The Magicians

The Magicians

A Novel

Book - 2009
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Penguin Putnam
The New York Times bestselling novel about a young man practicing magic in the real world, soon to be 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 & essential to anyone who cares about modern fantasy.”
—Joe Hill

“A very knowing and wonderful take on the wizard school genre.”
—John Green

The Magicians may just be the most subversive, gripping and enchanting fantasy novel I’ve read this century.”
—Cory Doctorow

Like everyone else, precocious high school senior Quentin Coldwater assumes that magic isn't real, until he finds himself admitted to a very secretive and exclusive college of magic in upstate New York. There he indulges in joys of college-friendship, love, sex, and booze- and receives a rigorous education in modern sorcery. But magic doesn't bring the happiness and adventure Quentin thought it would. After graduation, he and his friends stumble upon a secret that sets them on a remarkable journey that may just fulfill Quentin's yearning. But their journey turns out to be darker and more dangerous than they'd imagined. Psychologically piercing and dazzlingly inventive,The Magicians, the prequel to the New York Times bestselling book The Magician King and the #1 bestseller The Magician's Land, is an enthralling coming-of-age tale about magic practiced in the real world-where good and evil aren't black and white, and power comes at a terrible price.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Baker & Taylor
After graduating from a secret, exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, Quentin Coldwater finds that a fictional land from a series of childhood fantasy novels is real, but is more darker and dangerous than he could have imagined.

Blackwell North Amer
Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he's still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery.
He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn't bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin's fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.
At once psychologically piercing and magnificently absorbing, The Magicians boldly moves into uncharted literary territory, imagining magic as practiced by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions. Lev Grossman creates an utterly original world in which good and evil aren't black and white, love and sex aren't simple or innocent, and power comes at a terrible price.

Baker
& Taylor

Haboring secret preoccupations with a magical land he read about in a childhood fantasy series, Quentin Coldwater is unexpectedly admitted into an exclusive college of magic and rigorously educated in modern sorcery.

Publisher: New York : Viking, 2009
ISBN: 9780670020553
0670020559
9780452296299
Characteristics: 402 p. ; 25 cm

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Opinion

From Library Staff

List - Urban Fantasy
DalyCity_Adults Nov 21, 2016

Haboring secret preoccupations with a magical land he read about in a childhood fantasy series, Quentin Coldwater is unexpectedly admitted into an exclusive college of magic. But the realities of visiting a magical land are more complicated than he expected, and happiness continues to elude him.


From the critics


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m
mpot
Jun 12, 2017

I checked this book out after I watched the series on television. So Quentins a cutie on the tube, and I could visualize him in the book. The tv series quickly degenerated into a flee-and-put-out-fires adventure series with sex aplenty. Ewww, a plot, please? I quit watching.
BUT the book fulfilled my desire for a meaty plot. It felt very genuine that after graduating Brakebills, what next? The ennui, hitting bottom, then at the last, perhaps a chance for redemption. I am looking forward to the 2nd book in the series.

DBRL_KatieL Apr 28, 2017

I did not enjoy this book. The idea behind it is sound, but the writing and the characters ruined it for me. The main character was constantly seeking something or someone to make him happy, and never seemed to realize if he wanted to be happy he had to do something about it himself, and stop relying on others to make his life worth living.
Part of the writing style I didn't enjoy was the pacing. There are multiple sections in this book, each of which takes place in a different location and is for a different span of time. There would be major events over the course of a chapter or two, that would then left behind, seemingly to have had little impact on the characters beyond that chapter (maybe one more), but no long term significance.
I also had problems with how the world Grossman created operated. Apparently if you learn magic you never have to work for anything ever again, so adults fill their time with meaningless hobbies and lose themselves in fantasy lives-which leads readers to believe they are able to create buildings out of thin air, and somehow pay for everything by creating money. Also at the school the students have to study constantly to learn everything, and be able to preform, however after once the main character is classified into his specialty (which isn't really his specialty but that topics is also left untouched after one chapter) he and his friends have all the time in the world to get drunk, play their wizard games, and lay around in their club house. What happened to the urgency that they wouldn't be able to pass exams?

I grew so frustrated with this book after the halfway point I had to make myself read more than a few pages at a time. I kept thinking "It will get better" but but it never did. It just got more absurd. Finally I didn't want to know what happened next, or how the book ended-I didn't care.

j
jackieparker
Apr 17, 2017

There are elements of this that I truly enjoyed, and the tension and timing in some of the climatic moments were quite well done. However. Pacing throughout was quite uneven, and sections dragged considerably with no advancement of plot or character. The author also seemed to make occasional odd and archaic word choices (surcease? just cease would be adequate) which were more in the vein of "look at my big vocabulary" than in choosing the best word. Obviously, the pitch here was something along the lines of, "What if Hogwarts was college, only more esoteric, and then they discover Narnia is real? And there will be sex and booze and drugs and aimless 20-somethings making bad choices for no real reason except that adulting when you're super-powered is hard?"

I'm not sure I'll read the rest of the trilogy - or even give the tv show a try.

i
isaachar
Mar 01, 2017

The first book in this series can be advertised as a "grown up" version of Harry Potter with a bit of Chronicles of Narnia mixed in. That is mostly accurate regarding the setting, but the story is about a group of young people dealing with the stresses of higher education (albeit a magical higher education), adulthood after college, substance abuse and clinical depression.

