Thursday, April 14, 2016

Lev Grossman’s The Magician King: A Book Review

Lev Grossman’s The Magician King follows up The Magicians and continues the magical journey of Quentin Coldwater. Quentin has been serving as one of the kings of Fillory, but in his restlessness, he embarks on a quest that plants him back in reality, on Earth. Stuck there with Julia, his childhood friend who has seemingly lost her humanity in an effort to become the witch that she is, Coldwater desperately seeks his return to the mythical, grown up Narnia that drove his childhood and brought him fleeting adult happiness. But Julia wants it more, sensing that she belongs in the realm of the surreal, the strange, the magical far more than among the wanton members of humanity.

While this book starts slow, the real story falls in Julia’s past. Here we learn about what made her, and these chapters dig into the pain of her Brakebills rejection, a rejection that put her on the streets, driving her nearly insane, before ultimately landing in with an elite group of magicians, a group determined to invoke a god. Grossman does Julia justice—the reader needed to know and understand her, to live through her desperate plight.

Interspersed with these tales of the past, Julia and Quentin return home, entering a quest to save not only Fillory, but also all magic. With the gods threatening to cut off the source, all stops must be pulled out. All of the old cast is back, with Josh and Penny playing central roles despite their self-exile from Fillory.  In the process, we get to see what we have been waiting for: Quentin in all his glory, Quentin the king, the magician king, raining down power and fire on all of those who confront him. Yet in the end, such actions are not enough, and young Coldwater, once again finds his glass empty and his desires unsatisfied.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Lev Grossman’s The Magicians: A Book Review

Lev Grossman’s The Magicians takes the reader on a fun, sometimes thrilling tale of magic and coming of age that is quite divergent from the Harry Potter genre. Delivered in plain, mass market prose and numbering only around 400 pages, the novel flies by. The story pulls you, the text is easy to digest, and little thought is needed to grasp what is going on. This fact is not noted to detract from the read, and in fact the story of Quentin Coldwater’s rise from academic glory into the annals of magical greatness is quite gripping, but it is an easy read.

Set mostly at college for magicians, the book follows Quentin’s matriculation through the exclusive—as in they find, pick, and test you, erasing your memory if you fail—New England College for magicians, Brakebills. Coldwater, a high achieving introvert with an obsession for the mythical Fillory, Grossman’s answer to Narnia, seeks to find a purpose within the school. While tragic accidents occur, there are no teachers glaring and judging and deciding nor is there a known enemy to fear. In Brakebills and later New York City, the reader witnesses all the stuff that J. K. Rowling leaves out: real love, lovers, alcohol, and the nothingness that results in one’s eventual graduation from college and the requisite initiation into adult life. Complicating the matter is the fact that these magicians must enter a world ignorant not only to their true power but also their actual existence.

The answer to such ennui comes through the chance that other worlds exists. This chance allows Quentin and his group of friends to contemplate that their childhood fantasies are real, a fact that places them at the center of a battle for the continued existence of the mythical Fillory. Here men can rise to their destinies, here they can seek out a purpose. Yet, even in Fillory, Quentin struggles to show that he is great, that he is worthy of our attention, that he is anything more than human. It is this humanity that keeps the pages rapidly, and confidently turning.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Published Fiction: Misplaced Bodies

Thanks to the folks over at Maudlin House (give them a few clicks) for publishing my strange piece "Misplaced Bodies." I wrote it for a contest it didn’t win, but after a few revisions I found it a home. Read it here or click over and give them some love there. 

Misplaced Bodies
Mitchel examined the road, the coins embedded within. He wanted them, thought their asphalt grave a waste.
Between cars he pried at them with a flat headed screw driver. Three second spurts that created spurts of blood from his skin, spotting the road from scrapped knees.
Honks from horns, before a final ill-timed jaunt.
At first Kate detested the waxy skin. Back then she’d harbored a fear of death the contagion, thinking that touching lifeless flesh would alter hers by eliminate lipids and thinning the membrane. After months, she forgot, dropping her gloves and endeavoring to give the right ones, a soft forehead’s kiss of remembrance.
Under a microscope, sand is neither white nor grey, but a kaleidoscope of shell bits. Conch here, scallop there dotted with rocky quartz. On certain beaches, the sand is coarse, brittle, the sand of leftovers, death. Here a close up yields other fragments: incinerated bone basking in the ocean waves, soot of kidney settling in the salt. Each visage littering the oil covered forms of sunbathing teens.