ordinary will no longer be Quentin’s experience in life.
I think that the author should’ve started the first book after Quentin was already admitted to Brakebills or perhaps close to graduation. He still could’ve captured the excitement of Quentin learning about magic through flashbacks or memories. But by dragging us through Quentin’s years at Brakebills, he had to put off the adventure in Fillory, which to me seemed like the main point of the story, for much later. Yes, I will read the next book in this series. I may even watch the television series. But I will not read this book again. For this reason, I give The Magicians three out of five stars.