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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

3.7 (2498 )
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4.1 (1781 )
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Performance
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  •  
    John Seattle, WA, United States 10-17-11
    John Seattle, WA, United States 10-17-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Junk"

    Unfortunately this is one to miss - shallow, unlikable characters and a form of magic poorly described. Nothing wrong with the narration though.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Johnson Huntersville, NC, United States 09-17-11
    Johnson Huntersville, NC, United States 09-17-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Lacks depth or purpose"

    I was really disappointed in this book by Lev Grossman, especially after all the rave reviews in the media. I found the story lacking in depth, the characters uncompelling and the plot weak. If you are someone who loves the worlds created in the Harry Potter or A Song of Ice and Fire series, look elsewhere. This book boils down to whiny, entitled teenagers lazing about and oh, they do magic, by the way. There's no central force driving the story along and it was only due to my own stubbornness that I even finished it. Ugh, and plus I'd already downloaded the follow-up The Magician King and I'm trying to force my way through that one too.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alexander granite bay, CA, United States 08-25-11
    Alexander granite bay, CA, United States 08-25-11 Member Since 2010
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    "harry potter grew up to be a depressive alchoholic"

    starts out well enough but the constant moaning of the main character really got on my nerves.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    breckoz SANTA CRUZ, CA, United States 04-24-11
    breckoz SANTA CRUZ, CA, United States 04-24-11 Member Since 2011

    Audiobook Junkie... Love all types of Science Fiction

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    "Disappointing"

    Lev Grossman creates a fantastic world of magic. However, it does not live up to expectations. The main character becomes distasteful and depressing. Many parts of the book seemed rushed while other parts were drawn out with boring talk. I would have liked to see more adventure, discovery and have a hero emerge or at least find some redeeming qualities in the characters. I give it 3 stars for its potential. I hope Lev grows as a writer through this book and produces a better sequel.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ivy Sciandra New York 06-17-10
    Ivy Sciandra New York 06-17-10 Member Since 2008

    Ivy

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    "Not Harry Potter"

    I have to say that I bailed on this book with two hours still left to go. It just didn't hold my interest. I really didn't care about any of the characters and while Harry was totally believable, this totally wasn't.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard D. Shewman Erie, PA United States 10-10-09
    Richard D. Shewman Erie, PA United States 10-10-09 Member Since 2001

    rshewman

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "decent book but could hav been better"

    Lev Grossman takes the Harry Potter concept (minus HP and company), ages his main characters to college freshmen, and turns Hogwarts into a private college in upstate New York. As strange as that mix sounds, he does a decent job of making it engaging while they're in school.

    The last third of the book goes off on a different tangent. After they graduate the book continues to follow them through the strugles of twentysomething angst and adventures in alternate universes. It seemed as if Grossman was trying to meld HP and Narnia into one story and it quite didn't work. Though I confess that after finishing the story I checked to see if Grossman had anything else available on audible. It was enjoyable, even if it didn't entirely work.

    As everyone notes, the darker themes in the last third, the sex and the drugs are more suited for a crowd a bit more mature than "audible kids".

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jodi Montgomery, TX, United States 10-21-11
    Jodi Montgomery, TX, United States 10-21-11 Member Since 2010

    Since having kids - the luxury of sitting down and reading a book is out of the question. Now I can put on good book for just me, or one for the kids while driving and everyone is at PEACE and no one is YELLING. Life is good.

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    "So bad I couldn't finish"

    I tried hard to like this book. I listen through the first part thinking that I just needed to get into the characters. But the longer I listen to it, the more depressed I became. This story doesn't pull the reader into the story, it just pulls the reader down.

    10 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elisabeth Durham, NC, United States 11-23-09
    Elisabeth Durham, NC, United States 11-23-09 Member Since 2008
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    "Disjointed"

    This book was ok but the story was very choppy. Several times, there were major occurances that the author went nowhere with. I kept waiting for them to be tied back into the novel but it didn't happen.
    I felt like this book got pushed through the publishing system at this level of editing because the author is the book reviewer for Time Magazine and no one was willing to be harsh enough with him. It really does need a good edit and more continuity.

    10 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bryan Mustang, OK, United States 05-14-12
    Bryan Mustang, OK, United States 05-14-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Don't bother"

    This story was not worth the credit I spent. Long and drawn out with no real plot to keep it going . The main character has no motivation which makes the story very uninteresting. I made the mistake of purchasing both the first and second book at the same time so forced myself to complete them. But this is just my opinion.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Erin Huber Heights, OH, United States 05-13-12
    Erin Huber Heights, OH, United States 05-13-12 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Do you have to finish a book to review it?"
    What would have made The Magicians better?

    It had all the great makings of a "fantasy" but had no wonder, no awe sensations, none of the "magical feeling" you felt when you first read Narnia, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or watched the original Fantasia.


    What was most disappointing about Lev Grossman’s story?

    The lead character was too negative and always complaining about something, even if it went his way.


    What aspect of Mark Bramhall’s performance would you have changed?

    I honestly didnt listen to more than an hour and a half of the book. I dont recall the narration being bad, but I was so disappointed in the book I dont recall it being good either.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment. To read reviews of this being "Harry Potter goes to college in Narnia" you are automatically set up with distinct expectations. I was OK with some of the ideals from other stories being used; it could have lead to a more realistic/ modern edge (I'm 36 and found myself wishing I could walk through my closet and windup somewhere else on a whim after picking up the CS Lewis series decades after first reading them). What I was not expecting was a negative young adult miserable in his existence, wanting to make everyone around him miserable, and then still be miserable when things are actually going his way!! If my 15 acted like this I would tell her to put on her big-girl panties and get over herself or go sulk in her room away from people who are actually having a good day.


    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
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