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)
On the plus side, the narrator was wonderful. That, however was the only good thing about this pile of dreck. Grossman has failed to create the wonder of either the Potter-verse or Narnia, the two things this clear fanfic AU is clearly drawing inspiration from. He has also failed to create likeable characters, a compelling narrative, or even any form of effective storytelling. The Magicians just drags on and on with no clear rhyme or reason and Grossman makes no attempt to give the reader a sense of magical wonder, chosing to TELL us that magic is cool instead of SHOWING us. He also insists on using 10 dollar words (wrongly, I might add) instead of the far more effective 10 cent word and it is abundantly clear that he is far to smug as to his own abilities. Listening to this book was easily the longest 5 hours of my life!
I couldn't finish this novel. The main character is so unlikeable it ruins the rest of the novel for me. I've rarely had such a reaction. The foreshadowing is so obvious as to render it unreadable for me.
Ymmv, If you like immature angsty morons as lead and supporting characters this may just be for you. I like the tone and the basic story outline but I can't get past the idiot leads.
I absolutely love the TV show and when I saw that it was based on a book, I was thrilled! Typically the books blows the movie (tv show) away but this is not the case here. It follows the same story line but it is missing all the excitement. Extremely disappointed. I really thought I found my book series to read for the summer but I'll have to continue my hunt!
The narrator sounds like a burnt out hippie. I didn't hate it however, I have no interest in listening to the rest of the books...
not enough.... of whatever that special something that really good books have.
I thoroughly enjoyed Lev Grossman's The Magicians, so much so that the final book in the series actually brought me to tears. That being said, this first book in the series had an excruciatingly long build-up, and a cast of characters who were extremely unlikable. Furthermore, the ending was supremely dissatisfying. However, don't let those caveats deter you from listening to this book, and the others in the series. Grossman has proven himself a masterful writer, and Bramhall gives a stellar performance.
This first book, as I said above, ends on a rather dissatisfying note - but that is part of the draw; this is a fantasy world set in our own, where all of the characters, despite their power, are afflicted with very human pettiness, shallowness, and weakness. While it is quite slow, and you may not like the characters, they act, feel, and grow like real people. Grossman's characterization is his strong suit.
I'm a graduate student from Flint, MI. My day job affords me hours to enjoy audio books while I work. Self-professed Narrator Snob!
I heard a lot of mixed reviews before finally deciding to give this one a listen. I honestly have no idea what those people were talking about. As a long-time lover of fantasy fiction I thought Grossman did an excellent job of combining all of the tropes/themes I remember from my childhood books, with an slap right in the face that reminds you that reality is reality no matter where you to.
Depression follows you. Magic cannot save you. Sometimes you can win and still lose.
I'm going to given this one a couple of weeks and then read it again!
I admit to a certain amount of bias. A moment in this book, which would likely barely register as noteworthy for many, tainted much of the rest of the book for me, and badly coloured what had come before.
Couple that with an uneven vocal performance (sometimes strong, sometimes weak, sometimes annoying), and I found myself considering abandoning my listen. I didn't. I pressed on, but I wish I hadn't.
You may like it, but I can't recommend you give it a try.
Wonderful, dark story well written and well performed. This series is not for the faint of heart. I started with the Syfy show, which follows this book pretty well. I am looking forward to the rest of the series.
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