The main character is not likable in any way, but if read in the context of his condition he's understandable. The same goes for most of the other characters. Each are flawed in a different, but blatant way. Still, the overall story and the background of "Magic and Magical creatures in the real world and beyond" make the book really enjoyable.

k
kwsmith
Jan 28, 2017

For the first few hundred pages I thought this was going to be one of the best modern fantasy novels that I've ever read. Sadly, Grossman gets a bit lost in his own writing towards the end. Still this novel remains well worth reading, especially if you enjoy dark fantasy.

a
aarondeas
Dec 29, 2016

This book was disappointing. The characters are mostly unlikeable, and while the story was mildly interesting there was WAY too much weird teen angst (even though I don't think these characters were actually teens).

But mainly it was just disjointed and rather unpleasant to read. Ah well.

DBRL_KrisA Nov 27, 2016

This book was on my sister's to-read list, and I think I know why. Karen absolutely loved the Harry Potter books, having read them to my nephew as he was growing up. At first glance, The Magicians has a similar premise - boy discovers a whole new world of magic, and is invited to attend a school for magicians. But whereas the Harry Potter books were about a sweet, young British boy attending a nice British school for young kids, this book is about Quentin, a horny, mopey, angst-y American teenager from Brooklyn attending a college-level school in upstate New York. There's a lot of college-level antics in this book - drinking, cussing, sexing - that you wouldn't have found anywhere remotely near Hogwarts.
While Rowling's descriptions of performing magic were full of the romantic aspects - waving wands and saying pretty words, Grossman focuses more on the journeyman type aspects of magic; if the teachers at Hogwarts look at magic as painting or sculpting, the faculty of Brakebills consider it more along the lines of baking or carpentry.
But Quentin's education at Brakebills is only the beginning quarter of the book. As a child (and. let's face it, as a teenager) Quentin read over and over a Narnia-esque series of children's novels depicting a land called Fillory. After graduating from Brakebills, Quentin and friends discover that Fillory actually exists, and they set off on a Magical Quest to find it. The remainder of the book relates that quest, and what happens with the friends when they discover that Fillory-of-fiction and Fillory-in-real-life are not necessarily the same thing.
I think Karen would have enjoyed this book, once she got past the disappointment of it not being (at all) like the Harry Potter series. There are some definite "adult situations", and Grossman makes it clear pretty early that these are not cute little kids in a cute little magic school. There are deaths, and hook-ups, and imbibing of various drugs and alcoholic beverages. But it's an exciting, well-developed story complete with Important Messages that make us Think about Life.

Chapel_Hill_MaiaS Nov 20, 2016

I almost gave up on this book 100 pages in, but I'm glad I kept going! The first three quarters of the novel seemed very slow--more like a collection of random episodes in Quentin's life than a cohesive novel. The characters are also not very likable, but ultimately I think the author developed the characters this way in order to make a commentary about the source of their angst, and about finding meaning and happiness, which kept me interested. Around page 280, it turned into the fantastic adventure I had been hoping for. If you're the type of reader who enjoys an action-filled story, try to hang in there through the first part of the book! The end was great and I'm looking forward to the next one.

r
Ruby11
Nov 08, 2016

This book was such a let down. I have been waiting for it for 4 months and I barely finished it. I was really excited for some awesome magical powers and I was really disappointed. They rarely used magic at all and it was very glossed over and not very specific. I also didn't like how fast time progressed. A whole 5 years is jammed into this book and much of the actual fun magic is just summarised. The whole book seems like a summary of a more awesome book. The characters never really developed and the plot was so glossed over I got bored. Overall, this book is gloomy, depressing and has a serious lack of magic.

t
TEENREVIEWBOARD
Sep 08, 2016

This is not good.  This might actually just be bad.  The Magicians was hard-pedalled as an adult Harry Potter, and that isn’t fair to Harry Potter: the two are not comparable.  This is a book about a terrible high schooler and really is just a joyless genre exercise for an okay writer.  The novel is clever at times, and has some fantastic quotable lines, but it ultimately is a miserable book written about miserable people with too many fantasy-tropes ham-fisted into a bad high-school drama television show about the really, really bad kids.  Read anything else. - @FalcoLombardi of the Teen Review Board at the Hamilton Public Library

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Runner4ever
Jul 21, 2017

Runner4ever thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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Yamallamah98
Jun 15, 2017

Yamallamah98 thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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michellekwruck
Mar 02, 2017

michellekwruck thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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WeirdCammy
Jan 20, 2016

WeirdCammy thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

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beckylunatic
Apr 06, 2011

The truth doesn't always make a good story, does it? But I think I tied up most of the loose threads. I'm sure you can fill in the rest, if you really think about it.

a
andreareads
Dec 20, 2010

Nobody wanted to admit they were frightened, so they took the only other option, which was to be irritable instead.

n
ndp21f
Aug 12, 2010

He wasn’t sure they were friends, exactly, but she was unfolding a little. He felt like a safecracker who—partly by luck—had sussed out the first digit in a lengthy, arduous combination.

Summary

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m
michellekwruck
Mar 02, 2017

The main character is a self-loathing teen who hasn't been able to let go of his childhood obsession with a series of fantasy novels about a magical world called Fillory. What a surprise when he discovers first that magic is real, and then that Fillory is too. Unfortunately, for him, neither prove to be all that he'd dreamed they were as a child. While there is a clear and strong plot throughout the book, the novel seems to be mostly about the main character's struggle with his own unhappiness. Magic doesn't do it. A new girlfriend doesn't do it. Entering Fillory doesn't do it. In many ways it's a psychological journey more than a fantasy journey. Be prepared for a level of self-pity and self-loathing that will have you rolling your eyes and hoping this kid will grow up.

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