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profile-icon Randi Gibson

For this post, I decided I wanted to read a book that was recommended to me. Asking for a recommendation from my trusted co-worker and campus librarian, I was introduced to "The Magicians" by Lev Grossman. I desperately wanted to like this book, I didn’t want to tell the person who recommended it to me that I think it’s the best example of a Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia fan fiction gone wrong. While it certainly offers a unique take on the concept of magic and the coming-of-age story, it falls short in several key aspects that ultimately hinder its ability to be considered a true classic.

One of the major issues with "The Magicians" is its pacing and structure. The story often feels disjointed, with abrupt shifts in tone and pacing that can leave the reader feeling disconnected from the characters and the plot. It's as if the novel can't decide whether it wants to be a coming-of-age story, a magical adventure, or a deconstruction of the fantasy genre. As a result, the narrative lacks cohesion and fails to fully engage the reader in the way a well-structured story should.

Furthermore, the characters themselves are not particularly likable or relatable. The protagonist, Quentin Coldwater, is a self-absorbed and often whiny character who is difficult to root for. The first few pages of the book illuminate us to his ‘pick-me’ attitude, his raging jealousy for his best friend, and how he wishes his best friend's girlfriend would sleep with him. I could understand the attitude if he was actually in love with his best friend's girlfriend, but then two minutes later, he wondered why a pretty paramedic didn’t want him as well.  He even gets mad that his gay friend doesn’t find him attractive, even though Quentin isn’t remotely gay. He’s constantly bemoaning how he’s special and how that makes his life soo hard. His friends and fellow magicians are equally flawed, and their actions and motivations can be frustrating and at times irrational. While character growth and development are important in any story, it's difficult to invest in characters who seem to make the same mistakes repeatedly without learning from them.

Now, I can put up with a lot, but I draw the line at weird Arctic-wolf furry sex. Throughout the magical training process, for some reason, the students undergo challenge after challenge that involves being turned into animals. Our main character (Quentin) and his friend (we rarely see them act friendly and instead just see him pine about how pretty she is and oh-god-the-friend-zone) are turned into wolves who retain their human consciousness but with overwhelming animal instincts. And then they have sex.


Outside of how weird it was reading about the particulars of wolf sex; I just don’t understand why this was necessary. It doesn’t seem to be part of any plot outside of violating the main characters and causing drama. I’m just saying, if you write two characters that are interesting enough and make us root for them… you won’t need questionable animal sex to make it interesting.

Even if I could somehow ignore the wolf intercourse, I still wouldn’t have enjoyed this book.

The world-building in "The Magicians" is also lacking in many ways. Grossman's vision of magic is intriguing, but it often feels underdeveloped and inconsistent. The rules and limitations of magic are not well-defined, which made it difficult to fully immerse myself in the magical world he created. Additionally, the novel's portrayal of the magical school Brakebills is often shallow and fails to capture the sense of wonder and discovery that is a hallmark of the best fantasy literature.

One of the most controversial aspects of "The Magicians" is its treatment of the fantasy genre itself. While Grossman clearly aims to deconstruct and subvert many of the tropes and conventions of fantasy literature, some readers may find his approach to be overly cynical and even dismissive. The novel's portrayal of Fillory, a fictional fantasy world within the story, can be seen as a critique of the escapist tendencies of fantasy literature, but it ultimately comes across as heavy-handed and lacking in nuance. The characters never do anything. They just sort of respond to things the people of authority decide for them, and none of it is very interesting. There’s a whole chapter dedicated to the students morphing into geese and just flying around for days and days. These chapters make reading the book very tedious and boring.

In conclusion, while "The Magicians" by Lev Grossman has its moments of creativity and originality, it falls short in several key areas that prevent it from being a truly exceptional work of fantasy literature. Its pacing and structure are uneven, its characters are often unlikable, its world-building is underdeveloped, and its treatment of the fantasy genre itself may alienate some readers. While it has garnered a dedicated fanbase, it may not be the best choice for those seeking a more traditional and satisfying fantasy reading experience. To give my overall unfiltered opinion, it’s a Harry Potter school without the magic and fun, in a Narnia-esque land without the God Lion. This book is meant to appeal to high-school boys who feel so different, so special, and do nothing more than rage about the friend zone.

