This was a re-read -- I first read it in 2011 and even blogged positively, if briefly, about it. But this time around, I found myself not so sure of how I felt.
The first part -- all about Brakebills, a school for magicians -- was enjoyable and compelling -- a grown up Harry Potter with a fair amount of teenage angst.
But the trip to Fillory -- a very Narnia-like place -- bothered me. Grossman is a fan of C.S. Lewis's Narnia and, like Lewis, is challenging the notion of fantasy as pure escape. Indeed, in both Narnia and Fillory the protagonists learn that no matter where you go, you take yourself and all your baggage with you. If you're not happy in this world, there's no guarantee that another world will be better.
I agree with the premise . . . and if I hadn't grown up absorbed in Narnia and loving every minute I spent there, perhaps I could enjoy Grossman's novel more. But, for me, Fillory seemed like an obscene caricature or, at best, a heavy-handed spoof of Narnia, turning the sylphs and fauns, the talking animals and walking trees into silly, cynical things.
Despite that reservation, I found myself engrossed in the characters and (since I didn't remember how things turned out) eager to keep reading.
The NYT review HERE is pretty much spot on, in my opinion.
Now I have to decide if I want to keep going with the trilogy. I think I'll check my library -- I'm pretty sure I won't buy the next two for my Kindle.
What's strange is the difference in my reaction now and six years ago. A good reminder to always give a book another chance because my attitudes may have changed.