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The Magicians: A Novel | [Lev Grossman]

The Magicians: A Novel

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.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Intellectually gifted but emotionally unfulfilled, Quentin Coldwater is as much at sea as any high school senior. He still takes refuge in the fantasy novel series he read as a kid, waiting for happiness to fall in his lap. Surprisingly, it does indeed seem to when an elite and secret college of magic recruits him. Mark Brahmall wonderfully inflects the gaggle of fallible little geniuses Quentin grows up with there: Elliott the flaming drunkard, Janet the flashy attention hog, Alice the wallflower, Josh the bumbling frat boy, and Penny the punk rocker. This is not the nice and polite world of Hogwarts. These 17-year-olds spend five years drinking, screwing, cursing, and occasionally buckling down to work with spells that sound more like chemistry labs than fantastic miracles.

Magic is hard, and growing up proves even harder. Brahmall ages this group of would-be adventurers, gradually inserting the pessimistic uncertainty that creeps in as their graduation approaches, and then the slovenly vulgarity that accompanies their post-grad malaise in New York. But their voices find fresh purpose and energy when Penny discovers that Fillory, the magical land of those books from their youth, is real. Fraught with the tensions sprouting between them, each member of Quentin's posse has reasons to escape into Fillory. Brahmall gives voice to everything from a birch tree to an ancient ram, as the group's quest for a brighter future turns ever more ugly and alarming. Quentin's once idyllic dream now corrupted, he struggles to regain a sense of self and return to the more banal hostilities of the real world.

This is a story narrated with all the wonderment and gravitas inherent in the great tradition of magical coming-of-age tales, to be sure, but it rests firmly on the rocky foundations of a realistic human volatility and longing that may want to keep the characters snatching defeat from the jaws of victory to their bitter end. This world is nothing like Narnia or Middle Earth, and listeners with knowledge of those places will find plenty of insider references here to keep them laughing through the disasters. Grossman has captured a shamefully universal set of psychological quandaries, and Brahmall has expressed them in tones that are terrifyingly recognizable. —Megan Volpert

Publisher's Summary

A thrilling and original coming-of- age novel about a young man practicing magic in the real world.

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.

©2009 Lev Grossman; (P)2009 Penguin

What the Critics Say

"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)
"Provocative, unput-downable....one of the best fantasies I've read in ages." (Fantasy & Science Fiction)
"The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea." (George R.R. Martin)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (4366 )
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  •  
    K.D. Keenan Northern California 03-18-12
    K.D. Keenan Northern California 03-18-12 Member Since 2007

    1emp

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    "Hogwarts for Grownups"

    It's the story of an ordinary geeky brainiac who is recruited into a university of magic. But it is not the whimsical, twinkly world of J.K. Rowling--it's gritty and edgy, with adult themes and considerable bad behavior. The story is well-plotted and held my interest throughout, and I enjoyed the adventures of these college-age wizards as they struggle towards self-awareness and full adulthood.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Tupelo, MS, United States 03-15-12
    John Tupelo, MS, United States 03-15-12 Member Since 2011

    Mostly use audio books in planes these days. Know I really like a book when I find myself with earphones still on from home to hotel

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    "Rubbish"

    Occasionally you come across an author who seems more interested in seeming clever with his wordsmith than being a good storyteller. The prose in the Magicians is constantly constantly constantly being interrupted by some of the most idiotic and out of place thoughts. Example, as you're running for your life from a hoard of creatures intent on killing you in an underground lair in a magical land, you slide across a table and think how that's like sliding across a Firebird car - who would really think that? The problem is these constant, random distractions seem to have no purpose - they don't propel the story. They don't explore the characters. They simply seem to be there because it might make the author seem clever. Way too little attention was placed on the art of telling a good story - in fact, the story itself seems very unoriginal.

    Lev Grossman liberally grabs from previous fantasy-like universes like Potter and Narnia, makes a few adjustments and then populates the whole "new" world with some of the most absolute unlikable and objectionable characters he could think of. Not a single character seems able to have a pleasant thought or do a good deed. Previous reviewers seem to think this an "adult" version of Potter. I guess "adult" is defined as a story populated with vile characters lacking any kind of basic morality. These characters are depressingly unhappy from page 1 for no apparent reason and act out against other people and each other simply on this basic, silly conceit.

    At the core, the primary fault I have with the book is its extremely poor construction. The stages/periods in the book seem only half woven together. You rip ideas from other universes and only weakly attempt to place them in your own? Throw-away moments and random plot points fill the book. You just sit and ask WHY? constantly in this novel.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Deer Lodge, MT, United States 03-14-12
    Karen Deer Lodge, MT, United States 03-14-12 Member Since 2014
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    "Different enough to stand on it's own"

    With the “Harry Potter”, “The Lord of the Rings”, “Narnia” phenomenon from the last decade, I was skeptical about another wizard story. I was glad to hear that the author incorporates these influences as tongue in cheek references instead of trying to claim any originality with the concepts.
    This is a coming of age story which starts with The Magicians and continues to completion in The Magician King. A typical group of young people, trying to find their place in life, the kicker is that they possess magical skills. The main group is formally trained with one exception, a witch who was excluded from acceptance to the school, but whose innate abilities cannot be stifled and pursues her magical drive as an outsider.
    The characters in the story have their own strong characters and aren’t lost behind the main personality of Quentin Coldwater. In fact I liked that the secondary characters find their own paths independently of Quentin’s, who is the last person to put the pieces of his life puzzle together.
    All in all, it is a good read with a story that is contemporized enough to stand on its own.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sharri Wenatchee, WA, United States 03-14-12
    Sharri Wenatchee, WA, United States 03-14-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Well Written"

    I liked it when Quintin got into Brinkbills & most all of his school. The story is well written & fast moving with more twists & turns than a mountain switch back. But I must admit that I got really depressed listening to it. Won't listen to it again....

