There are a lot of bummers about this book, but the major one was that all the way through, I kept thinking that this probably would have been my favorite book of all time if Alice had been the protagonist, instead of Quentin. With her back story and motivations (which are actually engaging, unlike Quentin's), she's basically a combination of Hermione Granger and Frankie Landau-Banks, and I cannot (CANNOT) think of a book I want to read more that that one. That the author missed that, and instead chose to write about yet another mopey and self-doubting boy magician, is the big tragedy of this book.
And I guess I'm not really sure what the author's point was. There are a lot of interesting characters in this book, and tons of interesting storylines happening off to the sides, so why do we get stuck with the most boring character and such a mildly engaging story? The author must have done that on purpose, but why? He spends so much time trying to take the wind out of the sails of fantasy literature. He seems to be trying to say something about not wishing your life away, be in the moment and appreciate what you have, and that magic wouldn't make life better, and that you always have to return to the real world eventually and deal with the here and now? But then the ending totally undercuts that idea. And like, we all know all that, man, but wishing and dreaming is a major part of what makes life amazing, and that's why people like reading fantasy.
There's a bunch of other smaller stuff that I didn't like about it, I could go on forever. I'm just bummed. It's a great idea for a story. This could have been an amazing book.