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)
I kept waiting the story to go somewhere, but it seems to have bogged down with in unneeded side stories. I thought it was sounding kind of like Lord Of The Rings for awhile, then took a Harry Potter turn. It really was a bit tedious, and I nodded off a few times and had to go back, only to find that I really hadn't missed anything. It served to entertain me while I did work around the house, but I would not buy another book in this series
Modern Day Narnia
I enjoyed how The Magicians took many of the old coming of age magic cliches and twisted them into a more modern setting. The book leans on the reader knowing many of the classic cliches like Narnia and Harry Potter, but gives it a gritty twist where the magicians are attending college with all the twists and turns that the rite of passage gives. Grossman focuses on moving through the magic and details quickly while focusing on how it changes Quentin along the way.
Modern, easy-to-read and literary.
At this point I listen to around ~16 hours of audiobook every day thanks to 3x speed. I've returned to this over a dozen times. It's rich, with characters delightfully true but humanly broken, a setting that has all the escapism and richness of Harry Potter and Narnia but actually feels real, and a plot that makes me want to strangle the characters for getting themselves into such a mess.
And for the geeks, you've got references to David Foster Wallace, James Joyce, and plenty of more recent works you'll have to experience to experience.
Did I mention that the sequels get even more intense, rich and meaty? No i didn't. But they do. And I'm running out of ways to recommend this without spoilers.
Any speculative fiction fan should add this to their list, it'll be canon in less than a decade. Any literary fiction fan who wants to believe a the middle ground with genre fiction exists should read this to remember that escapism can still be rich (it's got just as many fickle, moody false heros as any lit fic).
And us normal people can just enjoy a story that about broken regular folks kicking ass (sometimes with magic).
Started this after watching the TV show. Of course the book is always better, giving lots of background and nuance. The narrator made this really fly--he was the perfect choice. Can't wait to start the second volume!
I live in Florida, I'm Cerified Hypnotherapist, Recover Coach & Trainer, NLP, Theta Healing and Energy Healing. I'm all so a Process Server in Palm Beach County.
I personally did not care for the story of the book. The reader for the story I believe totally ruined the book for me. He had no enthusiasm reading the book. Just a very monotone reader. I don't believe that they made this book into it TV show. The TV show is even worse than the book!
I really struggled to finish this book. I felt that the downtime to action ratio was not well balanced. The story started a little bit interesting and it shortly became tedious. Books are not good or bad, but you either like them or you don't and I really didn't like this one. I didn't hate it but I definitely won't continue reading the series.
Part Harry Potter, part The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Very interesting story that is fast paced and keeps you wanting to keep moving through the story. I would highly recommend this book!
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