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alton 03-05-12
    Alton 03-05-12 Member Since 2014
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    "Disappointed"
    What disappointed you about The Magicians?

    I was so hopeful the reviews would be wrong. I loved the premise of the book and really wanted to love it. It had moments that were good but they were few and far between. Over and over I was saying to myself,


    What could Lev Grossman have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    have the characters learn from their mistakes


    Which scene was your favorite?

    geese section


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    I liked how he described some of the magic.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katie Lolo, MT, United States 02-28-12
    Katie Lolo, MT, United States 02-28-12 Member Since 2014
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    "Mixed feelings..."

    I'm a bit undecided about this audio book. The narration was satisfactory, but not one of those I'll rave about. As for the novel itself, I'm not sure grown ups should be allowed to ruin Narnia... er "Fillory."

    The description of "Harry Potter for grownups" is a description I saw frequently used in reference to this novel. In that a magical school (in this case, a 5 year college) is involved, I guess that's true. However, unlike the HP series, 4 years passes in half a novel while simultaneously seeming to fly and drag by (rather like 4 years of college).

    "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" x "Harry Potter" for kids might be more accurate. This story does not have the innocence and whim of Harry Potter or the Narnia (aka "Fillory") series about which the hero fantasizes.

    The hero doesn't behave like a hero. The hero behaves badly. Drugs, alcohol, sex, coarse language... The hero has a bad attitude. The hero is really an anti-hero. And yet, despite all that, or maybe because of all that, the reader roots for him.

    I'm curious enough to see where Gossman went with the next "Magicians" novel to give it a chance. I'm starting "The Magician King" on audio today (as soon as I find my headset, that is).

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jessica MINNEAPOLIS, MN, United States 02-09-12
    jessica MINNEAPOLIS, MN, United States 02-09-12 Listener Since 2007
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    "its pretty good , its not great"

    This is the second book I listened to because GRRM recommended it. I also got one based on a Neil Gaiman recommend and one on a Stephen King recommend. The lesson here is that just because u tend to like a writer doesnt mean u will like everything or even ANYTHING else that they like.

    Having said that I really don't understand the negativity level of many of the reviews. This is a decent read. Its a little heavy on the coming of age angst to be sure, but the story is pretty solidly engaging. Comparison with Harry Potter may have been too misleading for the audience

    These are outcast misfit angry highschoolers who get to go to magic college, true enough - but if you know anything about unhappy teens you must know that they are not generally capable of the kind of wonder that younger children can produce. Child- wonder tended to severely mitigate the really sad themes that were in Potter.

    The ending is a weakness in my view. I just didnt like it. The story is very angsty and then suddenly something silly gets introduced when you cant possibly appreciate silly as anything other than dumb.

    I bought this more than a year ago. I think I have listened x3. I almost always have to listen twice to really get the whole thing what with life going on and all. So neither a fave nor a failure.

    The performance is excellent. I havent gotten the sequel yet but I probably will. It might be good and I do love a good story

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    shirley 01-24-12
    shirley 01-24-12
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    "Fantastic Performance of angst filled story"

    This is certainly not Harry Potter; it's dark, it's angst-filled, it's overwrought and really kind of frustrating. HS kids head to magic school/university... only to find out that being a magician is depressing, filled with drugs, alcohol and no real hope for productive living. After the story was over all I could say about it was meh...

    The narration is fantastic, the story is well written but is just not my cup of tea. I'm not into stories about endless despair. Sure, the end of the story provides an opportunity for pulling us out of the despair in the sequel, but I won't be getting it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brian murrieta, CA, United States 01-19-12
    Brian murrieta, CA, United States 01-19-12
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    "Rip off of Harry Potter and Narnia"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    A different story, a different narrator, the narrators voice was horribly bland and depressing, terrible to listen to.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Lev Grossman again?

    No. Sadly I read the reviews and wasted both my credits on both books. I've been a huge fan of audible for years and years and have never disliked a book so much to take the time to even write a review. Avoid this book, series, and author.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    He literally made it painful, dark and depressing to listen to. He was bland and gave a poor performance.


    What character would you cut from The Magicians?

    The main character. He is constantly drunk, doing drugs, being whiny and pathetic. Never witty, nothing endearing about him, not brave, not smart, not articulate, just a tone of poor pathetic me through the entire book.


    Any additional comments?

    Do NOT waste your time or money on this series. Unless you are interested in a drunk whiny kid acting as Harry Potter running amok pathetic and inebriated through the Narnia series. Horrible.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Malia Nash Hawaii 01-17-12
    Malia Nash Hawaii 01-17-12 Member Since 2010

    Malia Nash

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    "Just couldn't get into it."

    What a strange thing; for some reason I kept restarting this but it just didn't get my attention. I should have known as the sequel (which was supposed to be better) failed to get my attention either. I was hoping that this was a case of needing to start from the beginning. Unfortunately, no. This was no Harry Potter.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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