The New York Times bestselling novel about a young man practicing magic in the real world, now an original series on SYFY
“The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea. . . . Hogwarts was never like this.”
—George R.R. Martin
“Sad, hilarious, beautiful, and essential to anyone who cares about modern fantasy.”
“A very knowing and wonderful take on the wizard school genre.”
“The Magicians may just be the most subversive, gripping and enchanting fantasy novel I’ve read this century.”
“This gripping novel draws on the conventions of contemporary and classic fantasy novels in order to upend them . . . an unexpectedly moving coming-of-age story.”
—The New Yorker
“The best urban fantasy in years.”
Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A high school math genius, he’s secretly fascinated with a series of children’s fantasy novels set in a magical land called Fillory, and real life is disappointing by comparison. When Quentin is unexpectedly admitted to an elite, secret college of magic, it looks like his wildest dreams have come true. But his newfound powers lead him down a rabbit hole of hedonism and disillusionment, and ultimately to the dark secret behind the story of Fillory. The land of his childhood fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he ever could have imagined. . . .
The prequel to the New York Times bestselling book The Magician King and the #1 bestseller The Magician's Land, The Magicians is one of the most daring and inventive works of literary fantasy in years. No one who has escaped into the worlds of Narnia and Harry Potter should miss this breathtaking return to the landscape of the imagination.
About the Author
LEV GROSSMAN is a senior writer and book critic for Time magazine and author of the international bestselling novel Codex. He is also the creator of the Time blog Nerd World. Grossman holds degrees in comparative literature from Harvard and Yale. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Read an Excerpt
Quentin did a magic trick. Nobody noticed.
They picked their way along the cold, uneven sidewalk together: James, Julia, and Quentin. James and Julia held hands. That's how things were now. The sidewalk wasn't quite wide enough, so Quentin trailed after them, like a sulky child. He would rather have been alone with Julia, or just alone period, but you couldn't have everything. Or at least the available evidence pointed overwhelmingly to that conclusion.
"Okay!" James said over his shoulder. "Q. Let's talk strategy."
James seemed to have a sixth sense for when Quentin was starting to feel sorry for himself. Quentin's interview was in seven minutes. James was right after him.
"Nice firm handshake. Lots of eye contact. Then when he's feeling comfortable, you hit him with a chair and I'll break his password and e-mail Princeton."
"Just be yourself, Q," Julia said.
Her dark hair was pulled back in a wavy bunch. Somehow it made it worse that she was always so nice to him.
"How is that different from what I said?"
Quentin did the magic trick again. It was a very small trick, a basic onehanded sleight with a nickel. He did it in his coat pocket where nobody could see. He did it again, then he did it backward.
"I have one guess for his password," James said. "Password."
It was kind of incredible how long this had been going on, Quentin thought. They were only seventeen, but he felt like he'd known James and Julia forever. The school systems in Brooklyn sorted out the gifted ones and shoved them together, then separated the ridiculously brilliant ones from the merely gifted ones and shoved them together, and as a result they'd been bumping into each other in the same speaking contests and regional Latin exams and tiny, specially convened ultra-advanced math classes since elementary school. The nerdiest of the nerds. By now, their senior year, Quentin knew James and Julia better than he knew anybody else in the world, not excluding his parents, and they knew him. Everybody knew what everybody else was going to say before they said it. Everybody who was going to sleep with anybody else had already done it. Juliapale, freckled, dreamy Julia, who played the oboe and knew even more physics than he didwas never going to sleep with Quentin.
Quentin was thin and tall, though he habitually hunched his shoulders in a vain attempt to brace himself against whatever blow was coming from the heavens, and which would logically hit the tall people first. His shoulder length hair was freezing in clumps. He should have stuck around to dry it after gym, especially with his interview today, but for some reasonmaybe he was in a self-sabotaging moodhe hadn't. The low gray sky threatened snow. It seemed to Quentin like the world was off ering up special little tableaux of misery just for him: crows perched on power lines, stepped-in dog shit, windblown trash, the corpses of innumerable wet oak leaves being desecrated in innumerable ways by innumerable vehicles and pedestrians. "God, I'm full," James said. "I ate too much. Why do I always eat too much?"
"Because you're a greedy pig?" Julia said brightly. "Because you're tired of being able to see your feet? Because you're trying to make your stomach touch your penis?"
James put his hands behind his head, his fingers in his wavy chestnut hair, his camel cashmere coat wide open to the November cold, and belched mightily. Cold never bothered him. Quentin felt cold all the time, like he was trapped in his own private individual winter.
James sang, to a tune somewhere between "Good King Wenceslas" and "Bingo":
In olden times there was a boy
Young and strong and brave-o
He wore a sword and rode a horse
And his name was Dave-o …;
"God!" Julia shrieked. "Stop!"
James had written this song five years ago for a middle-school talent show skit. He still liked to sing it; by now they all knew it by heart. Julia shoved him, still singing, into a garbage can, and when that didn't work she snatched off his watch cap and started beating him over the head with it.
"My hair! My beautiful interview hair!"
King James, Quentin thought. Le roi s'amuse.
"I hate to break up the party," he said, "but we've got like two minutes."
"Oh dear, oh dear!" Julia twittered. "The duchess! We shall be quite late!"
I should be happy, Quentin thought. I'm young and alive and healthy. I have good friends. I have two reasonably intact parentsviz., Dad, an editor of medical textbooks, and Mom, a commercial illustrator with ambitions, thwarted, of being a painter. I am a solid member of the middlemiddle class. My GPA is a number higher than most people even realize it is possible for a GPA to be.
But walking along Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, in his black overcoat and his gray interview suit, Quentin knew he wasn't happy. Why not? He had painstakingly assembled all the ingredients of happiness. He had performed all the necessary rituals, spoken the words, lit the candles, made the sacrifices. But happiness, like a disobedient spirit, refused to come. He couldn't think what else to do.
He followed James and Julia past bodegas, laundromats, hipster boutiques, cellphone stores limned with neon piping, past a bar where old people were already drinking at three forty-five in the afternoon, past a brown-brick Veterans of Foreign Wars hall with plastic patio furniture on the sidewalk in front of it. All of it just confirmed his belief that his real life, the life he should be living, had been mislaid through some clerical error by the cosmic bureaucracy. This couldn't be it. It had been diverted somewhere else, to somebody else, and he'd been issued this shitty substitute faux life instead.
Maybe his real life would turn up in Princeton. He did the trick with the nickel in his pocket again.
"Are you playing with your wang, Quentin?" James asked.
"I am not playing with my wang."
"Nothing to be ashamed of." James clapped him on the shoulder. "Clears the mind."
The wind bit through the thin material of Quentin's interview suit, but he refused to button his overcoat. He let the cold blow through it. It didn't matter, he wasn't really there anyway.
He was in Fillory.
Christopher Plover's Fillory and Further is a series of five novels published in England in the 1930s. They describe the adventures of the five Chatwin children in a magical land that they discover while on holiday in the countryside with their eccentric aunt and uncle. They aren't really on holiday, of coursetheir father is up to his hips in mud and blood at Passchendaele, and their mother has been hospitalized with a mysterious illness that is probably psychological in nature, which is why they've been hastily packed off to the country for safekeeping.
But all that unhappiness takes place far in the background. In the foreground, every summer for three years, the children leave their various boarding schools and return to Cornwall, and each time they do they find their way into the secret world of Fillory, where they have adventures and explore magical lands and defend the gentle creatures who live there against the various forces that menace them. The strangest and most persistent of those enemies is a veiled figure known only as the Watcherwoman, whose horological enchantments threaten to stall time itself, trapping all of Fillory at five o'clock on a particularly dreary, drizzly afternoon in late September.
Like most people Quentin read the Fillory books in grade school. Unlike most peopleunlike James and Juliahe never got over them. They were where he went when he couldn't deal with the real world, which was a lot. (The Fillory books were both a consolation for Julia not loving him and also probably a major reason why she didn't.) And it was true, there was a strong whiff of the English nursery about them, and he felt secretly embarrassed when he got to the parts about the Cozy Horse, an enormous, affectionate equine creature who trots around Fillory by night on velvet hooves, and whose back is so broad you can sleep on it.
