The Magicians: Or, When Smug Authors Are Obviously Smug

The-MagiciansI suppose Lev Grossman thought he was being very clever in The Magicians when he has his magician protagonist mock Harry Potter. And ever more sly when his magician characters yearn to journey to a barely disguised Narnia which has taken all the over-the-top Christian symbols of Narnia and replaced them with hedonistic moments and cursing. As if in the coy wink we all share at the expense of Narnia (and feeling so very clever for having pieced together *as if this was some kind of challenge* the parallel). Suffice it to say I don’t think it’s particularly commendable to simply mock popular (young adult) fantasy or fairy tales just because. Sure, please mock it if you have something properly interesting or provocative to say – make it a dialogue between novels and we’d have something worth discussing. I mean, look at Daughter of the Forest if you want a thoughtful (if problematic) remaking of earlier fantasy/fairy tales. Or all of Angela Carter.

Alas, The Magicians has only smug takedowns for the sake of being like “look at me, I’m smugly taking down Narnia.” I admit to enjoying the first 50 pages in its world-building and descriptions of boarding school (true life confessions: I often wish I could attend a boarding school, but then so does everyone else when that boarding school is made of magic, everyone is witty and good-looking and genius is a prerequisite). But other than that? I continued reading just so I could be sure there wasn’t some momentous turn-around so that when I wrote this review I could feel justified in saying: don’t waste your time the way I wasted mine.

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