I really liked the descriptions, situations and plot twists in this book. The problem was that I wasn't fond of the protagonist, Quentin. His friends seemed so much more interesting. Perhaps Quentin will grow up in the next book!
I did not like it. I did not feel as if I got the know the characters, did not care if they lived or died and did not enjoy the fantasy aspect.
Honestly, I felt like this book was a big f-you to anyone who ever wanted to go to Hogwarts or dreamt of finding a secret cupboard to Narnia.
Quentin was an unlikeable main character who is constantly bored and unsatisfied with his life, no matter how miraculous it becomes. He even stops and says at times how he should be happy, but he just isn't. Someone should have given him a Prozac and the story would be much better. Probably.
The world was neat and I liked the magic school when Quentin wasn't mucking it up. I didn't like how the author took what should have been an amazing experience - Magic is Real!!! - and turned it into hard work. What I love about fantasy and magic is that they are better than the real world. There is Good and Evil and Quests and Glory. The Magicians turned magic into Difficult, Dangerous, and Useless.
I can give this 3 stars because it did hold my interest. It was a different take on your typical fantasy. Trying something new and succeeding should get at least that many stars.
I'm sure there are those who really enjoy this and can see beyond the main character's flaws, or actually can appreciate the main character for his flaws. For me, however, all I wanted after finishing this was to curl up with a childhood favorite where the good guys win and magic always sparkles.
After all the hype, I was expecting a lot more out of this. Without giving too much away, the book spends a decent chunk of time at Brakebills but it doesn't feel like enough. The whole story feels like someone hit fast forward and you get the big main points, but not any of the character and story development that *could* be there. For lack of better comparison, it's like the first three Harry Potter books being distilled down into one story.
Quentin isn't the most likeable protagonist either. He whines and pities himself through most of the book, just like a lot of regular teens/people. Which is fine for the most part, because you know a big lesson is coming for him. Except the thing is, when the big lesson comes and he learns it, it feels anti-climactic and I just ended up mentally comparing him to an ex who was also whiney and poo-faced. Maybe I would have liked this story more had it been told from Alice, Penny, Eliot or even one of the professor's perspective. There's so much hinted at in their pasts and so little revealed; at certain points I was really hoping the story would take a multi-perspective storytelling stance so we could get into the meat of their lives, but no such luck.
Overall I liked the book and was entertained enough to finish it, but as other reviewers have stated, the whole book just feels like it exists as a set-up to the next book... which I'm not really sure I want to read.
So imagine if you will that you are a teenager who grew up LOVING the Narnia books and wanting nothing more than to visit Narnia yourself some day... and then *poof* you discover that Hogwarts is real (only called Brakebills and for older teens rather than 11 year olds)... except the headmaster isn't fun or whimsical at all and Magic is HARD.
That pretty much sums up the part one of this book... and then the kids find Narnia (Fillory) and it's not at all what they all secretly dreamed it would be.
Part one of the book dragged like mad for me, but I found it interesting enough to keep reading. The latter parts were more fun and quicker to read, but couldn't really redeem the boring beginning.