But there was a more seductive, more dangerous truth to Fillory that Quentin couldn't let go of. It was almost like the Fillory booksespecially the first one, The World in the Wallswere about reading itself. When the oldest Chatwin, melancholy Martin, opens the cabinet of the grandfather clock that stands in a dark, narrow back hallway in his aunt's house and slips through into Fillory (Quentin always pictured him awkwardly pushing aside the pendulum, like the uvula of a monstrous throat), it's like he's opening the covers of a book, but a book that did what books always promised to do and never actually quite did: get you out, really out, of where you were and into somewhere better.
The world Martin discovers in the walls of his aunt's house is a world of magical twilight, a landscape as black and white and stark as a printed page, with prickly stubblefields and rolling hills crisscrossed by old stone walls. In Fillory there's an eclipse every day at noon, and seasons can last for a hundred years. Bare trees scratch at the sky. Pale green seas lap at narrow white beaches made of broken shells. In Fillory things mattered in a way they didn't in this world. In Fillory you felt the appropriate emotions when things happened. Happiness was a real, actual, achievable possibility. It came when you called. Or no, it never left you in the first place.
They stood on the sidewalk in front of the house. The neighborhood was fancier here, with wide sidewalks and overhanging trees. The house was brick, the only unattached residential structure in a neighborhood of row houses and brownstones. It was locally famous for having played a role in the bloody, costly Battle of Brooklyn. It seemed to gently reproach the cars and streetlights around it with memories of its gracious Old Dutch past.
If this were a Fillory novelQuentin thought, just for the record the house would contain a secret gateway to another world. The old man who lived there would be kindly and eccentric and drop cryptic remarks, and then when his back was turned Quentin would stumble on a mysterious cabinet or an enchanted dumbwaiter or whatever, through which he would gaze with wild surmise on the clean breast of another world.
But this wasn't a Fillory novel.
"So," Julia said. "Give 'em Hades."
She wore a blue serge coat with a round collar that made her look like a French schoolgirl.
"See you at the library maybe."
They bumped fists. She dropped her gaze, embarrassed. She knew how he felt, and he knew she knew, and there was nothing more to say about it. He waited, pretending to be fascinated by a parked car, while she kissed James good-byeshe put a hand on his chest and kicked up her heel like an old-timey starletthen he and James walked slowly up the cement path to the front door.
James put his arm around Quentin's shoulders.
"I know what you think, Quentin," he said gruffly. Quentin was taller, but James was broader, more solidly built, and he pulled Quentin off balance. "You think nobody understands you. But I do." He squeezed Quentin's shoulder in an almost fatherly way. "I'm the only one who does."
Quentin said nothing. You could envy James, but you couldn't hate him, because along with being handsome and smart he was also, at heart, kind and good. More than anybody else Quentin had ever met, James reminded him of Martin Chatwin. But if James was a Chatwin, what did that make Quentin? The real problem with being around James was that he was always the hero. And what did that make you? Either the sidekick or the villain.
Quentin rang the doorbell. A soft, tinny clatter erupted somewhere in the depths of the darkened house. An old-fashioned, analog ring. He rehearsed a mental list of his extracurriculars, personal goals, etc. He was absolutely prepared for this interview in every possible way, except maybe his incompletely dried hair, but now that the ripened fruit of all that preparation was right in front of him he suddenly lost any desire for it. He wasn't surprised. He was used to this anticlimactic feeling, where by the time you've done all the work to get something you don't even want it anymore. He had it all the time. It was one of the few things he could depend on.
The doorway was guarded by a depressingly ordinary suburban screen door. Orange and purple zinnias were still blooming, against all horticultural logic, in a random scatter pattern in black earth beds on either side of the doorstep. How weird, Quentin thought, with no curiosity at all, that they would still be alive in November. He withdrew his ungloved hands into the sleeves of his coat and placed the ends of the sleeves under his arms. Even though it felt cold enough to snow, somehow it began to rain.
It was still raining five minutes later. Quentin knocked on the door again, then pushed lightly. It opened a crack, and a wave of warm air tumbled out. The warm, fruity smell of a stranger's house.
"Hello?" Quentin called. He and James exchanged glances. He pushed the door all the way open.
"Better give him another minute."
"Who even does this in their spare time?" Quentin said. "I bet he's a pedophile."
The foyer was dark and silent and muffled with Oriental rugs. Still outside, James leaned on the doorbell. No one answered.
"I don't think anybody's here," Quentin said. That James wasn't coming inside suddenly made him want to go inside more. If the interviewer actually turned out to be a gatekeeper to the magical land of Fillory, he thought, it was too bad he wasn't wearing more practical shoes.
A staircase went up. On the left was a stiff , unused-looking dining room, on the right a cozy den with leather armchairs and a carved, mansize wooden cabinet standing by itself in a corner. Interesting. An old nautical map taller than he was took up half of one wall, with an ornately barbed compass rose. He massaged the walls in search of a light switch. There was a cane chair in one corner, but he didn't sit.
All the blinds were drawn. The quality of the darkness was less like a house with the curtains drawn than it was like actual night, as if the sun had set or been eclipsed the moment he crossed the threshold. Quentin slow-motion-walked into the den. He'd go back outside and call. In another minute. He had to at least look. The darkness was like a prickling electric cloud around him.
The cabinet was enormous, so big you could climb into it. He placed his hand on its small, dinged brass knob. It was unlocked. His fingers trembled. Le roi s'amuse. He couldn't help himself. It felt like the world was revolving around him, like his whole life had been leading up to this moment.
It was a liquor cabinet. A big one, there was practically a whole bar in there. Quentin reached back past the ranks of softly jingling bottles and felt the dry, scratchy plywood at the back just to make sure. Solid. Nothing magical about it. He closed the door, breathing hard, his face burning in the darkness. It was when he looked around to make absolutely sure that nobody was watching that he saw the dead body on the floor.
Fifteen minutes later the foyer was full of people and activity. Quentin sat in a corner, in the cane chair, like a pallbearer at the funeral of somebody he'd never met. He kept the back of his skull pressed firmly against the cool solid wall like it was his last point of connection to a same reality. James stood next to him. He didn't seem to know where to put his hands. They didn't look at each other.
The old man lay flat on his back on the floor. His stomach was a sizable round hump, his hair a crazy gray Einstein half–noggin. Three paramedics crouched around him, two men and a woman. The woman was disarmingly, almost inappropriately pretty—she looked out of place in that grim scene, miscast. The paramedics were at work, but it wasn't the high–speed clinical blitz of an emergency life–saving treatment. This was the other kind, the obligatory failed resuscitation. They were murmuring in low voices, packing up, ripping off adhesive patches, discarding contaminated sharps in a special container.
With a practiced, muscular movement one of the men de-intubated the corpse. The old man's mouth was open, and Quentin could see his dead gray tongue. He smelled something that he didn't want to admit was the faint, bitter odor of shit.
"This is bad," James said, not for the first time.
"Yes," Quentin said thickly. "Extremely bad." His lips and teeth felt numb.
If he didn't move, nobody could involve him in this any further. He tried to breathe slowly and keep still. He stared straight ahead, refusing to focus his eyes on what was happening in the den. He knew if he looked at James he would only see his own mental state reflected back at him in an infinite corridor of panic that led nowhere. He wondered when it would be all right for them to leave. He couldn't get rid of a feeling of shame that he was the one who went into the house uninvited, as if that had somehow caused the man's death.
"I shouldn't have called him a pedophile," Quentin said out loud. "That was wrong."
"Extremely wrong," James agreed. They spoke slowly, like they were both trying out language for the very first time.
One of the paramedics, the woman, stood up from where she was squatting by the body. Quentin watched her stretch, heels of her hands pressed to her lumbar region, tipping her head one way, then the other. Then she walked over in their direction, stripping off rubber gloves.
"Well," she announced cheerfully, "he's dead!" By her accent she was English.
Quentin cleared his clotted throat. The woman chucked the gloves neatly into the trash from across the room.
