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The Magicians

August 10, 2009

Over the last few years I’ve found myself more and more drawn to reading fantasy novels. The ultimate in escapism, good fantasy writing creates fantastic worlds very different from our own. Great fantasy leaves us wanting more. The Magicians by Lev Grossman left me wanting more.

Quentin Coldwater is an extremely gifted seventeen year old who is also extremely unhappy. He is bored with his home life in Brooklyn and doesn’t quite feel like he belongs in this world. In fact, since he was a little boy, he has been obsessed with a Narnia-like series of fantasy books from the 1930’s . Written by Christopher Plover, the series follows the adventures of the Chatwin siblings as they fight evil in the world of Fillory. Quentin dreams of one day living in a magical type world like Fillory. What he doesn’t know is that the magical world is about to find him.

Quentin soon finds himself quite magically on the grounds of Brakebills, a college for magicians hidden in upstate New York. When asked to perform magic tricks as an entrance exam, Quentin realizes that the slight-of-hand tricks he learned from books as a kid really are magic and soon he is enrolled at Brakebills.

Even though Quentin is learning to cast complex spells at Brakebills, college life is still filled with lots of  typical college experiences. With some new found friends at his side, Quentin begins to develop his magical skills and his college years fly by.       

After Brakebills though, Quentin finds himself stuck in a merry-go-round of drugs and alcohol with his old classmates. After spending his life pining for adventure, he is disappointed with the life he is leading. But when someone from his past turns up with information that the magical land of Fillory is a real place, will Quentin really be prepared?

I’m sure there will be some Harry Potter comparisons to The Magicians, since there are many similarities in circumstances. In both, there are magical people living among the general population and there is a lot of focus on learning magic as specialty schools. Grossman even gives a nod to Harry Potter:

“Hang on,” he said. “Gotta get my quidditch costume. I mean uniform.”

Grossman though wrote The Magicians for an adult audience, with references to alcohol use, sex and drug abuse. His wonderfully descriptive language can be seen throughout. I love how he describes the grounds at Brakebills:

The hedges that made up the Maze were cut in the shape of heavy, slow-thighed beasts – bears and elephants and other less-easily-identifiable creatures. Unlike ordinary topiary they moved: they lumbered along very slowly, almost imperceptibly, wading half submerged in the dark foliage like hippopotami wallowing in an equatorial African river.

Plus, I was intrigued by the sinister character The Beast. Not since the Crooked Man in The Book of Lost Things have I read about such a wonderfully descriptive and scary character. Truly bone chilling stuff.

With the exception of a small slow part in the middle of the book, The Magicians is pure literary magic.

The Magicians will go on sale tomorrow, August 11, 2009. Along with the main website for The Magicians, there are four clever companion websites that are worth exploring: Fillory fan site, Christopher Plover website and even a site for the imaginary Brakebills College!

Thank you to Viking for sending The Magicians to me for review.

29 Comments leave one →
  1. August 10, 2009 10:00 am

    You mentioned that this was written for an adult. What about a very mature 17-year-old who is reading well above what typical high school students glom on to? My middle one is always looking for something new and was a huge Harry Potter fan so I’m wondering if this might be a logical next step.

    • August 10, 2009 10:34 am

      I think it would be fine for a mature 17 year old to read. Even though he writes about more adult themes, it isn’t at all gratuitous.

  2. August 10, 2009 10:14 am

    This sounds like an adult Harry Potter, but still really good! I’m incredibly interested in checking it out. Definitely adding it ton my TBR pile! Great review.

  3. August 10, 2009 11:09 am

    Great review!

    Hope you are feeling well.

  4. August 10, 2009 11:50 am

    This book looks really good. I am glad you enjoyed it!

  5. August 10, 2009 12:40 pm

    I must admit that I love the cover on this one. Coupled with your review, I’d guess that this is a book worth reading!

  6. August 10, 2009 1:47 pm

    I read only the very last lines because I hate being influenced. I have the book right here to read in the next couple of weeks.

  7. August 10, 2009 2:50 pm

    This sounds really interesting. I like that his magic tricks turn out to be real magic!

  8. justicejenniferreads permalink
    August 10, 2009 2:53 pm

    I’ve actually heard quite a bit about this one – I’m going to have to go pick it up tomorrow!

  9. August 10, 2009 2:54 pm

    This is a wonderful review. So good, in fact, that I just placed my order for it! I have never thought of myself as a fantasy-fiction reader but as I was reading your review I thought, “well, what do you think Harry Potter is? Non-fiction?”

    I am really looking forward to this more adult-centered tale and like how, even though it is a fantasy, it also seems to deal with many realities that we could all face in our lives.

    Have you read any of the other books by the author? I see that he has another book called The Magicians with the same character. Is The Magicians the name of the series?

  10. August 10, 2009 4:20 pm

    I have this book to read/review. I’m going to start it today.


  11. August 10, 2009 4:33 pm

    I saw this book somewhere last night and thought it sounded really good. I so miss Harry Potter, maybe I should pick this one up.

  12. August 10, 2009 9:05 pm

    Think I just found my next fantasy read thanks Stephanie – sounds terrific and is my favourite kind – a fantasy world living parallel to our own. Love the society within a society scenario. Brings your childhood fantasies about having magical powers that much closer to our own reality. I’m sure there are many Harry Potter fans who are now adults who will be glad to continue the magic. 😉

  13. August 10, 2009 11:32 pm

    I’ve heard so many great things about this book. I can’t wait to read it for myself. I love fantasy!! Excellent review!!! 🙂

  14. August 11, 2009 11:36 am

    I really want to read this book, but it’s taking me forever to get it from the library. I read Codex, and I honestly wasn’t impressed at all by it. I’m hoping this one is much better!

    Oh, and when you’re back, and recovered, I have an award for you. 🙂

  15. August 11, 2009 11:55 am

    This book sounds fantastic! I was just looking it up on amazon to add it to my wishlist and am sad to see it’s hardcover! I shall hopefully remember in a year to look for it again (made a note in my wishlist about it – ha!) I am so frustrated by the hard cover trend right now in all fiction (adult and YA). When you don’t have a decent (English) library system around and aren’t made of money (HC in canada are expensive) it’s irritating. 😉

  16. August 11, 2009 1:10 pm

    This sounds wonderful. Is it part of a series? I immediately thought HP while reading your review. I’m adding it to my Goodreads heap.

  17. August 11, 2009 4:12 pm

    I’m putting this one on my TBR. The cover is so beautiful, too!

  18. August 11, 2009 4:58 pm

    Love your review – I really want to read this one!

  19. August 11, 2009 10:16 pm

    I’m adding this one to the wishlist post-haste. I love Harry Potter. HP for adults? Sounds awesome!

  20. August 12, 2009 2:04 pm

    First time commenter here, but I just had to say, your review totally made me want to read this one. As soon as I read the last sentence I tabbed over to my library’s catalog and placed a hold on it. Great review!

  21. August 13, 2009 1:12 am

    This sounds so good! Thanks for sharing with us.

  22. August 14, 2009 2:47 pm

    I keep seeing and hearing about this book. I really want to read it now. Thanks for the review.

  23. August 14, 2009 8:47 pm

    I have heard such great things about this book and am excited to read it at some point – I have it to review. Thanks for this review!

  24. August 15, 2009 8:30 am

    I have this one on my stacks to read really, really soon!

    BTW: I have an award for you:


  1. The Magicians, Lev Grossman « Jenny's Books
  2. Lev Grossman – The Magicians « Fyrefly's Book Blog

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