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)
Everything. Fairly strong beginning and then lots and lots and lots of meaningless non-developments and uninteresting characters. Described as "Harry Potter for adults." Not even close. I am giving it up, half way trough. Tries really hard to be imaginative, but it does not succeed. Un exciting read.
Good performance, but cannot save the book.
Big disappointment. Do not bother.
Banks on an idea that sold well. It's derivative and lacking any substance,
So the one highlight of this title was the narrator. I had read some of the reviews and was up for trying something new; a more adult fantasy novel with a more complicated characters and less of the same old cliches. I expected to really delve into complicated characters and explore relationships with the added pressure of magic in the practical world. What I got was the long boring diatribe of a whiny depressed teen. Depression, drinking, sex, and self victimization were the focus of the first half of the book.
I tired to like this book, I really did. I read other reviews about it being the adult version of Harry Potter and references to how Narnia is so much a part of our cultural heritage that it makes the book work that I thought this would be a huge hit with me. I wasn't looking for a children's book or even good escapist literature, I wanted something meaty to sink my teeth into.
There are so many places this book could have turned things around. There were hints of something exciting lurking under the surface that would make plodding through the pages and pages of mind numbing pity party the protagonist puts on worth the effort. Over half way through the book I finally had to give up. I was so sick of listening to this brat whine about how hard his life was and how depressed he was even though he had finally gotten what he wanted, a place to fit in, friends who cared about and liked him, a girl who he loved and who loved him back, a college education in magik of all things, and a chance to be anyone he wanted to be. But while I was wishing I was him, he was busy being depressed about it all. Someone needed to force feed this kid some prozac and quick.
There is sex, an enormous amount of drinking, and swearing in the book so I guess it qualifies as an adult novel, however the story is like listening to a kid whine about how mean his parents are when they only give him an xbox with 2 controls and 50 games instead of 4 controls and 200 games. If you want to listen to a bunch of adolescents whine about how hard they have it, go to your local middle school and spend an hour asking them about how bad they have it and save your money. Of course if you find yourself extremely happy and euphoric and prefer to be miserable, then spend the money and take a listen. It should fix that joy in no time.
If you are looking for a Harry Potter clone, this is not it. If, you enjoy fantasy novels, but wonder what they would could be with a more realistic point of view, this is a wonderful interpretation that melds classic fantasy tropes with a true reflection of flawed characters in extraordinary circumstances.
When I discovered that Lev Grossman is the brother of Austin Grossman (Soon I Will Be Invincible) I was immediately curious to see how their prose compared. It turns out Lev's writing is COMPLETELY different but no less brilliant.
The first half of this book is amazing. Even though you know there will be revelations they are still surprising and they just keep coming.
After graduation though, it just plods for a loooong time. It's also around this time that Quentin does something that completely removes any chance of his remaining a sympathetic character. The whole bit in Narnia...um, I mean "Fillory" is much more tedious than the mundane world but maybe that's intentional. Anyway, the ending ties it all together fairly well.
My biggest complaint involves the drinking. Not the fact that everybody drinks (and believe me they do...HEAVILY...ALL THE TIME), but it's superfluous and pretentious to name all the various drinks as if anybody cares what TYPE of wine they drank way too much of for every single occasion.
I bought this because it was on some "If you like Harry Potter" list. No. Not even a little bit. I can't even finish it.
This was the only bright spot. He did a very good job.
I really struggled to finish this one! The writing is over the top trying to hard to use big words and crude references just for the sake of using them. The entire book was forced and the obvious desire to be like Rowling, Lewis and even Lucas was pitiful.
This book starts off slow, has moments of great writing but refuses to take off with it.
I feel like Grossman keeps telling us how brilliant these characters are and expects us (the readers) to believe it without a shred of evidence in the story.
The characters go through the riggers of the plot and don't show any signs of growth.
I enjoyed the audio version, it was well read. Bramhall has a soothing and consistent voice throughout. I would only argue his voice for "Josh" doesn't match the character in the story.
.... I really did. I listened to 9 hours, waiting and hoping for it to get better, it just never did. This must be the most mundane, unimaginative, slow-paced book I have ever read or listened to.
The characters and story are completely unoriginal, and if that were the only offense here, I would have tried to finish. But somehow Mr. Grossman took forgettable characters with a storyline copied straight out of and set out to make it the most blase', mind-numbing story possible.
I really do not like writing bad reviews, I mean one man's junk ... right? But I decided to post this review in hopes to save someone else's 9 hours ... I strongly recommend passing on this title.
I think that my main issue was with the character of Quentin. The description of him as miserable is an accurate one, and it made caring for him and his ordeals difficult. He aroused not dislike in me, but apathy. If I am not interested in a character, I won't stick with the story.
The narrator did a very good job in giving each of the characters their own voice. You got a sense for the character through him.
Just not a big fan of this book. Kept hoping it would get better but I was unfortunately disappoointed. Keeps feeling like an adult Harry Potter without the fantastical world and great dialog. Was more like Harry Potter meets Wicked and I felt the same way about Wicked. Most of the book was narrator exposition with little actual dialog and when there was, it was boring and lacked dramatic tension. The protagonist, Quentin, was annoying at best, and there was nothing sympathetic about him to care about.
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