"What happened to him?"
"Cerebral hemorrhage. Nice quick way to go, if you have to go. Which he did. He must have been a drinker."
She made the drinky-drinky gesture.
Her cheeks were flushed from crouching down over the body. She might have been twenty-five at most, and she wore a dark blue short-sleeved button-down shirt, neatly pressed, with one button that didn't match: a stewardess on the connecting flight to hell. Quentin wished she weren't so attractive. Unpretty women were so much easier to deal with in some waysyou didn't have to face the pain of their probable unattainability. But she was not unpretty. She was pale and thin and unreasonably lovely, with a broad, ridiculously sexy mouth.
"Well." Quentin didn't know what to say. "I'm sorry."
"Why are you sorry?" she said. "Did you kill him?"
"I'm just here for an interview. He did alumni interviews for Princeton."
"So why do you care?"
Quentin hesitated. He wondered if he'd misunderstood the premise of this conversation. He stood up, which he should have done when she first came over anyway. He was much taller than her. Even under the circumstances, he thought, this person is carrying around a lot of attitude for a paramedic. It's not like she's a real doctor or anything. He wanted to scan her chest for a name tag but didn't want to get caught looking at her breasts.
"I don't actually care about him, personally," Quentin said carefully, "but I do place a certain value on human life in the abstract. So even though I didn't know him, I think I can say that I'm sorry that he's dead."
"What if he was a monster? Maybe he really was a pedophile."
She'd overheard him.
"Maybe. Maybe he was a nice guy. Maybe he was a saint."
"You must spend a lot of time around dead people." Out of the corner of his eye he was vaguely aware that James was watching this exchange, baffled.
"Well, you're supposed to keep them alive. Or that's what they tell us."
"It must be hard."
"The dead ones are a lot less trouble."
The look in her eyes didn't quite match what she was saying. She was studying him.
"Listen," James cut in. "We should probably go."
"What's your hurry?" she said. Her eyes hadn't left Quentin's. Unlike practically everybody, she seemed more interested in him than in James. "Listen, I think this guy might have left something for you."
She picked up two manila envelopes, documentsize, off a marbletopped side table. Quentin frowned.
"I don't think so."
"We should probably go," James said.
"You said that already," the paramedic said.
James opened the door. The cold air was a pleasant shock. It felt real. That was what Quentin needed: more reality. Less of this, whatever this was.
"Seriously," the woman said. "I think you should take these. It might be important."
Her eyes wouldn't leave Quentin's face. The day had gone still around them. It was chilly on the stoop, and getting a little damp, and he was roughly ten yards away from a corpse.
"Listen, we're gonna go," James was saying. "Thanks. I'm sure you did everything you could."
The pretty paramedic's dark hair was in two heavy ropes of braid. She wore a shiny yellow enamel ring and some kind of fancy silver antique wristwatch. Her nose and chin were tiny and pointy. She was a pale, skinny, pretty angel of death, and she held two manila envelopes with their names on them in block Magic Marker letters. Probably transcripts, confidential recommendations. For some reason, maybe just because he knew James wouldn't, Quentin took the one with his name on it.
"All right! Good-bye!" the paramedic sang. She twirled back into the house and closed the door. They were alone on the stoop.
"Well," James said. He inhaled through his nose and breathed out firmly.
Quentin nodded, as if he were agreeing with something James had said. Slowly they walked back up the path to the sidewalk. He still felt dazed. He didn't especially want to talk to James.
"Listen," James said. "You probably shouldn't have that."
"I know," Quentin said.
"You could still put it back, you know. I mean, what if they found out?"
"How would they find out?"
"I don't know."
"Who knows what's in here? Could come in useful."
"Yeah, well, lucky thing that guy died then!" James said irritably.
They walked to the end of the block without speaking, annoyed at each other and not wanting to admit it. The slate sidewalk was wet, and the sky was white with rain. Quentin knew he probably shouldn't have taken the envelope. He was pissed at himself for taking it and pissed at James for not taking his.
"Look, I'll see you later," James said. "I gotta go meet Jules at the library."
They shook hands formally. It felt strangely final. Quentin walked away slowly down First Street. A man had died in the house he just left. He was still in a dream. He realizedmore shamethat underneath it all he was relieved that he didn't have to do his Princeton interview today after all.
The day was darkening. The sun was setting already behind the gray shell of cloud that covered Brooklyn. For the first time in an hour he thought about all the things he had left to do today: physics problem set, history paper, e-mail, dishes, laundry. The weight of them was dragging him back down the gravity well of the ordinary world. He would have to explain to his parents what happened, and they would, in some way he could never grasp, and therefore could never properly rebut, make him feel like it was his fault. It would all go back to normal. He thought of Julia and James meeting at the library. She would be working on her Western Civ paper for Mr. Karras, a six-week project she would complete in two sleepless days and nights. As ardently as he wished that she were his, and not James's, he could never quite imagine how he would win her. In the most plausible of his many fantasies James died, unexpectedly and painlessly, leaving Julia behind to sink softly weeping into his arms.
As he walked Quentin unwound the little red-threaded clasp that held shut the manila envelope. He saw immediately that it wasn't his transcript, or an official document of any kind. The envelope held a notebook. It was old-looking, its corners squashed and rubbed till they were smooth and round, its cover foxed.
The first page, handwritten in ink, read:
Book Six of Fillory and Further
The ink had gone brown with age. The Magicians was not the name of any book by Christopher Plover that Quentin knew of. And any good nerd knew that there were only five books in the Fillory series. When he turned the page a piece of white notepaper, folded over once, flew out and slipped away on the wind. It clung to a wrought–iron area fence for a second before the wind whipped it away again.
There was a community garden on the block, a triangular snippet of land too narrow and weirdly shaped to be snapped up by developers. With its ownership a black hole of legal ambiguity, it had been taken over years ago by a collective of enterprising neighbors who had trucked out the acid sand native to Brooklyn and replaced it with rich, fertile loam from upstate. For a while they'd raised pumpkins and tomatoes and spring bulbs and raked out little Japanese serenity gardens, but lately they'd neglected it, and hardy urban weeds had taken root instead. They were running riot and strangling their frailer, more exotic competitors. It was into this tangled thicket that the note flew and disappeared.
This late in the year all the plants were dead or dying, even the weeds, and Quentin waded into them hip–deep, dry stems catching on his pants, his leather shoes crunching brown broken glass. It crossed his mind that the note might just possibly contain the hot paramedic's phone number. The garden was narrow, but it went surprisingly far back. There were three or four sizable trees in it, and the farther in he pushed the darker and more overgrown it got.
He caught a glimpse of the note, up high, plastered against a trellis encrusted with dead vines. It could clear the back fence before he caught up with it. His phone rang: his dad. Quentin ignored it. Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw something flit past behind the bracken, large and pale, but when he turned his head it was gone. He pushed past the corpses of gladiolas, petunias, shoulder-high sunflowers, rosebushesbrittle, stiff stems and flowers frozen in death into ornate toile patterns.
He would have thought he'd gone all the way through to Seventh Avenue by now. He shoved his way even deeper in, brushing up against who knew what toxic flora. A case of poison fucking ivy, that's all he needed now. It was odd to see that here and there among the dead plants a few vital green stalks still poked up, drawing sustenance from who knew where. He caught a whiff of something sweet in the air.
He stopped. All of a sudden it was quiet. No car horns, no stereos, no sirens. His phone had stopped ringing. It was bitter cold, and his fingers were numb. Turn back or go on? He squeezed farther in through a hedge, closing his eyes and squinching up his face against the scratchy twigs. He stumbled over something, an old stone. He felt suddenly nauseous. He was sweating.
When he opened his eyes again he was standing on the edge of a huge, wide, perfectly level green lawn surrounded by trees. The smell of ripe grass was overpowering. There was hot sun on his face.
The sun was at the wrong angle. And where the hell were the clouds? The sky was a blinding blue. His inner ear spun sickeningly. He held his breath for a few seconds, then expelled freezing winter air from his lungs and breathed in warm summer air in its place. It was thick with floating pollen. He sneezed.
