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Editorial 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

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings

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  • 4.0 out of 5.0
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    5,860
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Performance

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Story

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  • 3 Stars
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not the most captivating reader

story was OK, I was interested based on the show and thought that it was better done.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Spoiled rich "super intelligent " magic children.

Just finished this series. It wasn't good. The first book was a great set up. Two thirds of the second book got weird, and the last third really broke down into a soap opera, or a part from The Room. The third book was just frustrating garbage with self loathing from the main character. Quentin is relatable at The beginning of The first book, but then completely falls off the reservation by The third book, and by then you don't care about what happens to him or his friends. The side characters are forgettable, like, I mean, I kept getting Elliot And Quentin mixed up and the female characters seem to be there for just sex or drama. There was a jock wizard? And a punk one? Whatever, it was a poor ending to could have been an ok series

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Dull dull DULL

Would you try another book from Lev Grossman and/or Mark Bramhall?

probably not

What was most disappointing about Lev Grossman’s story?

none of the characters are likeable

Which scene was your favorite?

the fight with "the beast"

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

It proved to me that sometimes the crappy movie/tv adaptations are in fact better than the book. It also gave me high hopes that the second book couldn't possibly be worse than the first.

Any additional comments?

I really tried to like this book, I listened to the whole thing just waiting for it to get better but it never did

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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TV show is much better

The narration is too long and the show is much better. Do not waste your valuable time.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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The TV Show is Better!

I had in interest in the book ever since I saw the tv show on SyFy. Unfortunately I found it much less interesting than the tv show. The book left me wanting more out of some characters, but nothing ever happened. I felt like I was watching a long trailer but was never satisfied. 3 stars for the story, as some parts were enjoyable, 5 stars for the narrator. If I didn't follow the tv show, I would not had continued reading it all the way through. But too late I am invested. Hopefully the 2nd book is better.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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interesting...

kinda of a harry potter meets the chronicles of Narnia with a little wizard of oz sprinkled in (the book, not the movie)-- rated R versions. overall, it's entertaining.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Weird

This book has a certain futility to it. By the end i was even asking myself what is the point. The characters are pretty bland or shallow and without detail. The story rather boring where it could have been amazing. It had opportunities to achieve greatness that were ignored for a more petty and shallow wretching attempt at being deep or emotional. In the end i leave not knowing anything at all about either world they lived. Nor about the conclusion of any character. Weak. Not to mention the main character is himself bland, unlikeable, and boring. At least it killed a couple days of work.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Big disappointment.

mild spoilers.

At first the Narnia-HP mashup was endearing. But the story could never get past the one - dimensional characters. Saying they're in college and then young adults does not cover over the poor writing, lack of development and drunken, aimless plotline. Having characters argue, swear, do drugs and have sex doesn't make them grown up or give them depth when there's no existential search. They're just acting like children without supervision while Dad's liquor cabinet is open and someone found Mom's copy of "50 Shades of Gray". Penny is the most interesting character and he's a hidden genius who cant decide if he wants to remain the rebel or just an a hole. Then he does an abrupt about face, shelves the rebellious anti-authority trope and is groveling and abasing himself as the story moves into climax. sigh.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Totally different magic than Harry Potter

Any additional comments?

It was really difficult to rate this book. On the one hand, I recognized the reflections of the emotions of the main character, and even of his friends. On the other hand, there was so much intermingling of the concepts introduced in the Harry Potter novels and the Narnia novels, that it was difficult to untangle them and judge this book on its own. The magic in this book was very different than the magic in the Harry Potter, and fortunately, that Christianity mixed with the story was much less a part of this book than of the Narnia books. But I think that the other books handled themselves better for what they were then this book did for what it is. Overall, I vacillated between loving and hating this book – not because of a comparison with any other book, but it being that I am basically a plot driven soul, I considered the plot of this book, and it vacillated between being one with which I could relate and one that I totally hated! In the end, I think it was a good book, but it tried to do too much. Oh, and the whole thing with the white stag only out of place.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Don't

I wasn't expecting much when I bought this book but I thought the premise sounded like good quirky fun. Even with my low expectations, it was beyond disappointing. The plot had much in common with a colander and the pacing was terrible. Every chapter felt rushed and somehow incomplete. I didn't much care for any of the characters, especially the main character. He was a whiny, entitled narcissist. I found myself hoping that bad things would befall him just so he would have something real to moan about.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful