Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Magicians, by Lev Grossman

Quentin Coldwater is ridiculously smart, not to mention introverted and unhappy. He’s bound for a top-tier college when he shows up and his interviewer is dead. After chasing a note from a paramedic into an overgrown alley and into the entrance exam of Brakebills College of Magical Pedagogy, he begins his education in real-world magic. Because in The Magicians, you don’t cast a spell by vaguely waving your hands, any more than a beginning programmer would write an air-traffic-control program. This is real magic, and it’s hard and brutal like any other subject. He manages to survive four years of intense study at Brakebills, but everything is thrown off-kilter when he and his friends discover the secret of interdimensional travel. 

The Magicians, by Lev Grossman, remains one of my favorite books, even after five years. I would say it’s something about the sheer realism of the series that makes it different from something like Harry Potter - the world of magic is much more realistic, as far as that word can be applied to magic. One gets the feeling that if magic were real, this is exactly how it would play out. The other thing that makes The Magicians really stand out is how it manages to be both a fantasy book and a commentary on fantasy books. The characters make occasional references to Narnia and Harry Potter, which further adds to the feeling of realism.

Reviewed by Adrian G., grade 12
Grandview Library

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Shining Girls, by Lauren Beukes

What could be worse than a serial killer who gets his perverted kicks by snuffing out the potential of bright young women? Well, give him the ability to travel through time and that’s The Shining Girls. Except one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives having her disembowelment/throat slit, and vows to hunt him down and deal justice to him. However, she quickly discovers that it’s hard to track down a killer that could be anywhere in the 19th century. But she perseveres in her quest for revenge, and joins a newspaper and gets the help of a surly sports editor by the name of Dan, eventually finding the house that acts as his base of operations.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes is an interesting book. It has the time-bendy feel of a movie that presents you with certain details and unexplained scenes throughout the main story, only to tie them up in a way that somehow reveals what really happened at the end. I guess my only real criticism of the way the story is told is that Beukes gives an incredibly in-depth description of each of the Shining Girls and their backgrounds and personalities, which does make their deaths much more powerful, but for some reason she refrains from characterizing the killer. Which is odd, because he features in most of the books and there’s not much of a motivation for him to do what he does besides some vague mental urge to satisfy himself and get rid of the voices in his head. This isn’t to say I didn’t like it. I enjoyed it immensely. It was a great read spread over a couple days so I could go back and look at the important things I had looked over the first time around.

Reviewed by A.G., grade 12
Glendale Central Library