This is the first time I will be writing a review of a book, so please bear with me if this turns out to be what you do not expect.
This book was included in a list I read somewhere about the 100 Best Science Fiction Books of All Time. Among that list is The Lord of the Rings, 1984, Necromancer, and the works of Isaac Asimov, Neal Stephenson, Robert Jordan, and others. You get the drift.
When I read the title, I thought to myself, “Harry Potter.” When I read it at first, there was no magical feeling of discovering a new world, just a rehashing of all the old cliches of magical worlds and mythologies. This is kind of what I felt with the books of Rick Riordan with his Percy Jackson books. This book has been heavily influenced by the work of C.S. Lewis, particularly his “Narnia” series. You can see it with the scenes of (spoiler alert) the children going inside an ordinary home furniture, a grandfather clock instead of a wardrobe, and coming out in a magical world. There’s also an Aslan reference with the ram gods Amber and Umber, and a similar four thrones for the human kings and queens. A Peter Pan similarity to Martin Chatwin is also there as well as a Hogwarts in Brakebills’.
The book hits its stride after the kids graduate from the school. I realized while I was reading this part that the previous pages were just preparation for the emotional roller coaster that the book brings out in me. Much like Quentin and the Physical Kids clique had to study magical incantations to prepare for the real world, some of the earlier scenes laid the background for what will be happening later.
Quentin, the main protagonist, has won the genetics/circumstance lotto. He has magical abilities. But much like what would happen to your worldly ambitions should you win the lottery, Quentin and his gang has everything they’ve ever wanted, and it has made them deeply unhappy. There was an earlier scene where Alice made Quentin promise not to grow up being exactly like her magical parents. People who has it all and thus bored out of their minds. They don’t have any overriding ambition to do anything else, except to have a fictional book about magic go real and the ensuing pathos resonated with me, thinking, I could be them.
The magical beings and the magical world they inhabit becomes secondary to the emotional milieu of the book. Going inside a grandfathers clock suddenly takes on a sinister turn as the reason behind why a kid would hide behind it is revealed. Going to Neitherland and on to Fillory instead of rotting away in a boring desk job may be a reflection of how we want to escape our own ennui. I could be Quentin, I realized. If The Lord of the Rings suddenly became real and I could go to middle-earth through the Neitherlands. I would be happy, but then again I could live to regret it.