Earlier this week, I read The Magicians by Lev Grossman.
To me, The Magicians seemed like a mashup of Harry Potter and The Magician’s Nephew (the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia). C.S. Lewis is one of my heroes, and J.K. Rowling, overall, is one of my favorite authors. Together, their various works make up a sizable part of my favorites list (I would say “shelf,” but Rowling’s books have a special shelf of their own, apart from all the rest of my favorites).
The book is about a Brooklyn youth who is accepted to a college for magicians (think more along the lines of wizards), which is eerily like Hogwarts, except in upstate New York. There are multiple references to Harry throughout the novel, and Grossman most definitely tipped his hat to Lewis as well, but the book wasn’t for children. To me, it seemed like a book for fans of Harry Potter, Narnia, and even Oz, who were all grown up. Overall, I loved the thing.
The thing that I liked the most about The Magicians, surprisingly, had little to do with the actual plot of the novel. One of the characters in the book, the protagonist’s love interest, who was described as “a small, sullen girl with straight blonde hair.” Her name, of course, was Alice.
I adore Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (or just, Alice in Wonderland), I grew up knowing the story, and I still love the books to this day. Although many of my friends read Alice in Wonderland, I seem to be the only one who actually went on to read Through the Looking Glass.
I love the story, I love Alice (I always related very strongly to her; I too, was a grumpy child), I love it all. To this day, I throw allusions to Wonderland in my essays. People even occasionally tell me that I look like Alice, although they’re usually thinking of the 1951 Disney version of her.
Of course, with this love of Alice in Wonderland, I was thrilled to see a character so clearly (to me) based off of the original show up in The Magicians. There were other Wonderland references throughout the book as well. A game that the characters played, called welters, had a field that was described as a “curious Alice-in-Wonderland playing field.” What is Wonderland, after all, if not curious?
I loved all of the various literary allusions in the novel; it really brought the whole book together. I would honestly recommend it to anyone, but, once again, The Magicians was not a book written for children. I’m not saying that kids shouldn’t read it, because, trust me, I read many a book as a child that were probably way too old for me, I’m just saying that potential readers shouldn’t turn away from it because it has elements from childhood literature. Indeed, they should turn toward it for that very reason.
Another thing, The Magicians has a sequel. Called The Magician King, it is already on my reading list.