This is a reread for me. I read it first back in 2009, I believe, when it first came out, and I remember liking it, but for some reason never picking up the next book in the series. So flash forward to me thinking that since I’m a fan of the series, I really should go back, reread the first book, and then finish the trilogy. Makes sense, right?
I kind of wish I hadn’t. It started slow, which is fine, but it did pick up, and I remained interested through the first two thirds of the book. And then it became harder and harder for me to want to finish it. In fact, as I was reading last night, I raced through the last 100 or so pages thinking, Will this never end?
I simply didn’t understand why I was having that response until I started to poke and prod at what I’d read. It was then that I realized that the largest part of the problem is the characterization. First, there are simply too many important characters. It’s very hard for a writer to juggle more than a few and Grossman gives us about a dozen people to follow, and many of them remain quite flat and uninteresting. Even the main characters are never as dimensional as the characters in the TV series. Only Quentin comes close to being a fully realized character, and I found that he reminded me of Holden Caulfield, the embodiment of whiny adolescent angst, but with magic.
Oh I know there are the book purists out there who insist that the book is always superior to a filmed version and will hear no argument to the contrary, but I’m here to tell you that isn’t true. Each medium is its own thing and it’s perfectly possible for a great book to be turned into dreck in the wrong hands, or a mediocre book to be made great in the right ones. But in the end, you can’t judge them against one another, you can only make comparisons. And in this case, in the comparison I made between the levels of interest I had in the characters, the TV series won handily. It made me sad because I know I’d enjoyed the book the first time around, but this time I found I was rolling my eyes and muttering “Get on with it!”
There are other problems, but I’m not going to belabor the point that the book didn’t hold up for me, that the series had taken the story into truly magical spaces that the book never touched. I’ll just say that it was a disappointment and leave it at that. But I won’t be bothering with the other books in the trilogy.