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profile-icon Kayla Cook

At the end of last month, Irish singer-songwriter Hozier released a new album titled Unreal Unearth, which, like much of his catalogue up to this point, draws a lot of its inspiration from classic literature and history, with some subtle nods to modern media, and takes a distinctly secular spin on Irish religious (and particularly Catholic) culture. The broadest and most overarching reference in Unreal Unearth is one to Italian Renaissance writer Dante Alighieri’s epic poem The Divine Comedy, particularly the Inferno section, which serves as inspiration for the entire album. On the back album cover, Hozier divides the track list into eleven sections: “Descent,” followed by nine sections for each of Dante’s nine circles of hell, and, finally, the “Ascent.” While the entire album follows Dante’s journey through hell and back, each song also has its own reference to classic literature or western history. In this blogpost, I will go through the album song by song and list some (read: as many as I recognize) of the literary references to serve as potential reading recommendations.

For the sake of brevity, I have decided to split this blog post into two parts. This post will cover the first half of the album. The second part of this post, covering the second half of the album, will be posted October 9.


“De Selby (Parts 1 & 2)”

  • Synopsis: This song is an exploration of interpersonal connection and self-reflection through the character of De Selby, a fictional eccentric and paradoxical scientist from Flann O’Brien’s novel The Third Policeman. It is also sort-of-secretly a love song. Additionally, it is meant to reflect the mental state of the narrator of Dante’s Divine Comedy as he is lost in the woods before entering the gates of Hell.
  • Highlights: The repeated final verse is sung in Irish. This is also Hozier’s only original song to date which features the Irish language. No official translation of these lyrics accompanies the lyrics transcription for this track, but this verse is the most blatantly romantic section of the song, which until this verse was mainly philosophically existential, yet this theme of love remains secret to anyone who does not speak Irish (or who does not take the time to look up a translation). Part of this section appears to reference Pablo Neruda’s Sonnet XVII, which speaks of the transformation two people in love undergo: “so close that your hand on my chest is my hand.”
  • Recommended: The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien; Pablo Neruda’s One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII.


“First Time”

  • Synopsis: This song reflects the chosen death of the narrator upon his descent into Hell and entrance into Dante’s first circle, which is home to those who died never hearing of Christ or receiving the rite of baptism.
  • Highlights: In the first pre-chorus, Hozier sings, “And the first time that you kissed me/I drank dry the River Lethe/The Liffey would have been softer on my/stomach all the same.” The River Lithe is the river from which travelers to the underworld in Greek mythology must drink before being reincarnated so that they can forget their past lives before being sent to a new one. This implies that the first time the narrator kissed their lover, they were so taken by the experience that they wanted desperately to forget every experience with every other partner before them. The next line, about the River Liffey, a real river in Dublin which people don’t drink from or even swim in because it is dirty, being “softer” on his stomach seems to subsequently imply that his choice probably wasn’t a wise one, but he’s glad he did it nonetheless.
  • Recommended: The Library of Greek Mythology by Robin Hard



  • Synopsis: Hozier takes on the persona of Francesca da Rimini, a character from Dante’s Inferno who was based on a real-life noblewoman known for her affair with her husband’s brother Paolo.
  • Highlights: While Dante describes Francesca as a helpless victim to Paolo’s wiles, who does not believe in her own guilt, Hozier gives her somewhat more agency, instead having her proudly proclaim that she loved—and still loves—Paolo, and even though it was their sins of passion and lust which landed them in Hell, she would shamelessly do it all over again and endure the same punishment forever if it meant she could be with him again even for a minute.
  • Recommended: Dante’s Divine Comedy; Biography of Francesca da Rimini at Britannica.

“I, Carrion (Icarian)”

  • Synopsis: The narrator of this song likens an intense love affair to the plight of Icarus, the Greek mythological figure who perished when he flew too close to the sun and the wax which held together the wings fashioned for him by his father melted and sent him plummeting to the ground.
  • Highlights: This song uses word play and puns, interchanging the phrases “carrying” and “carrion,” and “I, carrion” and “Icarian.”
  • Recommended: “The Myth of Icarus: Chasing the Sun” by Cierra Tolentino


“Eat Your Young”

  • Synopsis: This song takes us into the third circle of hell, where gluttons are punished. This song is told from the perspective of a wealthy and influential businessman or politician who benefits from the exploitation of those socially and economically weaker than himself. It draws its primary literary inspiration from Jonathan Swift’s satirical late 18th century essay, “A Modest Proposal,” in which Swift suggests Ireland’s poor alleviate themselves of the burden of poverty by selling or eating their children.
  • Highlights: Hozier appears to take some musical inspiration from Nicholas Brittel’s award-willing soundtrack for HBO’s Succession, a modern TV drama detailing the lives of the Roy family in the final year of life of their patriarch, Logan Roy, who shares many similarities with the narrator of this song.
  • Recommended: “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift


“Damage Gets Done” (ft. Brandi Carlile)

  • Synopsis: This song is a commentary on the common overreaction of many adults that teenagers and young adults are ruining their lives and doing a great disservice to the world by doing things like staying out late and having to sleep over at a friend’s house, and borrow things like clothes when they forgot their own.
  • Highlights: This song is juxtaposed starkly with the previous track, and this appears to be deliberately done to show people that they probably shouldn’t make children feel guilty about their carefree behavior, or carelessness when there are actually people doing real major damage in the world who feel no guilt for their actions.


“Who We Are”

  • Synopsis: A callback to the darkness and unknown highlighted in “De Selby (Parts 1 & 2).”
  • Highlights: A further descent into Dante’s Inferno, this time into the fifth circle of hell, where those who committed sins of fury are held and punished.

Cover ArtThe Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri; Burton Raffel (Translator); Paul J. Contino (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9780810126725
Publication Date: 2010-09-30
At the midpoint of his life, during Holy Week in 1300, Dante awakes to himself in the middle of a forest so dark that the sun's light cannot penetrate its gloom. of the wildness and brutality of the woods, Dante cries out for help, and thus begins one of Western literature's greatest epic journeys. The Divine Comedy follows Dante the pilgrim--guided by the great Roman poet Virgil, then by the love of his life, Beatrice--as he travels downward through Hell, then upward through Purgatory in order to reach Paradise and witness the love that moves the sun and the stars. Raffel's translation vividly captures the divine contrapasso, the ultimate case of the punishment the crime, in the Inferno, while fathoming the complexity of the Purgatorio and the ecstasy of the Paradiso. One of the world's greatest works of literature, Dante's Commedia revolutionized poetry and the Italian language. This epic poem was the to be written in the vernacular of the Italian people rather than in Latin. In it, Dante weaves the best of classical literature from Virgil, Statius, Aristotle, and Ovid with staples from the Christian tradition (including the Scriptures, Augustine, and Aquinas), into a colorful medieval tapestry that depicts at once the vividly checkered history of church and empire.
Cover ArtThe Third Policeman: a novel by Flann O'Brien
Call Number: PR6029.N56 T48 1999
Publication Date: 1999
"The Third Policeman is Flann O'Brien's comic novel about the nature of time, death, and existence. Told by a narrator who has committed a botched robbery and brutal murder, the novel follows him and his adventures in a two-dimensional police station where, through the theories of the scientist/philosopher de Selby, he is introduced to "Atomic Theory" and its relation to bicycles, the existence of eternity (which turns out to be just down the road), and de Selby's view that the earth is not round but "sausage-shaped." With the help of his newly found soul named "Joe," he grapples with the riddles and contradictions that three eccentric policeman present to him."--BOOK JACKET.
Cover ArtThe Library of Greek Mythology by Apollodorus (Editor)
ISBN: 9780199536320
Publication Date: 2008-08-01
The only work of its kind to survive from classical antiquity, the Library of Apollodorus is a unique guide to Greek mythology, from the origins of the universe to the Trojan War.Apollodorus' Library has been used as a source book by classicists from the time of its compilation in the 1st-2nd century BC to the present, influencing writers from antiquity to Robert Graves. It provides a complete history of Greek myth, telling the story of each of the great families of heroicmythology, and the various adventures associated with the main heroes and heroines, from Jason and Perseus to Heracles and Helen of Troy. As a primary source for Greek myth, as a reference work, and as an indication of how the Greeks themselves viewed their mythical traditions, the Library isindispensable to anyone who has an interest in classical mythology.Robin Hard's accessible and fluent translation is supplemented by comprehensive notes, a map and full genealogical tables. The introduction gives a detailed account of the Library's sources and situates it within the fascinating narrative traditions of Greek mythology.
Cover ArtA Modest Proposal and Other Writings by Jonathan Swift; Carole Fabricant (Editor, Introduction by, Notes by)
ISBN: 9780140436426
Publication Date: 2009-12-29
A new selection of works by Britain's foremost prose satirist Easing poverty in Ireland by eating the children of the poor was the satirical "solution" suggested by Jonathan Swift in his essay "A Modest Proposal" (1729). Here Swift unleashes the full power of his ironic armory and corrosive wit, striking his targets-the ruling class and avaricious landlords-with deadly precision. This masterly essay is accompanied by a generous selection of prose works, among them humorous pamphlets critiquing British rule in his native Ireland, articles and correspondence, a loving eulogy to his beloved "Stella," the daughter of a house servant whom he mentored, and pieces on such diverse subjects as the nature of broomsticks, the joys of punning, and comical rules for servants. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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profile-icon Dr. Brittnee Fisher