In the middle distance beyond the wide lawn a large house stood, all honey-colored stone and gray slate, adorned with chimneys and gables and towers and roofs and sub-roofs. In the center, over the main house, was a tall, stately clock tower that struck even Quentin as an odd addition to what otherwise looked like a private residence. The clock was in the Venetian style: a single barbed hand circling a face with twenty-four hours marked on it in Roman numerals. Over one wing rose what looked like the green oxidized-copper dome of an observatory. Between house and lawn was a series of inviting landscaped terraces and spinneys and hedges and fountains.
Quentin was pretty sure that if he stood very still for a few seconds everything would snap back to normal. He wondered if he was undergoing some dire neurological event. He looked cautiously back over his shoulder. There was no sign of the garden behind him, just some big leafy oak trees, the advance guard of what looked like a pretty serious forest. A rill of sweat ran down his rib cage from his left armpit. It was hot.
Quentin dropped his bag on the turf and shrugged out of his overcoat. A bird chirped languidly in the silence. Fifty feet away a tall skinny teenager was leaning against a tree, smoking a cigarette and watching him.
He looked about Quentin's age. He wore a button-down shirt with a sharp collar and very thin, very pale pink stripes. He didn't look at Quentin, just dragged on his cigarette and exhaled into the summer air. The heat didn't seem to bother him.
"Hey," Quentin called.
Now he looked over. He raised his chin at Quentin, once, but didn't answer.
Quentin walked over, as nonchalantly as he could. He really didn't want to look like somebody who had no idea what was going on. Even without his coat on he was sweating like a bastard. He felt like an overdressed English explorer trying to impress a skeptical tropical native. But there was something he had to ask.
"Is this?" Quentin cleared his throat. "So is this Fillory?" He squinted against the bright sun.
The young man looked at Quentin very seriously. He took another long drag on his cigarette, then he shook his head slowly, blowing out the smoke.
"Nope," he said. "Upstate New York."
What People are Saying About This
"Stirring, complex, adventurous . . . from the life of Quentin Coldwater, his slacker Park Slope Harry Potter, Lev Grossman delivers superb coming of age fantasy."--(Junot Diaz, Pulitzer-prize winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao)
"The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea."--(George R.R. Martin, bestselling author of A Game of Thrones)
"The Magicians ought to be required reading for anyone who has ever fallen in love with a fantasy series, or wished they went to a school for wizards."--(Kelly Link, author of Magic for Beginners and Stranger Things Happen)
Fantasy fans can't afford to miss the darkly comic and unforgettably queasy experience of reading this book-and be glad for reality. (Starred Review)
. . . provocative, unput-downable . . . one of the best fantasies I've read in ages.
“The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea. Solidly rooted in the traditions of both fantasy and mainstream literary fiction, the novel tips its hat to Oz and Narnia as well to Harry, but don’t mistake this for a children's book. Grossman’s sensibilities are thoroughly adult, his narrative dark and dangerous and full of twists. Hogwarts was never like this.”
—George R. R. Martin, bestselling author of A Game of Thrones
“Stirring, complex, adventurous…from the life of Quentin Coldwater, his slacker Park Slope Harry Potter, Lev Grossman delivers superb coming of age fantasy.”
—Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
“The Magicians ought to be required reading for anyone who has ever fallen in love with a fantasy series, or wished that they went to a school for wizards. Lev Grossman has written a terrific, at times almost painfully perceptive novel of the fantastic that brings to mind both Jay McInerney and J. K. Rowling.”
—Kelly Link, author of Magic for Beginners and Stranger Things Happen
“Anyone who grew up reading about magical wardrobes and unicorns and talking trees before graduating to Less Than Zero and The Secret History and Bright Lights, Big City will immediately feel right at home with this smart, beautifully written book by Lev Grossman. The Magicians is fantastic, in all senses of the word. It’s strange, fanciful, extravagant, eccentric, and truly remarkable—a great story, masterfully told.”
—Scott Smith, bestselling author of The Ruins and A Simple Plan
“The Magicians is a spellbinding, fast-moving, dark fantasy book for grownups that feels like an instant classic. I read it in a niffin-blue blaze of page turning, enthralled by Grossman’s verbal and imaginative wizardry, his complex characters, and, most of all, his superb, brilliant inquiry into the wondrous, dangerous world of magic.”
—Kate Christensen, PEN/Faulkner award winning author of The Great Man and The Epicure's Lament
“Remember the last time you ran home to finish a book? This is it, folks. The Magicians is the most dazzling, erudite, and thoughtful fantasy novel to date. You’ll be bedazzled by the magic but also brought short by what it has to sayabout the world we live in.”
—Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante’s Handbook
“The Magicians brilliantly explores the hidden underbelly of fantasy and easy magic, taking what’s simple on the surface and turning it over to show us the complicated writhing mess beneath. It’s like seeing the worlds of Narnia and Harry Potter through a 3-D magnifying glass.”
—Naomi Novik, author of His Majesty’s Dragon
“Sad, hilarious, beautiful & essential to anyone who cares about modern fantasy.”
—Joe Hill, author of Horns and Locke & Key
“Most people will like this book. But there’s a certain type of reader who will enjoy it down to the bottoms of their feet.”
—Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Name of the Wind
“If you like the Harry Potter books … you should also read Lev Grossman’s The Magicians series, which is a very knowing and wonderful take on the wizard school genre.”
—John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars
—William Gibson, author of Neuromancer
“Fresh and compelling…The Magicians is a great fairy tale, written for grown-ups but appealing to our most basic desires for stories to bring about some re-enchantment with the world, where monsters lurk but where a young man with a little magic may prevail.”
“The Magicians is original…slyly funny.”
“Lev Grossman’s playful fantasy novel The Magicians pays homage to a variety of sources…with such verve and ease that you quickly forget the references and lose yourself in the story.”
—O,The Oprah Magazine
“I felt like I was poppin’ peyote buttons with J. K. Rowling when I was reading Lev Grossman’s new novel The Magicians.…I couldn’t put it down.”
“The novel manages a literary magic trick: it’s both an enchantingly written fantasy and a moving deconstruction of enchantingly realized fantasies.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Intriguing, coming-of-age fantasy”
—Boston Globe (Pick of the Week)
“The Magicians by Lev Grossman is a very entertaining book; one of those summer page-turners that you wish went on for another six volumes. Grossman takes a good number of the best childhood fantasy books from the last seventy-five years and distills their ability to fascinate into the fan-boy mind of his protagonist, Quentin Coldwater.… There is no doubt that this book is inventive storytelling and Grossman is at the height of his powers.”
“Lev Grossman’s novel The Magicians may just be the most subversive, gripping, and enchanting fantasy novel I’ve read this century…. Grossman is a hell of a pacer, and the book rips along, whole seasons tossed out in a single sentence, all the boring mortar ground off the bricks, so that the book comes across as a sheer, seamless face that you can’t stop yourself from tumbling down once you launch yourself off the first page. This isn’t just an exercise in exploring what we love about fantasy and the lies we tell ourselves about it—it’s a shit-kicking, gripping, tightly plotted novel that makes you want to take the afternoon off work to finish it.”
—Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
“An irresistible storytelling momentum makes The Magicians a great summer book, both thoughtful and enchanting.”
“Grossman skillfully moves us through four years of school and a postgraduate adventure, never letting the pace slacken…beguiling.”
“Through sheer storytelling grace and imaginative power, Lev Grossman [creates] an adventure that’s both enthralling and mature.”
“Sly and lyrical, [The Magicians] captures the magic of childhood and the sobering years beyond.”
“Mixing the magic of the most beloved children's fantasy classics (from Narnia and Oz to Harry Potter and Earthsea) with the sex, excess, angst, and anticlimax of life in college and beyond, Lev Grossman’s The Magicians reimagines modern-day fantasy for grown-ups. [It] breathes life into a cast of characters you want to know…and does what [some] claim books never really manage to do: ‘get you out, really out, of where you were and into somewhere better.’ Or if not better, at least a heck of a lot more interesting.”
