This novel was praised as “Harry Potter for Grown-Ups” so this reader here could not resist, although Grossman´s debut “Codex” left her a little helpless.
Grossman bows to J.K.Rowling and C. J. Lewis in almost every respect, but has great difficulty in inventing his own convincing magical world.
His main character, young brilliant Quentin Coldwater, is unhappy, frustrated with his parents, escapes into the fantastic world of the fictional “Fillory” series throughout his childhood. When he is invited to an interview for college he lands instead in the magical college Brakebill right in the middle of New York.
For the first time in his life he makes friends with an illustrous circle of young magicians, and falls in love with Alice, a brilliant student, just like himself. But he acts almost autistic in his inability to blend in. After four happy years at the college, the young magicians are sent out to find their way into the real world, but instead they choose to enter Fillory and fight a magic war with the fictional characters there.
The whole story is rather disappointing. Like in “Codex” Grossman cannot make up his mind what story he really wants to tell. Consequently Quentin is never able to decide what he really wants to do and make of his life.
The only truly gripping episode is a kind of endurance test the students have to take in Antarctica, where only Quentin and Alice succeed.