Oh, my. I completely fell in love with this book. It’s as if everything I ever wanted from Harry Potter got married to Narnia and this book is their perfect, perfect baby.
Quentin Coldwater is a brilliant teenager, on his way to a Yale interview, when he gets what he always wanted- he stumbles his way into the grounds of a magical university. After a rigorous, and often nonsensical, examination, he’s accepted as a student there. Raise your hand if you’ve basically spent your entire life wishing this would happen to you. So has Quentin, which is one of the things that makes it so interesting. Quentin, unlike Harry or the Pevensies, knows that he’s got it made. Has spent his entire life reading fantasy novels and holding on to the forlorn hope that one day it might be him. And then it is.
That same knowledge, though, comes to eat away at Quentin. After all, once you’ve had your magical adventure and gotten to Hogwarts, or to Narnia, that’s the end, isn’t it? You’ve found your magical kingdom and now you can live Happily Ever After. Quentin (like any other teenager off to college, really) expects that happiness and self-satisfaction is about to be handed to him on a plate… and that’s not how it works. Unlike most of us, though, Quentin never learns to make his own happiness, which is, in large part, what drives the remainder of the novel. Never finding satisfaction with where he is, he’s constantly driving towards the next, “better” thing.
It’s an incredibly interesting treatise on the perils of getting what you’ve always wanted. Add to that a magic system that actually makes sense for once, that you have to work at, and work hard, and characters I identified with more than is probably healthy, and you’ve got a recipe for one of my favorite books of the year. I held off on reading this for ages because of all the hype surrounding it, and all I can say is that they were right.