On the recommendation of a friend, I’ve just read Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. The book borrows familiar fantasy tropes, but the author applied his skill to create a work of ugliness. The characters are venal and unsympathetic. Unheroic characters might be a clever deconstruction of the genre, but the main character has no virtues at all: he is neither brave, nor loyal, nor generous, nor faithful, nor anything which would make me like him in the least.
The overall effect is as if the author has taken my mental picture of Narnia and drawn over it an obscene graffito. Bleah.
The sequels somewhat undo this and are quite enjoyable, but only enough to partially wash away the vile taste this book left behind, not enough for me to recommend actually reading the series.