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)
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.
Although the idea was reasonably good, this book completely failed to win me over. Foolishly, I kept listening on and on, convinced that soon the main character and his friends would give me a reason to care about them, and it just never happened. I also instinctively knew that the story wasn't really about kids attending a college for magicians, and I was curious to figure out what it really was about. How disappointed I was when, 7/8 of the way through the story it finally became clear, and it was even more dull than the story had been up to that point. I have never written such a negative review, but I don't want others to pay for this expensive book and then spend hours listening to such a disappointing story. If the general idea of young adults entering into a fantasy world that turns out not to be the Narnia they, (and mostly, the author), obsessed about as kids, try the Fionavar Tapestry, which is more engaging and gives the reader more reason to care.
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.
People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.
Let me top this off with the bottom line: There are thousands of Audible titles that I will consider listening to before I ever go back to this series. No, not even if I exhaust the rest of the Audible library.
So this is how you go from four stars to one and a half stars: You start out well, with potential for five stars, by casting a misfit from Brooklyn as a college student who goes to a magical school instead of Princeton, learning about magic and the magical world as a young adult (rather you-know-who as a middle schooler).
But then you go down to three stars when you rush through five years of college with nothing much happening -- which, I've since read, is supposed to be the point, except that it's, in a word, pointless. I'm sure you can name me a classic or two of modern literature that is about people being bored, and I'm just as sure that Lev Grossman is hardly comparable to the classic authors who wrote them.
Nearly ten hours in, you go down to two stars when your "hero" realizes that after nothing much happening to that point, the adventure is about to begin. He actually says exactly that to himself, in case you as reader have failed to notice that you've so far wasted nearly ten hours of your life listening to nothing much, hoping that it may eventually lead to something interesting.
Then the adventure becomes completely nonsensical, by which i mean, nothing makes sense, nothing is connected to what has come before and what comes later, and everything is completely inane. This too may have been the point, with Narnia now the target of the author's cynical satire in place of HP. But what good is a joke if no one knows it's a joke? And if it's not in the least bit funny? Or fun? (Not to mention that, as nonsensical as Narnia may be, it actually has meaning on a higher level.)
That knocks the story down to one star, although there is a shred of redeeming quality in the first few hours for the overall rating to remain at two stars, for a net of one and a half. This book is, plain and simple, an overlong exercise in mental you-know-what, a book critic writing a book that is actually a poorly veiled criticism of two of the most beloved fantasy series ever. I for one and not pleased to have this fraud perpetrated against me.
The Magicians has been called Harry Potter for adults, by no less than the author himself, who justifies his carbon copy of the HP formula by claiming some sort of parody. I call bullpucky. Harry Potter is (figuratively) magical and enchanting while tackling many of the same themes. This book is no more and no less an exercise in mental you know what by a critic egotistical enough to believe that he can write a worthwhile book himself, and in the end is less than a pimple on the scar on Harry Potter's forehead.
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,
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.
.... 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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