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
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
"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)
this is a refreahingly adult story... I enjoyed most of it...but there is always that one thing... in this case qhat jappena to one of the characters... still very good and enjoyed the easter eggs
I've lost track of the number of times I've listened to this book. It's far and away my favorite book, a perfect combination of my other favorites: Catcher in the Rye and Harry Potter. The whole series is a fantastic story of growth and learning to deal with the realities and fantasies of life.
Mark Bramhall read just fine but the author just rambled
Not sure... It would take some doing
Reader was fine... It was the lack of a story and the rambling that annoyed me
To all authors. Stay on point. It's not about how many words you can write.
It's all about content.
Loved the narration. I wish the TV series was more faithful. The characters are very engaging and funny and flawed. The story is suspenseful with lots of characters and plot twists. I would recommend it
I have no earthy idea why this book is / was-ever popular. The idea that SyFy bought the rights to the property and has made / is making a television series from it blows my mind. To me this book read like J. K. Rowling's older, 'cooler' brother mansplaining all the ways in which Harry Potter was juvenile drivel. And true to form, by doing so the stupid jerk missed one of the very coolest things about Harry Potter: good or bad, rich or poor, gifted or average, cool or uncool, all of the students at Hogwarts are just that: students. The great divide of girls below and boys above is practically ignored.
I tried to give The Magicians the benefit of the doubt. I mean, it is written from the POV of a teenage boy. The fact that Quentin's self-absorbed isn't a huge surprise, nor are his more neanderthal views on women.
Where I fell off the joy train was during the Antarctic portion of the program. First up: the Russian who runs the concentration camp they call a school is creepy to the point of vulgarity. The whole 'theft of voices' thing boded ill, but it wasn't until the 'hammer and nail' game that Grossman really hacked me off.
The scene is set thusly: a dank stone cell, a table and chair, a block of wood, a hammer and nails, and a fiddly spell so oft repeated to suit various conditions as fill the provided book. Our hero is set the task of completing every iteration of this pointless spell that's purpose is simply to allow the caster to drive a nail into a piece of wood with one whack of the hammer without bending said nail or crushing their thumb. The narrative expounds on the conditions covered ad nauseum: different locations, altitudes, weather -- some examples specific, some not. Finally, only three variables remain to be tested: the caster's gender: male, female or 'hermaphrodite.' Naturally, the protagonist balks over the last option like any genderist prig.
(Obvious irks aside, why exactly are those the final three options? Wouldn't every iteration of the spell have three versions based on the caster's gender? Is it just a given that only a man would find himself having so much trouble driving a nail into a board 'on a tropical island during a snowstorm' that he would have to resort to magic? How does that even make sense?)
I actually lasted a bit past that. It was when the entire lot of the fourth year class was turned into foxes as an excuse for wholesale rape that I gave up. The protagonist describes how the object of his desire's 'eyes roll in terror' as he penetrates her only to 'fog with pleasure' seconds later. (That was written by a true man...with no real sense of spacial relationships.) Our hero describes how uncomfortable things are the next day, wonders if his lady love is still a virgin...and all of the other meaningless garbage anyone with any sense would avoid writing at all cost.
I can handle a few swear words now and then but the f word was used totally unnecessarily too fetching many times for it to have any meaning at all. When I was in the army there were guys that used it as punctuation for their language. It only made them come off as uneducated. The author is obviously well educated, so why all the swearing?
I don't normally stir myself to write book reviews because I figure that my two cents aren't really that important and I usually don't have anything new and exciting to add but I am making an exception with this book because I just don't know how to process it.
On one hand, I hated the book. I hated most of the characters because it was almost as if they were a bunch of upper class Victorian era dandies who just couldn't bear the boredom and ennui of their privileged lives. Everything, even their magic filled lives was so boring that they had to drink themselves into a stupor half the time to bear it. This is the type of behavior I have absolutely no patience with, so that really chimed my annoyance chord pretty thoroughly. I know that the characters had to be like that to make the story work, but I seriously wanted to smack them for most of the book.
Despite the fact that I spent most of my time listening to the book fuming with irritation, I liked listening to it. I didn't like it so much because of who the characters were and what they were, or in many cases weren't, up to, but because of how Lev Grossman wrote them and Mark Bramhall performed them. Even though I hated them, I had to listen to them. Bramhall does an excellent job because he voices world weary just right. If he had been too whiny I couldn't have listened, if he had been too serious it wouldn't have worked, but he managed to find the proper tone for almost every scene.
I texted my brother about the book while I was listening to it because i think it is something that he would like and I kept on trying to find better ways to describe the tone and feeling of the book without giving much away and this is what I finally came up with.
Satre's "No Exit" meets seriously jaded and world weary Harry Potter who has a strange and occasionally all consuming obsession with "The Chronicles of Narnia." Snarkiness, sex, stupidity, booze, and unbearable amounts of ennui ensue.
Now, one might think that I hated the book, but I didn't. It has enough interesting plot twists to keep me engaged even though I was mentally strangling at least one of the characters at any given moment. I wanted to completely hate it, but I think that I might listen to the next book in the series. I might not get very far into that book, but the combination of Grossman's prose and Bramhall's narration is a pretty powerful lure. I will definitely give any of Grossman's other novels a go in the future because I truly enjoy the way he writes.
I would like to stress that although I used Harry Potter in my super generalized summation of the book, this is nothing like Harry Potter. The only dna this book shares with Harry Potter is the fact that the some of the characters can do magic and the book references Harry Potter a few times and that is it. Do NOT. I repeat, do NOT read this if you are looking for a book in the same vein of Harry Potter because it is not.
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