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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

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Hodge podge of magical fiction duct taped together

I wanted to like this book so badly, however from the onset it was kind of all over the place. I can understand why people like the book and I definitely enjoyed it to some degree, but it was disappointing an unoriginal. As an avid fantasy lover, this was recommended to me like many others- because I love Harry Potter. However, this more like Narnia than anything and almost to the point of being copycat. The likeness is cringe worthy. Additionally the book runs through years at a time in half of a book. It seemed like we were rushing to get to some point and I think it may have been better had the author taken his time to get to the point. I was sad to be disappointed, and will probably finish the rest of the series just in case it gets better.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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just couldn't finish

There were plenty of negative reviews I should have listened to them but I thought that I would give it a chance. Everyone was right that this character is really disenchanted and this is not a happy-go-lucky book. The problem is I didn't like the main character. There were several humorous moments that made me smirk and kind of laugh but overall I could not get invested in the character.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Nate505
  • Lakewood, Colorado USA
  • 01-11-17

Extremely Unlikeable Characters

Any additional comments?

This book has promise, and I kind of like the idea of it in general, but holy hell are the characters so bad and unlikable. Especially the main character. He is such a jackass. I struggle to find any sympathetic characteristics about him at all. It would be one thing if he were interesting, but he's just a dick. And the story never focuses off of him, so you're stuck being around him the entire story. His group of friends are not much better either.

I tend to be a completest, so I want to finish the series, but not if it means being around this guy again. I'm stunned an author would write a character this way. There is really nothing redeeming about Quentin at all. In fact, the few moments of joy I got in the story were when he was being hurt in some way, because he really, really deserves it.

(ok, so I'm still a few hours from finishing this book so perhaps he changes in the end, but that wouldn't do much to redeem the first 13 hours spent with him)

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Problematic

The author is sexist homophobic and ablist and it shows very clearly in the book

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very Harry Potter

What would have made The Magicians better?

The story line is very much like Harry Potter, but with much more anger and angst. The writing is not very good. It was choppy and often poorly plotted out.

What could Lev Grossman have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Grossman should have tried to use his ideas in an original plot.

Any additional comments?

I would not bother with the sequel. It was hard enough to finish book one.
The only good thing was the narration, which was fine.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Too long

Way too long and boring. The characters are never appealing. I kept hoping it would get better. Yuck.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Horrible and nasty!

Hated this book. Take everything profane and horrible and put it in one story with a back story and you have this book! Bleck!!!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Disappointing

What disappointed you about The Magicians?

The main character was thoroughly unpleasant. I suspect he reflects the authors perspective on life. Very sneery. I really was hoping to enjoy the book as there are three of them.

What was most disappointing about Lev Grossman’s story?

There are no polar bears or arctic foxes in Antarctica. Either the author doesn't know or he doesn't care. Even a few sentence to say something like, "There are no polar bears in Antartica but we chose the biggest warmest animals we could think of. We played and watched as the penguins scatter around us."

What aspect of Mark Bramhall’s performance would you have changed?

He did a fine job of reading an unpleasant book.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment. With a few changes the book could have been good.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Left a lot missing

Icouldn't finish it. It seemed like it was telling a story vut it was very blotchy at times, later going back and remembering this event that was not described previously. it git worse after school. very boring and tideous overall.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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boring

the lead in was drawn out the the ^mear^ too short. mauve good for a previous teen I expected more

1 of 1 people found this review helpful