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)
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.
I've spent far too long trying to convince myself that I will eventually like the characters and the story enough to look forward to continuing to listen. Today, I admitted to myself that it's just not happening. No particularly likable characters, no gripping drama, just dreary stories of their coming to grips with this
I read this because a friend recommended it as a "Harry Potter for adults." (I loved the Harry Potter series.)
And there were several elements that made this very enticing: a school only for magicians, another "magic" world, a special game that only magicians play, super-smart slightly outcast kids in the real world who excel at magic school, a journey to another world and a chance to bring down evil.
HOWEVER... I ended up being very disappointed. The story spends way too much time focused on how bored these super-smart magicians are, and how much they drink, and how true happiness eludes them, and how they keep to themselves and are far too cool for the rest of the school, their families, and basically the rest of the world. It was impossible to get into the characters because I felt no sympathy for them. I wish there was more time spent on the magic and the other world, instead of detailing the relationships among the main group of kids.
The narrator's monotone did nothing to help the dreariness of listening to the teen angst that ruled each twist of the story. He's one of those narrators who basically has the same voice for every character, and though he made a valiant effort at various accents, his performance fell short.
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 think the author should have spent a little bit more time on the fantasy part and a little less on the literary part.
Imagine a world where there is but magic isn't magical or exciting... It's mostly about math and having a 17 hr existential crisis. So, so boring.
.... 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.
Held my attention half the time; I thought I'd abandon it at other times. In summation: I don't care enough about the characters or this story to read the sequels. That says it all, I think.
Have to admit that it takes a very brave author to take Harry Potter and Narnia and have it apply to those young men who are just now discovering "Game of Thrones". Post adolescent young man has to decide what his future will be while still clinging to the rituals of childhood.
Adulthood is scary, so Quentin our hero, tries to avoid it for as long as possible. Unlike the "Potter" series where father and parental figures abound, Q (as he is sometimes called) has nobody but himself to guide him and he makes a mess of things. Still, little by little he starts to grow up, though by the end Q is not much further then Harry Potter at the end of "Sorcerer's Stone". Wondrous for a boy of 12, dismaying for a young man in his mid twenties.
Still, I salute Lev Grossman for this brave attempt. Kinda like decent comfort food with with added spices.
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