The Magicians Revisited

The Magician’s Land, the final novel in Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy, comes out on August 5th. I first drawn to the Magicians when the cover kept haunting me at Barnes and Noble. Time and time again I have found you can judge a book by its cover – unless that cover is The Infinite Moment of Us in which case the cover lies, LIES! But I digest. The cover caught my eye, the book jacket reeled me in:

By imagining magic as practiced in the real world by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions, Lev Grossman pays homage to the fantasy novels of C. S. Lewis, T. H. White and J. K. Rowling while creating an utterly original realm in which good and evil aren’t black and white, love and sex aren’t simple or innocent and power comes at a terrible price.

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When there is a sequel, and most definitely when there is a trilogy, I am the type of reader that rereads the previous books to prep for the release of the final. And so begins my Magicians reread and this entry here. Including just now, I have read the Magicians 3 times and I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting older, but each time I read the book I want to punch Quentin Coldwater in the face more forcefully than the time before. Lets rewind shall we?

At its core, The Magicians is a coming of age story about a boy – a depressed, ridiculously (book)smart, teenager named Quentin Coldwater. Quentin is attached to a series of books centering around the fantastical world of Fillory (think Narina). One day he finds himself transported to upstate New York to take an entrance exam into a prestigious school of sorcery, Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy. Quentin believes he’s finally escaping his mundane life in the city to pursue magic and he will finally be happy but over time his depression creeps back in. Each new discovery briefly deceives Quentin into thinking he will be happy but he is never satisfied. Following the conclusion of his magical education and now running amok as a certified magician in Manhattan, Quentin learns Fillory is real and he is going on an adventure to save Fillory where he will finally fulfill his destiny. But things never go according to plan do they?

Let’s get one thing straight, Quentin is an unlikeable protagonist but I think most people can appreciate a flawed character. Quentin is depressed, snarky, insecure, unappreciative, and narcissistic. I stick with him because people truly believe if you can attain your heart’s desire then you will be happy. And this is simply not true, least of all in Quentin’s case. Like any good coming of age novel, Quentin befriends a rag tag group of students – Eliot, Alice, Janet, and Josh, all with their own baggage.

Magicians Art by Christopher Shy

Magicians Art by Christopher Shy

One of my favorite quotes in the books is from Dean Fogg: Can a man who can cast a spell ever really grow up? I had never really thought about magic in that context before and it rings true of Quentin and his friends at Brakebills, they are teenagers playing with a power they don’t understand. After years of study, the know how to manipulate and use the magical power they have access to but they have no concept of the wider world in which they exist and more importantly they are clueless to the consequences of their actions. Never fear, all of these elements make for a fantastic story!

Magicians Art by Christopher Shy

Magicians Art by Christopher Shy

This story is a mix of previous magical tales like The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter but also reminds me of other novels which feature an extremely tight knit friend group with secrets like The Secret History by Donna Tartt and The Likeness by Tana French. Last year I met Lev Grossman (and his twin/brother Austin) at the Decatur Book Festival and I was extremely extremely awkward (like more awkward than normal) and I wish I could wipe it from my memory *shudders* I did get my books signed woo… I almost would exchange the signatures for my dignity – oh the adventures of being me.

Lev and Austin Grossman

Lev and Austin Grossman

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Whovians Unite!

Up until now I’ve kept Keenly Peaches mostly about the Young Adult fiction I read (more often than not including my beloved book club Not-So-YA) and I’ve decided I want to diversify a bit – just branch out and share more of my everyday life. I don’t read quite as many books as others and I tend to watch a great deal of Netflix so I just wanted to share other aspects of my life and maybe that will lead to posting more than twice a month. Well that makes me sound like a hermit, but I am a bit of hermit so I guess thats ok.

One of my newer obsessions (within the past year) has been Doctor Who. My husband started watching this odd show before bed and I was like what the hell is that?! He told me, you must watch this, you must. I resisted. It wasn’t until my friend Kelley was like no seriously you need to watch this that I gave it a shot (we share a similar wavelength of books, disney movies, and overall nerdom). And I’ve been a Whovian ever since. Christopher Eggleston was my first doctor, David Tennant is my favorite doctor, and I am without a doubt a Ten/Rose shipper. Donna is my second favorite companion – I love the friendship between her and the Doctor, I have a hipster crush on Rory and I’m skeptical of Peter Capaldi. I think that is the simplified version of my Whovian status.

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Last Halloween, Mark and I went as the Tenth Doctor and the TARDIS. Oh, and probably my favorite episode is The Doctor’s Wife (and Blink but I feel like that’s everyone’s favorite so it almost doesn’t count). We looked pretty awesome if I do say so myself. I essentially searched on Pinterest for a TARDIS costume that I didn’t need to be Martha Stewart to make.

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This past weekend at the Masquerade in Atlanta, there was a Time Lord Party! Mark and I went and we had a great time; there was a band, vendors (I bought a little Tenth Doctor magnet), themed drinks and costume contest. I did think the event was a little odd on a Friday night from 9PM to 3AM with a DJ attempting to cater to mostly nerdy introverts, all dressed in the same five costumes but everyone seemed to be having a good time despite their social abnormalities.

