Lev Grossman's The Magicians came to me as a highly recommended "gritty Harry Potter." Some even called it, "what if Harry Potter went to college." So, I was very intrigued and couldn't wait to start reading it.
Plot- Quentin and his friends are the smartest kids in NYC and are all going to Princeton, but what is the point, until Quentin is whisked away to a magical college. He takes an interesting exam and then the author rushes him through 5 years of college where he and his friends are the smartest kids at school and are all also edgy alcoholics, but what is the point and life sucks. He graduates and is able to live off of a magical trust fund and he and his friends all become drug addicted drunks, life is so boring until a long lost enemy comes to him with the key to a Narnia like world from books that all, and I mean all, the characters have read and worship. They all go to the Narnia like world and Quentin is, amazingly, still not happy. At one point he opines that he wished he would have brought some drugs with him because that would make the lame Narnia world really cool. He proceeds to get drunk in Narnia world. It goes on from there, I don't want to spoil it for you. It has a lot of cussing and sex in it too.
Characters- There is really one likeable character in the whole book and she surrounds herself with so many unlikeable characters that you end up hating her for it (oh, she is a complete Hermione clone). I take that back, Josh seems cool to but is so underdeveloped that you just don't know, and he also surrounds himself with douches. Quentin is the lead and he is an ever whining, perfect at everything, never happy, BORE. He is exactly the type of person that you try and not make friends with but he always comes over and talks to you and you can't escape. Usually the protagonist of the novel changes and grows during a novel, especially one that cover 5 years in 402 pages. Confederacy of Dunces is proof that you can have a totally unlikeable character and still have a good book that engages the audience. This book fails to do that.
Overall- The book started well and there were parts in the middle and end that worked, but if you couldn't tell by now, I didn't like it. I think Grossman had an excellent idea that fell apart in execution. The writing felt rushed. It felt like Grossman would just get bored with writing parts and would just move on to his next ideas. The book was full of "oh yeah" moments. These are where the auther would have an event or action and then have to go back and explain why a character knew some information or that someone had come in to a room, things like that.
There is one piece of completely hideous writing that I would like to paraphrase here. The characters are all tired and weary from this battle and they are at the boss, they are in fear of their own and their friends lives, earlier in the novel they had demon gnome things tattooed into their backs that they would fight for them once upon being released. The protag, in a state of fear and exhaustion, in the middle of a battle turns around, lifts his shirt, says the incantation to let the demon out and then says, "Say elloh to my little friend!" No kidding.
I didn't like it, but some people did, I guess. People call it edgy, but in my book it takes more than sex, drugs, and cussing to be edgy. You can't compare this to Harry Potter or Narnia, but the book brings these two worlds up so much as to draw constant comparison to something better. To me it felt like what would happen if Grant Morrison were to pen a novel.