“This gripping novel draws on the conventions of contemporary and classic fantasy novels in order to upend them, and tell a darkly cunning story about the power of imagination itself. [The Magicians is] an unexpectedly moving coming-of-age story.”
—The New Yorker
“Fantasy fans can’t afford to miss the darkly comic and unforgettably queasy experience of reading this book—and be glad for reality.”
—Booklist (Starred Review)
“This is a book for grown-up fans of children’s fantasy and would appeal to those who loved Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. Highly recommended.”
—Library Journal (Starred Review)
“Very dark and very scary, with no simple answers provided—fantasy for grown-ups, in other words, and very satisfying indeed.”
"The Magicians is fantastic. It's strange, fanciful, extravagant, eccentric, and truly remarkable-a great story, masterfully told."--(Scott Smith, bestselling author of The Ruins and A Simple Plan)
"The Magicians is a spellbinding, fast-moving, dark fantasy book for grownups that feels like an instant classic."--(Kate Christensen, PEN/Faulkner award winning author of The Great Man and The Epicure's Lament)
Remember the last time you ran home to finish a book? This is it, folks. The Magicians is the most dazzling, erudite and thoughtful fantasy novel to date.
Reading Group Guide
Brilliant, restless, and possessed of a GPA “higher than most people even realize it is possible for a GPA to be” (p. 5), Quentin Coldwater is on the fast track to an Ivy League college and a lifetime of enviable if predictable successes—or so he thinks. The seventeen-year-old high school senior also has an obsession with magic and a series of children’s books set in a fantasy land called Fillory that will soon transport him into a hidden world that at once vindicates and challenges his wildest dreams.
It’s a cold, windy afternoon in November when Quentin is en route to his Princeton admissions interview in the company of his best friends, James and Julia. As usual, he is unhappily nursing the resentment and lust he respectively harbors for them. But his brooding is interrupted when they arrive at the alumnus’s well-appointed home and discover his would-be interviewer dead. Within moments, Quentin is forced to realize that nothing is what it seems, and that reality itself is suspect.
A disarmingly sexy paramedic, a plain manila envelope, and a whipping wind lead Quentin from a chilly Brooklyn twilight to the warmth of a summer day in the country. Has he been whisked away to Fillory? No. But Quentin has entered a secret world so exclusive that even though geographically located in upstate New York, it is invisible to the uninitiated. After a rigorous, if somewhat peculiar, afternoon of tests and interviews, Quentin is offered admission to Brakebills, the only college of magic in North America.
At first, Brakebills’ hyper-exclusive education offers Quentin much of what he longed for: the camaraderie of like-minded misfits, challenging academic pursuits, and the confirmation that magic is very, very real. Along with his new friends—foppish and acerbic Eliot, competitive and thin-skinned Penny, and the preternaturally gifted Alice—Quentin studies the art of sorcery. But with power comes risks, and a practical joke gone awry invites “the beast,” a malicious entity from another world, into all their lives.
However, like students at more pedestrian institutions, Quentin finds that both the joys and fears he’s discovered at Brakebills have palled and he is again restless and dissatisfied. After graduation, Quentin joins a group of similarly jaded fellows in Manhattan, where he embraces a nihilistic bacchanalian lifestyle that threatens to destroy the one relationship he cherishes most.
Just as Quentin commits his worst act of betrayal, Penny appears with astonishing news: he’s been to Fillory and can take them all. Galvanized by Penny’s discovery, the coterie of young magicians mobilizes for adventure in the land of talking animals, nature spirits, and old gods. But while the landscape is just as fantastic as his worn paperbacks have described, the journey is more perilous and the hand that governs Fillory more malevolent than Quentin could ever have imagined.
Exploring universal issues of adolescent angst and alienation through a prism of magic, The Magicians is a brilliantly imagined fantasy adventure that is as mesmerizing as it is intelligent. Using the beloved novels of C. S. Lewis, T. H. White, and J. K. Rowling as a springboard, bestselling author Lev Grossman unspools a riveting coming-of-age tale in which magic is as fallible and mercurial as the humans that wield it.
ABOUT LEV GROSSMAN
Lev Grossman is a senior writer and the book critic for Time magazine and the author of the bestselling novel Codex. His writings have appeared in Lingua Franca, The Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly, Time Out New York, Salon, and The New York Times. He holds degrees in comparative literature from Harvard and Yale. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
A CONVERSATION WITH LEV GROSSMAN
Q. Your previous novel, Codex, is a thriller about a fourteenth-century manuscript and a sinister high-tech computer game. What is it that interests you about the intersection of contemporary life and fantasy?
I think I’ve always been interested in that intersection, even before I had any kind of proper vocabulary for talking about it. Which implies that I have one now, probably wrongly. But let me try to explain what interests me about fantasies and, really, stories in general. When we read books and watch television or movies, we’re seeing representations of people’s lives. And I always wondered, even as a little kid, why does my life, which superficially resembles a life in a story, feel so different from a life in a story? Lives in stories are exciting and vivid and meaningful. Real lives are chaotic and disorganized and frequently boring, and that feeling of meaningfulness comes and goes, out of your control. It’s hard to hang on to. Why doesn’t life feel more like a story? Like a fantasy? I don’t know. But now, at a time in history when we spend so much of our waking life being entertained by stories, I wonder that even more.
Q. Is The Magicians a critique of or an homage to our collective need for fantasy worlds?
Definitely not a critique. That sounds a bit scoldy. Especially coming from somebody with as active a fantasy life as mine. If it’s between critique and homage, I’ll go with homage. But I think the appropriate book-reviewing cliché would be that it’s “a meditation on” our collective need for fantasy worlds. I am in love with fantasy and fantasies of all kinds, I always have been, but it’s a bittersweet romance, because when you try to really consummate it—when you try to take the fantasy out of the realm of the imaginary, and really live it—very bad things can happen. As they do to poor Quentin.
Q. How do you think being the son of two English professors affected your relationship with literature?
Oh, in every possible way. My parents were a bit like those tennis parents who start drilling their kids on the court when they’re about two, with the idea of creating some kind of inhumanly precocious tennis prodigy. Mine were very aggressive about exposing me to the finer sorts of books early on, with the idea of turning me—and my brother and sister—into teenage super-literati. Then my father made the mistake of reading me The Hobbit, and at a stroke all their careful work was undone. From then on I made a point of immersing myself in anything and everything that annoyed and disappointed them: fantasy, science fiction, comic books, video games. But the funny thing was, I learned from them a lot about how to read a book carefully and respectfully and critically. And I think I brought that critical scholarly approach to my reading. I just read all the wrong things.
Q. You have a degree in comparative literature from Harvard but dropped out before getting your Ph.D. from Yale. What made you decide not to become an academic yourself?
I can’t even remember what made me decide I wanted to be one in the first place. Except that I was unemployed and wanted to read books and talk about them as much as possible. Which I did get to do, and I loved it. But I knew from watching my parents that the life of an academic was not a glamorous one. It is frequently an underpaid and inglorious one. Except for the superstars, and it quickly became apparent that I wasn’t going to be one of those.
Q. What was your inspiration for The Magicians? Were you, like Quentin, the kind of “nerd” who’s read and re-read The Chronicles of Narnia and The Once and Future King multiple times?
Is there any other kind of nerd? There were a lot of inspirations for The Magicians. Of course, I did all those things, and still do them. I suppose on one level I was trying to bring together the literary sensibilities of the Modernist writers I studied in graduate school, and the glorious escapism of the fantasy novels that I love, and mash them up together into one perfect book, where they would be forced to sit down and talk to each other. On another level I was going through a difficult time personally (divorce) and having a lot of fantasies about other, better worlds that I might possibly escape to. On still another level, it was 2004, and we were in the long two-year trough between Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and I badly wanted something new to read. So badly that I decided to write something myself.
