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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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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

love the series. not the audio

I've tried to get in touch with the story, twice. Once way before the series started. I liked the series, then tried again
The narrator BORES me, or the story. I just can't get into.

25 of 36 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

I felt like this one was a slog

Total disclaimer: I came to read the book because I loved the TV series, and had heard the next season would largely be based on the third book. Anyways, I found this book to be such a tedious slog. Quentin is an insufferable a-hole, completely unlikeable, so to have all the drama told from his viewpoint was pretty rough. I found the showrunners have been able to make Q completely adorable. Also, there are some really lazy writing traits, like instead of writing about big moments, like when the Beast shows up, these are all done in recaps, so we don't really get to "see" them occur in real time, which really takes the bite (literally in this case) out of the scenes. I found as well that he does not write compelling female characters, at all.

The narrator is wonderful however, with the exception of how he pronounces "sloth" like "sloath", otherwise he is really great.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Foundation for TV Success, Failure of a Novel

Sadly, this novel lets down any viewers of the television show. The characters, storylines, and beloved world of The Magicians is brought to life more in the first episode of the television series than that of the entire first novel of this book series. Mark Bramhall presents the story clear, crisp, and without many faults; however, the overall story is like looking on vignettes of a larger book. For anyone that has viewed the television series first, the reader finds themselves relaying on the series to bring knowledge that is otherwise missing in the books. A hard read for anyone to spread out over time. The story is told mostly through the eyes of Quentin. Anytime a significant character leaves Quentin the novel follows the real life similarity in letting those characters drift away for numerous chapters. In the world of The Magicians characters like Penny the quirky native skilled magician disappears for years due to his absence for a number of chapters, leaving readers to wonder what happened to these characters for all of those years. Yet, the hardest part about this book is its overall lack of depth in any form of an antagonist. You battle wondering if the antagonist is magic, depression, the protagonist, or the beast presented in a lone chapter without reference. Overall, The Magicians: A Novel is a beautiful world that lacks refinement.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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great read

honestly, after watching the series, I was turned on to reading the book. I don't have much time like every other family. I, do find that Audible makes it easy.

fun story that is much different from the show!

reviews on book complained about sexual references. never heard many.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Onward to Glory!!!

I have watched the Netflix series of the Magicians and still loved this book. Listening to this book was outstanding.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Rick
  • Urcuqui, Ecuador
  • 09-16-17

Through the Looking Glass

This is not a story about pulling rabbits out of hats. And while many have labeled it Harry Potter for adults, there’s more than a little of Alice in Wonderland, too, with characters at least as strange as March Hares and Mad Hatters.

Our young magicians find themselves in a bar, for example, and in strange company: a family of three staring balefully at empty cups and saucers before them; a walking, talking birch tree; a large, brown bear wearing a waistcoat and sitting slumped in an armchair, drinking peach schnapps; a bartender dressed in black with brass buttons, like an Edwardian policeman; three beavers in the company of a fat, green cricket; a white goat sitting alone; and a slender man with horns jutting through his blonde hair. The bear turns out to be an excruciating bore, knowledgeable only on the subjects of hibernation, chestnuts, and honeybees.

It’s a tableau fully worthy of the iconic bar scene in Star Wars, and we're in for a wild ride.

As narrator, Mark Bramhall has just the right touch for a plot with many moods—sarcastic, moody, cheerful, icy—and a range of voices to go with them. He’s a lively and articulate reader who captures the subtleties of every situation. He reads with what appears to be genuine relish.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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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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    1 out of 5 stars
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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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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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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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    2 out of 5 stars
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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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful