I just finished Lev Grossman's The Magicians. Wow, this one was depressing. The content was depressing, but I was also depressed because I kept on waiting for the payoff for slogging through this, and it never came. I had heard a rave review of it on NPR, and at least one blogger I read loved it. (Sorry, can't find the link -- feel free to speak up to defend it.)
Cory Doctorow liked it, and says that it's a book of wonder without awe or sentimentality. I guess that's right. It's a scathing revisionist take on both Harry Potter and the Narnia books, (with some random references to The Once and Future King, and Dungeons and Dragons) imaging a magical school that is tedious and incomprehensible, and a journey through fantasy where people react realistically to being under attack for no obvious reason. Oh, and the characters drink and curse and have sex. The main character is miserable in his pre-magic live, miserable at school, and miserable when he gets to live out his fantasy. The epigram to the book is Prospero breaking his wand, but it should have been Hamlet's "there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." I wanted to give him a kick in the pants for much of the book.
There were also major plot holes that irritated me. Why have the two main characters randomly promoted a year at school other than that the author had decided to make school last 5 years rather than 4, but were too lazy to come up with material to fill another year? Why spend a huge chunk of time telling how the main character survived naked in Antartica, and then have the characters obsess about whether to bring their parkas to Narnia/Fillory?