Q. How would you compare the C. S. Lewis and T. H. White books to those by J. K. Rowling and Philip Pullman?
Very broadly speaking—very very broadly—I think the shift from Lewis and White (and for that matter Tolkien) to writers like Rowling and Pullman has to do with the gradual separation of fantasy from religion, specifically from Christianity. In Lewis and White, most of your supernatural power comes from God. There may be magic in the picture—Digory’s uncle Andrew is a magician, and of course there’s the White Witch—but the mightiest power is a mystical, spiritual Christian force. In Pullman and Rowling magic is the only power we see. There is no divine force. In Pullman’s universe magic comes from dust. Rowling’s understanding of magic is more difficult to theorize, but it is evidently tied in closely with human emotions like love and hate, rather than any deity. God may or may not exist in Harry’s world, but if he does he has withdrawn, and doesn’t interfere directly. Magic is a secular power. One of the ambitions of The Magicians is to crash these two world-views, the secular and the divine fantasy, into each other with maximum force.
Q. Do you think today’s young readers are very different from the first generation of readers to discover Narnia?
Probably? But I’d rather not speculate about how. My daughter is five, still too young for Narnia, but I plan to watch her closely as she starts to read fantasy. I’ve tried to explain about Harry Potter to her, but she keeps insisting she wants to be in Slytherin.
Q. The Chronicles of Narnia are superbly written but thinly veiled Christian parables. Did you intend to convey any similar lessons with The Magicians? Is Alice Aslan?
Well, I think it’s a bit of a red herring to call the Narnia books Christian parables. They exemplify some Christian virtues, certainly. But they’re pretty thickly veiled. And to me the veil is the most interesting part. As for The Magicians, it’s not a parable of any kind. You could probably (I’ve never tried) divide novels into two camps, those that try to build up theories and lessons, and those that explore the way that life is often too messy and difficult and cruel to fit any theories or lessons. The Magicians is in the second camp. Now that I’ve said all that: there is a character in The Magicians who teaches Quentin a very hard lesson about self-sacrifice. But you’ll notice that unlike Aslan, she hasn’t quite mastered the trick of coming back to life afterwards.
Q. “Some of the student body went into public service. . . . A lot of people just traveled, or created magical artworks, or staged elaborate sorcerous war games. . . . Some students even chose to matriculate at a regular, non-magical university” (p. 184). What would you do if you had a degree from Brakebills?
I could see myself getting involved in environmental causes. I like the idea of using magic to save, for example, tree frogs. But I love the idea of a massive global sorcerous war game, too. I hope I would have time for both. Even if I were a wizard, I’d still be a huge nerd.
Q. You never reveal what Penny and Quentin’s disciplines are. Why is that? What do you imagine they are?
Not quite true. Penny’s being truthful when he says his discipline is interdimensional travel. It’s downplayed in the novel, but it was really quite a feat on his part to get to the Neitherlands without a button. As for Quentin—I’ll be honest, I like a novel to have a dangling thread or two in it. I always allow myself at least one. Quentin’s discipline is my one for The Magicians.
Q. What are you working on now?
The sequel to The Magicians. I’m not done with Fillory yet, it’s a big world. Or with Quentin. He was just getting interesting.
- In many ways The Magicians depicts and amplifies the quintessential adolescent experience: depression, ennui, emotional carelessness. Would magic be a gift or a curse for the typical teenager?
- Would Quentin ultimately have been happier if he had chosen not to attend Brakebills?
- Which character least typifies your vision of what a true magician would be? Explain.
- What does Quentin’s encounter with Julia in the cemetery say about him?
- During their time at Brakebills South, the aspiring magicians take the shape of a number of different animals. If it were a part of every human’s general education to spend some time as a particular animal, what animal should that be and why?
- After the Brakebillians discover that Martin Chatwin is the beast, Alice tells Quentin, “you actually still believe in magic. You do realize, right, that nobody else does?” (p. 179). How does his faith differentiate him from his friends?
- What do you make of Emily Greenstreet’s condemnation of magic, asserting “nobody can be touched by that much power without being corrupted?” (p. 399).
- Jane Chatwin specifically chose Quentin for the task of vanquishing the beast, yet he isn’t the one who winds up killing him. Why?
- Quentin says, “The problem with growing up is that once you’re grown up, people who aren’t grown up aren’t fun anymore.” (p. 197). Has Quentin grown up at the end of the novel or is he, like Martin and Jane, frozen in a chronological netherland?
- Quentin seems, at times, to be a more potent magician than most of the Brakebills crew, skipping ahead a year in his studies and successfully making the journey to the South Pole. But his cacodemon is puny and he himself absolutely crumples once in Fillory. How powerful is he, really?
- Janet is neither “the most assiduous student . . . nor the most naturally gifted” (p. 121). She’s also a troublemaker and a bit of a coward but it is Janet—and not Alice—who will return to be a queen in Fillory. What does her survival say?
- Have you reread any of your favorite childhood novels as an adult? How did your understanding of the book change?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This review contains SPOILERS. I came away from 'The Magicians' with very mixed feelings. I'm leery of books that have reviews on the back flap that mention comparisons ro other books as part of their summaries - because this book - its plot, characters, and setting - should stand on its own. Unfortunately, 'The Magicians' does not. It is highly derivative of both the Harry Potter books and the Chronicles of Narnia. To give one example: a fictional 'welters' game is introduced as something that the magicians play at the Brakebills College. The rules of welters are never clearly illustrated and the magical game appears to have been introduced simply to mock the Quidditch game that was invented in the Harry Potter books. (When he first learns about welters, the lead character, Quentin, remarks, "What, no broomsticks?") Indeed, I can't think of any part of the book's plot that was advanced because the characters play welters. There is one very chilling scene in which Quentin disturbs a spell that one of his teachers is doing as a demonstration and an extra-dimensional creature appears - freezing everyone in the classroom - with a lethal outcome for one of the students. However, the creature is later explained away in connection with the ordinary world - and its actions in the classroom don't make very much sense in retrospect. Lastly, despite the fact that uncovering the mystery of Fillory is the principal quest of the book, Quentin doesn't actually arrive in Fillory until page 286 and the conflict is resolved by page 365 - leaving the remaining 40-odd pages to cover 2 years and a throw-away quest to get out of Fillory. To be honest, the book reads like it was the first draft of a novel that somehow made it through the publishing process without ever passing an editor's desk. It breaks - annoyingly so - one of the basic rules of story-telling: show the reader, don't tell the reader. And the book spends pages telling the reader what Quentin is feeling, e.g. "Quentin didn't bother with the DVDs, just flipped channels on the huge TV and slugged stright from the bottle until sunlight came bleeding up over the horizon, like more acid blood oozing out of his sick ruptured heart, which felt - not that anyone cared - like a rotten drum of biohazardous waste at the very bottom of a landfill, leaching poison into the groundwater, enough poison to kill an entire suburb full of innocent and unsuspecting children." This book is not a fantasy novel - nor does it "enlarge the boundaries of conventional fantasy writing" as the dust jacket would breathlessly have you believe. It is, at best, an incomplete post-modern novel with inexplicably wealthy, navel-gazing characters who can occasionally perform magic and, at worse, it can be construed as a cynical mash-up of others' truly revolutionary fantasy stories.
It was like Holden Caulfield goes to Hogwarts than falls into Narnia... and managed to suck all the fun out of it.
After seeing this book description and the BN review, I was really looking forward to reading this book. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it didn't deliver. I felt it borrowed too much from other fantasy series - especially Harry Potter and Narnia. Yes, there were some variations, but essentially the same concepts, so if felt very unoriginal to me. I also was disappointed in the characters - it's hard to get through a book when you dislike the majority of the characters.
I bought this book thinking that the blurb on the back made it sound intriguing. What I got was a blatant rip-off of Harry Potter's Hogwarts, Narnia, John Bellairs' The House with a Clock in it's Walls, Edward Eager's Tales of Magic, a little bit of Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom and even some Tolkien. There was a very thin plot to string it all together on, lots of gratuitous sex and booze and drugs, lots of angst, lots of unresolved plot points, and read more like a giant piece of bad fan fiction than serious writing. Seriously, how did Grossman get this manuscript by an editor? Unless that editor has been living under a rock. And despite all the things I've mentioned above, the story was just weak. He never *did* anything to redeem himself or earn it or *anything*. The characters were all just so horrible, I didn't really care what happened to them at the end. Except Alice and she turned out to be just as stupid as the rest. So my best advice: Save your time and money. This book isn't worth it.
