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Reading an honest-to-goodness novel I hadn't read before for what did seem the first time in a fair while might have set me on a surprising new path. Not that long after, I was in my local branch library, glancing at the new books, when one cover caught my eye. My first thought, to be sure, was "isn't that a sequel to something I've heard about before?" In a matter of moments, I was delving back into the regular stacks with the author's name in my mind and pulling Lev Grossman's The Magicians off the shelf.

While I had an impression of having heard about the book, I couldn't remember any specifics. It took looking inside the front cover to see it wasn't just being implied to be a "grownups" take on J.K. Rowling but also on C.S. Lewis, but just the first comparison would have started making me a little suspicious. A good number of the fans who drew me into starting an online journal combined an interest with Harry Potter to their positivity about Star Wars, and I wound up going so far as to buy the final Harry Potter novels as they came out to keep up with the discussion. While I'm not sure how much of them really stuck with me, I did find myself thinking of something I believe fernwithy said, that "'Harry Potter for adults' is Harry Potter." Just throwing in (as it turned out) bad language, smoking, drinking, harder drugs, emotionally hurtful sex (although not described in any great detail) and lots of pop culture references doesn't seem a recipe for any sort of distinction to me...

When I started reading the book, though, and the impending high school graduate Quentin Coldwater found himself lured out of a grim Brooklyn fall by the prospect of a further volume in the classic yet seemingly unfinished "Fillory" series to what turns out to be upstate New York in the late summer, I was reeled in. I gobbled up the book in short order; perhaps there really was a spell to it. Its own particular details about just what its own magic requires and the unique quirks and foibles of the Brakebills magical college might have attracted me, and as much as I wondered about how ultimately necessary the magic was to connect to "Fillory" (the book makes some casually unapologetic references to Harry Potter in its string of pop culture callbacks, but I can't seem to recall any mention of Narnia), that second askew take had its own certain appeal too. I wound up taking note of how the book seemed to tell a complete tale, although that now makes me wonder a bit about what the sequel that caught my eye first would be like after all...

April 2019

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