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)
Absolutely. This is phenomenal storytelling, true-to-life, and an overall enriching experience, especially when considered with the sequel. The characters are dynamic, the conflicts exciting, the resolutions unexpected and satisfying, and the villain absolutely brilliant and terrifying. I hope to see much, much more from this author.
Getting right down to it, basic sentence structure, word-choice, and flow of narration. It is expertly done. I also loved how human the heroes are, being completely relatable instead of thinly-drawn paragons that we see too often in fantasy series. This is as much a growing-experience for the characters as to the reader/listener.
Bramhall is perfect. It is hard to pick a favorite, but his Eliot was particularly good.
It is impossible to describe why without spoilers, but the final act is incredibly moving and satisfying.
I am utterly baffled by the criticisms that come in some variation of "this isn't Harry Potter." I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan, but come on people, that is like criticizing The Notebook because it wasn't as scary as The Exorcist. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. The Magicians is fantasy literature at its best and is meant for a mature, intelligent audience. If you are truly unsatisfied with the ending, which I found to be quite happy actually, I hope you give the second book a chance, because it is leaps and bounds better than the first, which I dearly love anyway.
The only criticism I would level against this book is that the pacing seemed a bit too fast in the school section. I would have enjoyed that as its own book.
This had much less global appeal than I had hoped - I am not a fan of this type of book, and found the School of Magic premise not my thing. But, the story arc was good, characters interesting and well developed, and nicely written overall. I listened to the end and enjoyed it. It had a melancholic sweetness that I appreciated.
The performance was really quite good, though I did find the tone to be sometimes a bit boring... but for what Bramhall was working with, he did a phenomenal job.
I wanted to like this book, so much. I like the IDEA behind the book, a disaffected teenager finds that magic doesn't solve all of his problems, and how that fits into the real world. I even like the excessive nods to Narnia. I wanted to know how it ended, which is why I gave it two stars, though it's probably more a 1.5.
But my god this book was boring. I kept waiting for something to happen and when something finally WOULD happen it would pass by quickly leaving several more pages of nothing to follow. Despite all this nothingness, most of the characters were undeveloped, unlikable, and unsympathetic.
Also, good god Grossman - enough with the similes. It's like he took the English language and threw it in the washing machine and it bled all over everything. I would have liked this book if he had skipped all the boring nothingness and focused on the interesting.
If you go into The Magicians comparing it to other books, you may find yourself disappointed. But if you accept it on its own level, you may, as I did, find yourself enjoying it. This book is very well written. Grossman can really spin a tale. And the characters are starkly contrasted and interesting in their flaws and strengths. I will be (happily) reading book two. And likely any more that come along in the series.
I loved this book. its a little rough and it does not have a good role model but for everyone that didn't have and easy transition from childhood to adulthood there are moments in this book that you should relate too. its a great contrast to Harry potter (which I love) where all the main characters are almost saintlike. give it a shot. I really liked it.
Audiobook Junkie... Love all types of Science Fiction
Lev Grossman creates a fantastic world of magic. However, it does not live up to expectations. The main character becomes distasteful and depressing. Many parts of the book seemed rushed while other parts were drawn out with boring talk. I would have liked to see more adventure, discovery and have a hero emerge or at least find some redeeming qualities in the characters. I give it 3 stars for its potential. I hope Lev grows as a writer through this book and produces a better sequel.
I have to say that I bailed on this book with two hours still left to go. It just didn't hold my interest. I really didn't care about any of the characters and while Harry was totally believable, this totally wasn't.
Don't go into this book expecting a Narnia or Harry Potter type tale. The author is clearly, even mockingly, using that sort of fantasy as a scaffold to tell a deeper story. He does it well and I found myself hoping for a sequel when the book ended.
If you are looking for another Harry Potter look elsewhere. There is dirty language, sex, depression, drinking, and more at this magicians school. Yes the main character is to into self loathing and feeling sorry for himself much of the time but it is also more human and "real" than the Harry Potter series is all Disney like. The story also moves more slowly and without the fun than the Potter series. However this book is different and has depth. Try it if you aren't afraid of trying something different.
The reader is so so.
This book was ok but the story was very choppy. Several times, there were major occurances that the author went nowhere with. I kept waiting for them to be tied back into the novel but it didn't happen.
I felt like this book got pushed through the publishing system at this level of editing because the author is the book reviewer for Time Magazine and no one was willing to be harsh enough with him. It really does need a good edit and more continuity.
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