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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

3.8 (4367 )
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4.1 (3445 )
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  •  
    Amazon Customer 01-13-12 Member Since 2014
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    "Ah, the tedium"

    Lev Grossman has created a flat, monochromatic world peopled with mechanical and, on the whole, utterly forgettable, characters. Perhaps things become more engaging sometime after the third hour of audio. A decided lack of interest in self-torture made me put the thing well away at hour three. The remainder of the novel would have to be magical, indeed, to compensate for the dreary monotony of those first hours.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vicki Bethlehem, PA, United States 12-29-11
    Vicki Bethlehem, PA, United States 12-29-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Worst Book I've Ever Read--er Listened To"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    People who enjoy books with awful characters you'd never want to meet would enjoy this book as would those who enjoy a good story with no plot.


    What could Lev Grossman have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    The characters lacked any good quality to them. All of them were terrible people you'd never want to meet. He needed to work on his characters by making them like real people who have bad qualities as well as redeeming ones.

    Also, plot of the book didn't go anywhere until the last hour or so. I love the idea of a Narnia-like world being real, but his development of the story was lacking.


    What three words best describe Mark Bramhall’s voice?

    Arrogant, sounding-like-he-had-better-things-to-do-than-read-this-lame-book, deep


    What character would you cut from The Magicians?

    None of the characters need to be cut from the book; they do need tweaking. There should be some kind of growth in the characters (not all characters, but at least the main two). I don't even mind the sex and drugs (ok... the wolf sex was weird), but they didn't learn from their mistakes and continued to bring their horrible attitudes into the magical world.


    Any additional comments?

    I have zero desire to read any of the rest of the books in the series. The only reason I read this one is because I wanted to see it through and write a review about how disastrous it was.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mondez Durden Atlanta, GA, United States 12-28-11
    Mondez Durden Atlanta, GA, United States 12-28-11 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Couldn't finish due to lack of interest"
    What would have made The Magicians better?

    I wanted to like this book so badly. I tried to get through this but JEEZ, when i tell you it's simply a very boring and somewhat frustrating book to go through. First off, it's dark, and I mean DARK. The undertone of the book is the main character thinks this magical world of school and later being someone special will make him happy when he discovers it does not. People compare this to Harry Potter but it really is not like that. The only similarities are the magic school. The main character is unlikable and I found myself wishing him death on several occasions. I thought the book would have been so much better if that selfish, arrogant whining little wimp just got killed. Then you have to deal with the rest of his friends, who are all just HORRIBLE people and not really people whom I would feel bad about seeing dead. Seriously this book was so depressing I found myself having to listen to it on rainy days just to fit the mood. And by the way, the amount of drinking and sex in this book is just so far from necessary. A Gain, these are powerful kids who could be using their gifts to make REAL changes in life but instead live a life of NOTHINGNESS and that's exactly why I wish I had not invested time in a book I physically can't finish least I want to vomit.


    What was most disappointing about Lev Grossman’s story?

    The protagonist.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    The Narrator could have quit and let someone else do it. His female voices are creepy and his pacing at times leaves something to the imagination.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    It was well written, and by that I mean simply the structures of the sentences, not so much the story outline.


    Any additional comments?

    Some people will like this book and find value in it but I personally would rather shoot myself in the foot before I subject myself to another 10 minutes of this crap.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joy Beulah, CO, United States 12-28-11
    Joy Beulah, CO, United States 12-28-11
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    "WELL DONE!!"
    What made the experience of listening to The Magicians the most enjoyable?

    I THINK IT WAS SLOW TO START BY IT TURNED OUT TO BE A GREAT STORY AND BY HEARING THE END I UNDERSTAND WHY THE BEGINNING STARTED THE WY IT DID!!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ms. Locke 12-01-11
    Ms. Locke 12-01-11 Member Since 2015
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    "Written like a bad fanfic"

    I really wanted to like this story, but the characters weren't likable and the story came off like a bad fanfic. The authors tried pulling elements from all the classic children's series (Harry Potter, Narnia, etc), but rather than give the reader interesting/likable characters we have a bunch of sulky, self-indulgent Gary Stus and Mary Sues.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA, United States 11-20-11
    Carol SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA, United States 11-20-11 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "ANNOYING"

    I found the characters in this book to be unlikeable. Quentin is a whining narcissistic brat and the other characters are little better. The amount of profanity seems excessive and the emphasis on sex, use of alcohol and other drugs seems pointless and disturbing. The thin plot is a rip-off of the Harry Potter series without any of the rich characterization and engaging detail that made that series so delightful. I would pass on this book and any sequels if I were you.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Angela Carlinville, IL, United States 11-16-11
    Angela Carlinville, IL, United States 11-16-11 Member Since 2010

    I LOVE to listen to audiobooks - the Audible ap is by far the best thing that's ever happend to my iPhone.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Slow start - but worth the wait"

    This book had a slow start for me - I found myself wondering when the hook would come. There is an EXTREMELY long and tedious description of geese flying - and if it continued on that direction any longer I was going to retire it... but it did find its way to another topic and I continued to listen.

    Good thing - because the book finally got interesting... I finally found myself wanting to know what happened next. I even found myself glad there is another book in the series because I now want to know what happens to the crew - but a crew of geese, not so much.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wharton Woman 11-11-11

    I learned to read at 3, by 6 it was chapter books, Steinbeck at 9 and I've never stopped.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great Listen!"

    This book is rich and complex as it navigates the coming of age of an unusual cast of characters. They struggle through schooling, love, hate, betrayal and along the way learn compassion. The lead character crashes through much that he could have finessed and he doesn't ever learn impulse control or does he? A good read, colorful and imaginative.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie San Jose, CA, United States 11-11-11
    Julie San Jose, CA, United States 11-11-11 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Disappointing"

    It was ok. The narrator was fine, and I like novels in which magic plays a role. I enjoyed listening while I knitted on the train to work. I also like descriptive language and lots of images, but this one went WAY over the top. If I never hear another simile...

    I don't recommend it, and I won't be reading the next book. It has neither the charm of Harry Potter nor the mythology of Narnia, two works which surely inspired the author. The characters are mostly unlikeable, whiny, messed up young adults with very few admirable traits among them. The use of coarse language, alcoholic drinking, casual sex, and disturbing violence will render this book inappropriate for young folks looking for something post Harry Potter (at least for some parents). It's not something I'd want my young teenagers to read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer GERMANTOWN, TN, United States 11-11-11
    Jennifer GERMANTOWN, TN, United States 11-11-11 Member Since 2011
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    "I really wanted to like this, but just couldn't"

    The reviews on this book were mixed, and I downloaded it hoping for the best. I was disappointed. My main complaint is that I never really cared about the characters enough to enjoy the plot. The performance was dry and the there was no magic in it, despite the subject matter. If you liked Harry Potter and are looking for a Narnia fix, look elsewhere. This book falls flat.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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