Friday, June 18, 2010

Book Reviews: The Magicians and Shades of Grey

The Magicians The Magicians by Lev Grossman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Every now and then I read a book that I just can't put down. This is one of those. The writing is literary and fascinating, the characters complex, the subject intriguing--I don't know . . . Everything about this book worked for me.

It's basically your standard YA fantasy at heart, but approached from a much more reality-based angle. What if the magical world the main character discovers doesn't change his life for the better? What if the problems he had before--character flaws, unmet dreams, etc--still exist? And when you think about it, doesn't that make sense? Why should walking through a wardrobe suddenly make everything else okay? Grossman has depicted a world where magic is very real, in all senses of the word.

The book is by no means a candy coated experience. It's not a children's book in the slightest, despite the fact that it covers the same sort of school experience as the Harry Potter series did. It feels very much like you're reading a Work of Literature that happens to be fantasy, but I liked it all the more for that. I'd be interested to hear what other people thought of this one. I could see some people really disliking it--but for me, it worked great. Plus, it was the sort of book that makes you want to talk to other people about it once you've finished.

So. Talk.

Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron (Shades of Grey, #1) Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron by Jasper Fforde

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was an all out fascinating read. I'd read some of Fforde's Thursday Next series, which I enjoyed quite a bit, but for me, this one blew Thursday out of the water. It's a post-apocalyptic book that makes hardly any sense at all for the first thirty or forty pages. They you start to get a hang of the sort of world these people live in now, and it all starts making sense. The basics? People can each see one or two shades of color each. So a Red looking at an orange ball would just see the red in the ball, and a Yellow would just see the yellow. The society is divided by class. Purples are royalty, Yellows are the police, Greys (who can't see any color) are essentially slaves. But it's far more complex than that. Really, you have to read it to believe it. The post-apocalyptic plot isn't exactly mind-bending. But the world these characters live in and experience is what the real draw is--sort of like reading Flatland again. Better yet, the book is the first in a trilogy. I eagerly await the sequels.

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