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All that said, I’m super excited for new season to start back up, I’m ready to move on from Clara (obviously not this season), and I really just want to watch the 50th anniversary special over and over again.

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Book Review: Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

The July book club pick for the Not-So-YA book club at the Little Shop of Stories is Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor.

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Sunny Nwazue is the star of this magically delightful novel by Okorafor, a twelve year old girl born to Nigerian parents in New York City who move back to Africa when she’s nine. Sunny would love to play soccer with her older brothers but she can’t stand the sunlight because she’s albino. Needless to say, Sunny has a hard time fitting in. (Does anyone else think that parents naming their albino child ‘Sunny’ is a little bit cruel?). Speaking of cruel, Sunny’s classmates laugh, point, and call her names ‘pale-faced akata witch’ – akata meaning bush animal, a rude term referring to black Americans or other foreign-born blacks.

However, with a little push from a quirky girl named Chichi and Sunny’s classmate Orlu, Sunny quickly learns that she has magical abilities, she is a Leopard Person. Without magical parents or any previous knowledge of magic, Sunny is a ‘free agent’ (think muggleborn). While there is no Hogwarts, Sunny, Orlu, Chichi and fellow American Sasha are all students of a wiser mentor Anatov. As Sunny learns more about herself and the new world she is a part of, chittim rains down around her, the currency tied to the attainment of magical wisdom. With all fantasy stories there is a dark, menacing side to magical power. A serial killer is on the loose – Otokoto the Black Hat is kidnapping and viciously maiming small children from the town. This hodgepodge coven has the monumental task of stopping the sinister, defiler of magic.

One really interesting aspect of this novel was the relationship between the physical world and the spiritual world. All leopard people have your typical physical face but a completely different spirit face, as well as spirit name. Showing another person your spirit face is allowing yourself to be completely vulnerable; you might as well be naked. About half way through the book, the foursome attend a magical festival in Abuja, Nigeria at the Zuma rock. The Zuma International Wrestling Final takes place as two magical warriors blur the lines between the physical and the spiritual to fight to the death. In my opinion, it was one of the most intense scenes in the novel. Akata Witch is my first novel by Okorafor and I was blown away by her story telling ability, by the rich world of magic woven into everyday life in Nigeria.

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My one complaint was the abrupt ending of the novel. The stand off between the four youngsters and Black Hat escalates rather quickly which I think is supposed to be part of the point but it still felt rushed. Akata Witch is the first in the series however the novel does wrap up completely without any cliffhangers or loose ends. I mean there are loose ends to be explored in future novels but nothing like a ‘There is no District 12’ ending thank god. The sequel, Breaking Kola, is scheduled for release in 2015.

Author Encounters: Veronica Roth and Marie Lu

This past week (Thursday to be precise), Little Shop of Stories in conjunction with Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA hosted an evening conversation between authoresses Veronica Roth and Marie Lu of the Divergent trilogy and Legend trilogy, respectively.

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With the purchase of an event ticket package, I received two tickets AND two fantastic books!  The first book is Four by Veronica Roth, a collection of short stories from the world of Divergent from Four’s POV along with three additional scenes taken from Divergent and written from Four’s POV.  Secondly, is Legend by Marie Lu.  I am particularly excited about Legend, it’s a book I’ve been seeing on the shelves for years and have never picked up.  No excuses now!
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The conversation began with a lightening round of questions back and forth between Roth and Lu covering topics from favorite superhero (batman and spiderman, respectively) to the villain you would most like to punch in the face (both agreed on Dolores Umbridge much to the audience’s pleasure).  There were lots of Harry Potter references so you know I was happy.  One completely random thing, I was surprised by how tall Roth is, I mean she really does tower over people!!  Both authors were engaging, often making each other and the audience laugh.  They asked each other questions and took questions from the audience.

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One question that stuck out in particular was when Roth asked Lu about the work she put into the dual perspectives of June and Day from Legend.  It was hard to stifle a laugh/cough/comment, a problem that I think was shared by other audience members.  In a previous posting I wrote reviewing Allegiant, one of my main beefs with the novel was its poor dual POV execution.  I haven’t read Legend yet so I can’t comment on Lu’s dual POV ability but she seemed to have done extensive work on creating each character and their individual voices.  I hope Roth takes a lesson from Lu if she is planning on future dual POV novels.

Following the end of the Legend trilogy, Lu has a new novel coming out this fall called The Young Elites.  I am interested to know what Roth has coming down the pipe next (I hope this doesn’t turn into a Cassandra Clare situation where she is unable to write anything outside this world).  Currently Insurgent is filming in Atlanta and I have seen Shailene Woodley twice, TWICE!  Let me tell you, the first time I saw her at the farmers market, I had a fangirl attack of epic proportions probably because I recently sobbed over The Fault in Our Stars in theaters.  She was behind me getting coffee, I had heart palpitations, I got my coffee and went to the sidebar to get creamer and had a fangirl, silent squealing moment with another girl that recognized her.  At least from what I saw, the people that recognized her gave her space and let her go about her organic shopping needs.  Then I saw her the following weekend again at the same farmers market, I swear I’m not stalking her.

In other bookish news, I finished Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (review to follow) and am re-reading The Magicians by Lev Grossman.