Review: The Casual Vacancy

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Hogwarts anymore. If J.K. Rowling set out to write a novel that is the complete opposite of Harry Potter, then – on the surface – she succeeded with The Casual Vacancy. If Harry Potter is set in a children’s world of magic, then The Casual Vacancy is very firmly set in an adult’s world of the mundane. Specifically, it’s set in Pagford, a fictional, idyllic town in England, which Rowling uses as a microcosm for humanity.

Review: Ready Player One

A video game wrapped in a dystopia wrapped in a hero quest. Maybe this could begin to describe Ernest Cline’s debut novel Ready Player One. In the book, the world is a polluted, war-torn place thirty years from now. To escape from their troubles, most people spend their days on OASIS, a multiplayer, role-playing game even more pervasive than the internet is today. On the OASIS, you can go to school, go on quests, be anyone you want to be based on your avatar, and even create entire planets.

Review: The Night Circus

Forget about clowns, cotton candy, and colorful tents. Le Cirque des Rêves, or The Circus of Dreams, is unlike any circus you've ever been to. This one arrives suddenly and without warning, relying on word of mouth to attract visitors. It opens at nightfall and closes at dawn. Its tents are striped in monochromatic black-and-white; no other color in sight. Most importantly (and unknown to everyone but a select few), the circus is the setting for a lifelong duel between two gifted magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been chosen to do battle with each other since childhood.

Review: The Magician King

The "in" thing in pop culture right now is to subvert children's fantasy books and fairy tales into something darker and edgier for adults (see TV's Once Upon A Time and Game of Thrones), and this is exactly what you have with The Magician King, Lev Grossman’s sequel to his 2009 bestselling novel, The Magicians. In The Magicians, main character Quentin Coldwater gets accepted into Brakebills, a secret school for magic in upstate New York similar to Hogwarts. (That is, if Hogwarts was college-level and populated by hormonal, jaded, chain-smoking adolescents.)