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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)

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  • Tom
  • columbuss, MI, United States
  • 03-25-17

Don't bother

I would never recommend this book to anyone. I'm not sure what the plot was. It was slow.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Alternate title: Harry Potter Craps on Narnia

My one solace is that no trees were harmed inthe making of this audio book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Completely Unlikable Characters.

No characters to invest in or care about throughout this story. I can't finish and I am over 60% done.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Disappointing

Any additional comments?

I was really looking forward to this book from the premise, but the story read more like a review of the book. I felt to be constantly on the outside looking in, generally sweeping over years of these unlikeable character's lives, like a constant summary of what was happening. It was hard to connect or feel a part of the narrative, even though not much of a narrative was happening for most of the book. This purposelessness seemed to be a commentary on contemporary society, which I found to be as boring as this book. <br/>

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Lame story

Too many references to Narnia but no original excitement of it. too long and slow

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Gross, Man.

Grossman writes like an arrogant, petulant 16 year old that thinks he knows everything and pitys you for not being as clever as him. He also freely and openly sneers at the series he steals from, Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia, while offering nothing original other than a sheer layer of New Yorker condescension and continuous useless swearing for a ham fisted "these are teenagers" effect. The entire thing feels like an "I can do this better" mockbuster of a book. Bramhall doesn't help anything, sounding bored at all times like this is beneath him.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Not worth the hype

This was the book of the month in book club, I was told it was kinda like Harry Potter in college, but I really didn't care for this. Others in my club really enjoyed it, but the story just didn't rub me right.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • tomas
  • phoenix, AZ, United States
  • 02-12-17

SLOW, MUNDANE AND NEARLY ALL FILLER.

I'm not sure what I was hoping for. at the very least I wanted something not so boring.
instead I got day to day living of a nerd while he studied at very ordinary Hogwarts wanna be.
i was treated to all the minutiae that made up Grossman's take on how magic works.
for me, conflict is when the plot actually starts, and it didn't start for well into the story. only to actually be no conflict at all the grand scheme of it all.. the real story BARELY STARTS WITH 3 HOURS LEFT WHILE FINALLY INSIDE A BOOTLEG NARNIA!
it took me 3 years to finish this book. that's how boring it is. I forced myself to finish it because otherwise it'd be stuck in my library forever mocking me since it was too late to get a refund on it.
then it has the nerve to leave a cliffhanger!! based only on the strength of crappy build up and sub par final scene and equally lame twists in the end (chatwins)?!?!?!
apparently there's a show out on it now. don't waste your time on this.
totally forgot.. the narrator chosen was dry to say the least. his English accent, although nice, have the wrong tone to characters that came from New York and other USA addresses.
I give it 1 star because of the false advertisement also. don't sell me on something that this book is not. instead, a warning that it's more about the inner workings of a boring boy learning/doing magic would've been the red flag I needed to save my credit.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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I thought it was just ok

All the reviews said it was either a 5 star book or a 2 star book, so I got it.

I wasn't too impressed with the story; I guess I like happily ever after if I am escaping real life.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Just don't

Two thirds through the book and nothing has happened. I'm fine with a cynical, depressed protagonist, but only if there's a plot to follow him through. This book has no story, no world building (despite ample opportunities), and no character development.

I guess if you want a poorly written Catcher in the Rye with magic and an extra 8 hiurs

1 of 1 people found this review helpful