“When had men not been mystified by women? They were the magic that men dreamed of, and sometimes their dreams were nightmares.”- Stephen & Owen King, Sleeping Beauties

Once upon a time, I read IT by Stephen King and hated it. At that time, that was the first and only book of his that I had ever read. It was a bad first impression and unfair to an author I have since grown to love. In fairness to Pennywise and friends, the story was made for the big screen! I have categorized that work as "should have been a screenplay," which I do with books occasionally.

After my IT experience, I took a break from Mr. King and gave his son, Joe Hill, a try. Guess what? He's a fantastic author! I've read several of his works (I'll link some below). So far, I have yet to find a Joe Hill book that I haven't liked. His imaginative stories also translate well to film and television, so, like his dad, he's talented. Realizing my love for Joe excited my interest in Stephen King again. I have jumped wholeheartedly into his catalog of works (mostly avoiding books authored during his self-proclaimed "cocaine years" because things got weird).

I was interested as soon as I saw publicity for Sleeping Beauties, a book Stephen King co-authored with another son of his. Check out the synopsis from goodreads:

In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze.

If they are awakened, and the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep, they go to another place.

The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease.

Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied, or is she a demon who must be slain?

As a feral woman myself, I was interested to learn more! Even more interestingly, the reviews for this book are all over the place. It's hard to get an accurate gauge of the quality of this story purely based on reviews, so I gave up. I decided to go into the experience without too much undue influence.

Now that I've finished the book, I must report that I truly enjoyed it. The Kings are two men who really "get" the female experience and convey it well. This work from King (the father) is less horror and more magical. For me, it is reminiscent of Jack and the Bean Stalk in many ways. Outside of the magic, it makes you ponder societal and cultural issues. There's a moment in the book when women must make a choice. And boy, did I have to think about what I would decide if the option was mine to make!

The book reads very “Stephen King," so I'm interested in how much influence Owen's voice had. Disappointingly, he has a small collection of work to jump into for reference. However, he published The Curator in spring of 2023, and I've added it to my TBR list.

Final thought: If you are looking for smart fiction, give this one a shot!


Cover ArtSleeping Beauties by Stephen King; Owen King
Call Number: Palatka Popular Fiction ; PS3561.I483 S56 2017
ISBN: 9781501163401
Publication Date: 2017-09-26
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER In this spectacular father/son collaboration, Stephen King and Owen King tell the highest of high-stakes stories: what might happen if women disappeared from the world of men? In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep: they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent. And while they sleep they go to another place, a better place, where harmony prevails and conflict is rare. One woman, the mysterious "Eve Black," is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Eve a medical anomaly to be studied? Or is she a demon who must be slain? Abandoned, left to their increasingly primal urges, the men divide into warring factions, some wanting to kill Eve, some to save her. Others exploit the chaos to wreak their own vengeance on new enemies. All turn to violence in a suddenly all-male world. Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women's prison, Sleeping Beauties is a wildly provocative, gloriously dramatic father-son collaboration that feels particularly urgent and relevant today.
Cover ArtStrange Weather by Joe Hill
Call Number: Palatka Popular Fiction ; PS3608.I4342 A6 2017
ISBN: 9780062663115
Publication Date: 2017-10-24
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! Goodreads Choice Awards Semifinalist! A collection of four chilling novels, ingeniously wrought gems of terror from the brilliantly imaginative, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fireman, Joe Hill. "One of America's finest horror writers" (Time magazine), Joe Hill has been hailed among legendary talents such as Peter Straub, Neil Gaiman, and Jonathan Lethem. In Strange Weather, this "compelling chronicler of human nature's continual war between good and evil," (Providence Journal-Bulletin) who "pushes genre conventions to new extremes" (New York Times Book Review) deftly expose the darkness that lies just beneath the surface of everyday life. "Snapshot" is the disturbing story of a Silicon Valley adolescent who finds himself threatened by "The Phoenician," a tattooed thug who possesses a Polaroid Instant Camera that erases memories, snap by snap. A young man takes to the skies to experience his first parachute jump. . . and winds up a castaway on an impossibly solid cloud, a Prospero's island of roiling vapor that seems animated by a mind of its own in "Aloft." On a seemingly ordinary day in Boulder, Colorado, the clouds open up in a downpour of nails--splinters of bright crystal that shred the skin of anyone not safely under cover. "Rain" explores this escalating apocalyptic event, as the deluge of nails spreads out across the country and around the world. In "Loaded," a mall security guard in a coastal Florida town courageously stops a mass shooting and becomes a hero to the modern gun rights movement. But under the glare of the spotlights, his story begins to unravel, taking his sanity with it. When an out-of-control summer blaze approaches the town, he will reach for the gun again and embark on one last day of reckoning. Masterfully exploring classic literary themes through the prism of the supernatural, Strange Weather is a stellar collection from an artist who is "quite simply the best horror writer of our generation" (Michael Koryta).
Cover ArtThe Fireman by Joe Hill
Call Number: Palatka Popular Fiction ; PS3608 .I4342 F57 2016
ISBN: 9780062200631
Publication Date: 2016-05-17

#1 New York Times Bestseller From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of NOS4A2 and Heart-Shaped Box comes a chilling novel about a worldwide pandemic of spontaneous combustion that threatens to reduce civilization to ashes and a band of improbable heroes who battle to save it, led by one powerful and enigmatic man known as the Fireman. The fireman is coming. Stay cool. No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it's Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies--before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe. Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she's discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob's dismay, Harper wants to live--at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child. Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads--armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn't as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter's jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged. In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman's secrets before her life--and that of her unborn child--goes up in smoke.

Cover ArtIt by Stephen King
Call Number: St. Augustine Popular Fiction ; PS3561.I483 I8 1981
ISBN: 0451169514
Publication Date: 1987-08-07
"A great book...a landmark in American literature."--Chicago Sun-Times Welcome to Derry, Maine... It's a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real.... They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But none of them can withstand the force that has drawn them back to Derry to face the nightmare without an end, and the evil without a name.
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