Why does it take so long for someone to write a fantasy book for adults? A fantasy that occurs without women in long dresses and men with swords, fantastic! This was great. He takes a lot from Narnia and Harry Potter, but almost in a sarcastic, given kind of way. I got it on my ipod and enjoyed it while I mowed, cleaned, ran and missed it when I had to put it down for a while. Very enjoyable.
After all of the excitement from Barnes and Noble staff recommendations, this book just frustrates me. It's one of a few books that I wish I had not started to read, because I must finish all books. It has been at least 6 months and I'm still trying to get through it. I'm embarrassed to have suggested this book to my friends without first reading through the book completely. Blah Blah Blah, it's a bit Harry Potter, a bit Narnia, a bit Wizard of Oz, Alice In Wonderland... It seems there is not one fresh idea in this entire book! This is basically just a conglomeration of the wizards, and lions and witches and animals talking and being transported to another world. It would serve us better to re-read the originals. Kudos to the art department for the book cover. This is probably what got us interested in the book to begin with. Unfortunately, there's nothing more beyond the cover.
June 30th, 1997 the end of accurate fantasy reviews. Why? Two words: Harry Potter. The sad truth is that with the release of the mega series Harry Potter, 90% of people became blinded. Books, movies, and T.V. show have all suffered because of Harry Potter because it seems that no one seems to realize that, while Harry Potter was an extraordinary series, it was a CHILDRENS series. What does this mean? It means that you cannot hope to accurately compare a book written specifically for children to that of a book written specifically for adults. No one in their right mind would compare The Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter, why? Because Tolkien came before Rowling and thus he seems to be immune to this foolish craze. The Magicians was written for ADULTS and while there are similarities they are so blatant that it is obvious that Lev Grossman wrote his novel as a work of satire. He has seen through all the high fantasy silliness and, quite accurately, exposed a major flaw in fantasy. Fantasy has always been an escapist genre, but he realized that many authors were, and still are, turning fantasy into a happy-go-lucky place where elves frolic in the forests and the hero always wins. He saw it when he read Lewis Carrols Chronicles of Narnia and he saw it again in the Harry Potter franchise. In The Magicians, Grossman shows us that those stories are great when you're a kid, but when you grow up you realize how foolish it all is. He takes us all back to some of our most treasured worlds and rips them apart with sheer honesty. The characters in the novel are true to life, if somewhat exaggerated, in their nihilistic, selfish, and desperate search for meaning. Lev Grossman shows us that as much fun as it is to read about worlds where all human flaws are vanquished leaving only the noble characteristics, it is not real. No matter how much magic we have, no matter what world we're on, we will find a way to be unhappy; to question who we are, and why we're here. As brutal as it sounds, Lev Grossman once again proves just how much of a master he is at his craft. The world he creates_and the worlds he borrows from_are more than realistic, the characters are heartbreaking in their reflection of each of us, and the plot makes The Magicians not only fun to read, but page turner that will keep you guessing. Many of the reviewers are right, if you are looking for Harry Potter do not pick up this book. It is for adults and furthermore it is a brutally honest account of the downside to 'Happily Ever After". If you're looking for a fantastic dark fantasy, laced with acid humor, and a more than vivid world, The Magicians is a must read. But please, stop this obsession with comparing everything written or filmed to Harry Potter; unless it's a children's fantasy they are not comparable.
Believe me, I did. I REALLY wanted to like it. The concept sounded great; an adult Harry Potter. But when it comes down to it, the book was unoriginal, and it drug on. The book itself is split into 4 "Books", the first of which lasts almost 2/3 of the total story, and details the character's time at Brakebills college of magic. With the exception of a few pages, I felt like really nothing ever happened here. The remaining three "Books" was basically a retelling of the Narnia books, with only slight changes, mostly just in character names. Some other's reviews were that this was an easy read, but it really never held my attention. I can usually read a book in just a few days, but everytime I picked this book up, I would have to fight from falling asleep. Maybe someone else could appreciate it more, but honestly, the more I read the story, the more I thought how unoriginal is was.
I read a blurb about this book in People Magazine, and it piqued my curiosity. I love Harry Potter books and the Chronicles of Narnia, and other magical books. But this one fell short in my opinion. It closely mirrored the Chronicles of Narnia, just with young adults and more sex and drinking. I found it difficult to make myself sit down and read it, and thought several times about just giving up before I was finished, which is something I don't normally do with any book. The writing wasn't engaging, the plot was absurd, even for a magical theme, the characters were annoying and irritating. I would not recommend this book.
I didn't think it could be possible to combine the Harry Potter and Narnia series and then somehow make the most boring drawn out story ever but this author managed to do just that. I couldn't even finish it because I had paint drying in the living room which was far more entertaiming. How can anyone say this is for people looking to read something after finishing Harry Potter??? Did you even read Harry Potter??
this book was full of spoiled, depressed, and entitled characters..it was aggravating to read. There was very little plot to the book until the last few chapters, the rest of it was basically skimming over their lives and listening to them lament over how boring and pointless those lives are. Had high expectations based on reviews, but was very disapointed I spent money on this rather than borrowing from the library, at least if I had borrowed it, I would have only been out of my time, not the money.
Characters are flat. Lacks any of the magic of the Harry Potter series. Just a tale of some once bright teenagers basically dropping out of society and becoming alcoholics.
I too was sadly disappointed. After having just read Rothfuss's Wise Man's Fear and Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, I picked up this book on the recommendation of someone on a fantasy blog. Although the story idea is interesting, the fact of the matter is that Grossman is not a good writer when is comes to fiction. He is a smart guy and I 'm sure his reviews are insightful, but he just doesn't cut it as a fantasy writer. Simply put, the language was boring. My son's middle school English teacher always says, "Show, don't tell." Grossman is always so literal and never describes anything. He leaves nothing to the imagination and his descriptions fall flat. I could barely get through the book and I wasn't at all invested in the characters. Skip this book and, instead, read and reread Gaiman or Rothfuss. They write in beautiful and original ways and sweep you up into their narratives. I feel badly writing this customer review because I thought Grossman was clever and humble when interviewing Gaiman at a reading a couple of weeks ago at the 92nd Street Y, but I just had to put this out there.
If you ever anxiously waited for the owl carrying your invitation to Hogwarts to arrive, or checked all the closets in your house for the entrance to Narnia, this book is for you. Quentin is a somewhat nerdy teenager who has always been obsessed with a series of books about very British children who are transported to a magical land called Fillory to have wonderful adventures. One day, while Quentin is busy hating his life (in which his best friend dates the girl he loves and he has to go on pointless college interviews), he finds himself suddenly transported from downtown Brooklyn to an actual school of magic in upstate New York called Brakebills. He has to pass an exam to get in, but Quentin makes it, and he thinks his dreams have finally come true. However, Brakebills doesn't solve Quentin's problems, and he ends up just as unhappy as ever. It turns out magic makes life easier for people, but it doesn't make it any more meaningful. Magicians don't have to work, so they can do whatever they want, which usually ends up being academic work or drinking themselves silly. Quentin ends up facing the same questions most young adults do: who am I, who do I want to be, what do I want to do with my life? Even when faced with the idea that the world of Fillory might be real, and that one of his classmates can take him there, Quentin is not fulfilled, and he can't figure out why. The Magicians is definitely a unique play on the fantasy genre: it blatantly pokes fun at books like The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings, while still paying some homage to them. Quentin doesn't experience the traditional hero's journey, but this actually works to the book's advantage, because I found myself continually surprised. It's a unique twist to the genre, and the mythology of Fillory ends up being more intertwined in the story than one would suppose, and I loved every minute of it. A warning, though: this is NOT a book for children. I would recommend it for some teens, but there is a lot of sex, swearing, drinking, and drug use. It's definitely R-rated!
First of all, I wasn't prepared for how bad this book would make me feel, as it was recommended to me as the adult version of HP. Secondly, it felt like one long complaint by the author about his own inability to reconcile childhood fantasy with adult reality. Frankly, the tone was whiny and made all the characters rather despicable. But my biggest issue with this book was its blatant plagerism of C.S. Lewis's Narnia series. The abundance of copied material took away almost all of the originality of the plot and soured it beyond any enjoyment. I'm not sorry I read it, but I wish it had been good.
I wanted to stop reading, but I was convinced that the story would get better. It didn't. It was agonizingly slow, not at all a fast read. Nor was it enjoyable. On the contrary, I found it to be quite boring. It was extremely disappointing because I was excited to read this book, but found it to be lacking in all ways. I give it a "don't bother" verdict. There are better books to read.
I was disappointed in this book. I would never let my teen read it due to the sex (including a threesome) and the lack of problem solving skills it presented to deal with life in general. It was depressing and dark, with no redeeming values. It was all about hating your family, hating your life, skating by with no responsibilities or consequences for your actions. No real emotions but selfishness. Like I said no redeeming values.
If you hate fantasy novels, this is the book for you. I was very disappointed with this book and it makes me mad that people compare it to great fantasy novels like Harry Potter and Narnia. I don't think people understand that Grossman is making fun of fantasy novels with this book. I can't believe he wrote another one.
It's not fun. It's not clever. It's not nice. If you like heavy symbolism that desecrates your favorite childhood fantasy books and a preachy moral, then you'll love this book. It's the perfect fantasy book for people who hate fantasy books. If you do like fantasy books, you'll likely just get pissed off.
Listen, the story was good... but just ignore the back of the book that compares it to Harry Potter and Narnia becuase if you don't, you'll be left scratching your head as to what it was all about. The book is about magicians and it does reference both series in many ways, but it is intentionally and very cleverly done by the writer. It's not meant to copy those books, or mock them in any way, by referring to them in a joking way, the characters in the book acknowledge that they are indeed different from those books. Oh...and yes, this is definitely not a book for kids... the main character is 17 years old when it starts and he grows into a young man as the book progresses. There is definitely a more adult theme to it...so if you're expecting Potter/Narnia innocence you may not be happy. However, if you take the time to look beyond that and read this book you will find that the sex and alcohol topics are not just there because... they have a purpose. Both are ways that people use to try to fill voids and to find magic...and how that relates to the story was great. Unfortunately, I think this was lost to many people from the comments I've read because of the comparison to the Potter/Narnia books. So take a chance... keep an open mind... and just sit back and enjoy. I admit that at first I also had a hard time separating the stories... but I'm glad I stuck with it and because it truly was worth it. It left me wanting to go out there and live life... A very enjoyable read.. can't wait to read the next one summer 2011.
There's lots to like here, although I suspect that for everyone like me who LOVES this book there will be someone else who hates it, especially hardened Harry Potter fans who will almost certainly think Grossman borrowed too liberally from J.K. Rowling's popular, history-making fantasy series. Yes, OK, there's a school for magicians and a Quidditch-like tournament, but the story is so cleverly dissimilar from 'Potter' in so many other ways it's not a problem. In fact, it felt very much like an homage to both Rowling and C.S. Lewis in the way it explores the interesting, entertaining notion of what can happen if troubled kids use their new wizard-like skills exploring a supernatural Narnia-like realm they grew up reading about. And, personally, I loved that it took one instead of seven books for the main characters to graduate from their school of magic, and that the main characters are older than the Harry Potter kids (and that they're not always likeable), and that the main character is prone to making occasionally horrific, consequence-suffering decisions, and that the magic isn't easy to master, and that magic can be used in the real world. And, sacriligious gasp!, I prefer Lev's style over J.K.'s style anyway. He's a more sophisticated writer with a more cautionary, adult tale to tell ... and he's particularly masterful at using analogies and pithy phrases for context. I found myself constanting thinking after reading one point-on analogy after another, 'Oh, yeah. I totally get what you're saying!' I fall solidly in the camp of people who love this book. You may or may not. One thing is for sure, though ... this isn't for your kids.
It pays homage to the Harry Potter and Narnia novels, and it has similarities but that's where it stops. It's a coming of age novel which features Quentin and his friends he meets at Brakebills. It's definitely a more serious novel and delves deeper into emotions and it's more dark and definitely not a kid's book! there's action and drama, romance too, but there's some twists and turns that make the book more darker and includes more "dangerous" themes which makes the book catered towards adults. I liked the book. It certainly did grab my curiosity when I first heard about it and as I read further into it, I had to try and not put Harry Potter and Narnia comparisons, or it'll ruin my enjoyment of this book - which I'm glad I managed to fight off. I thought it was pretty well executed and very well thought out especially with trying to juggle the Fillory part into this story and having to put it as once a fictional world that Quentin had been reading since he was a boy into a full fledged real-life fantasy world and also adding a fantasy epic plot into it as well, while also juggling the plot happening on real Earth. However, it went smooth and it did not leave me, as a reader, confused. There's even a helpful map on the inside of the book which is an added bonus. The plot was great, as it followed Quentin from his beginning years in the college, to his graduation, to his real life entrance into the world, and to his adventures in Fillory and afterwards. It's a great chronological way of running the story. I have to admit, this is one of the few books I liked, but where I also had an intense dislike for the main character. I actually did not like Quentin at all. He's such a whiner! and he's made out to be such an "emo" I had to roll his eyes while he whined about how unhappy he was, and it was as if NOTHING could absolutely make him content not even for a full fledged chapter. Even as I finished the book, I still found that I did not like him. He just wasn't that great, he was the main character, yes, and you saw the story through his eyes but he wasn't really what you might think as a main character would be (not your stereotypical character in fantasy novels I suppose). I found myself drawn to Eliot more, only because of his charm and although at first I wasn't that impressed with Alice, she earned a lot of respect from me towards the end of the novel. She certainly was a realist and was the main anchor and stability to the group of friends. Character development was great. They were all well rounded and developed as they grew older (except Quentin, who eventually matures much much later in the book). So the only thing I disliked about the novel was Quentin and his whiny personality. Even the part with his rocky romance with Alice aggravated me. He is definitely not boyfriend material to me. (More like sledgehammer bashing material). As to the ending, I am now curious and intrigued. Is there going to be a sequel, because if there is, count me in. I'm definitely going to read it! there were some questions I found myself asking. Especially when I reached the ending. Overall, it's a great book when you're in the mood for something serious, but something with fantasy as well. Be forewarned, it's not a happy go lucky epic quest, it's quite dark and serious. Nevertheless it was a great dramatic coming of age read that will leave you asking for more.
If you ever wanted to know what would happen if you combined Harry Potter, Narnia, and The Secret History into one book, this is probably the closest you will ever get. The first 2/3 of the book deals with Quentin discovering he is a magician and the years he spends at Brakebill honing his skills. I found him then and throughout the book to be a little to annoying and depressing to really like him as a character. He falls in love, discovers friends, and finds himself to be in the elite group of students. He does all this in a rather superficial way, without really connecting on any visceral level with anyone other than himself. He doesn't really come out of his own head until it's too late and tragedy has already struck. My other slight issue with the book was that the trip to Fillory didn't take long enough. It felt rushed and more like an afterthought, like the author forgot to add it in until the last minute. I would have loved to have more of this world. It was a twisted version of Narnia with a good dose of a dark Wonderland thrown in for good measure. Now you may be surprised, after what I just wrote, by the fact I loved this book. This was one of those rare books that you don't need to like the characters in order to like the book. I found this to be due to the author's storytelling and writing style. They kept me engaged and caring about what happens to these characters, almost against my will. I would encourage anyone with a passion for urban fantasy to add this to your TBR pile.
I have made it most of the way through waiting for it to get better and it's not. I wish some of these reviews were on here when I bought this however, everything I read about it at first recommended it, especially if you loved Harry Potter but I was very disappointed in the end. It rushes through too much in the beginning for you to even connect with the characters or anything going on, it covers the whole 5 years he spent at school in about 230 pages and then you still have the other half of the book for something to actually happen. This isn't something I would ever recommend if you are looking for an exciting fantasy book, it's incredibly boring.
Save your money.