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Publisher's Summary

In a secret world of forbidden knowledge, power comes at a terrible price....

Quentin Coldwater's life is changed forever by an apparently chance encounter: when he turns up for his entrance interview to Princeton, he finds his interviewer dead - but a strange envelope bearing Quentin's name leads him down a path very different from any he'd ever imagined.

The envelope, and the mysterious manuscript it contains, leads to a secret world of obsession and privilege, a world of freedom and power; and, for a while, it's a world that seems to answer all Quentin's desires. But the idyll cannot last - and when it's finally shattered, Quentin is drawn into something darker and far more dangerous than anything he could ever have expected....

©2016 Lev Grossman (P)2016 Penguin Books Limited

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Simon
  • Lund, Sweden
  • 11-15-16

Didn't cast a spell on me

I get that Grossman is trying to create a three-dimensional protagonist with weaknesses and problems. In doing so the character is probably supposed to be easier to identify with. But I never identified with Quentin, and I lost my interest in him throughout the book. I want to read something that inspires me, but reading about Quentin's self-pity and his poor view on life and people in general is just depressing.

Along with this I must say the plot is not intriguing enough and it seems like the novel is missing some editing. Loose plot ends are thrown out now and again without being picked up which made me think the author forgot about them. And for an "adult fantasy" it just doesn't seem to be intelligent enough. You never understand what is the agenda of influential off-screen characters (Fogg, Mayakovsky), which makes me think there are none. The only way this fantasy novel is adult is in the frequent occurrence of drugs, sex and alcohol, I was hoping there would a more sophisticated side to the story than that but I did't find it.

Grossman's language and imagination is good enough for a good fantasy novel, but "The Magician's" misses out on too many other things.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Don't Understand the Appeal

Is there anything you would change about this book?

So many people have recommended this book to me, more often than not with the line "it's like a grown-up version of Harry Potter". It's not. It lacks the sense of wonder I've come to expect from fantasy novels, and all characters are irredeemable sociopaths who meander around being mopey despite the fact they command limitless magical powers. If that sounds fun to you, this is the book for you.

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

The story takes forever to get going, to the point I was over three-quarters in and was still unsure what, if anything, is the overarching plot. Then someone comes in, gives our "heroes" some magical thingy, and kickstarts something resembling a plot. THIS IS NOT GOOD WRITING.

The book is in dire need of an editor's touch. An editor would have convinced Grosman to hurry up with the plot and not spend chapter after chapter on meaningless events that don't come to any fruition. The same editor might have also convinced Grosman not to put a Scarface impression in the middle of what is supposed to be a tense action scene, or to use weird, illogical wording such as "a silent gust of roaring wind." Unfortunately, since all of the above happen in the book, it seems that Grosman's only editor was his left hand inside a sock puppet.

Any additional comments?

The biggest shame is that it's clear that Grosman can write, and there are areas of the book that are compelling enough that you want to go on just to see where this is going. Spoiler alert: it goes nowhere. The book is less Harry Potter for adults, and more like Stoner with magic. I'm sure some people will find that appealing. Personally, I think I'd rather watch paint dry.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Was awesome don't listen to the crap reviews

This book was surprisingly awesome. Good fun, good magic good characters and nice and rough around the edges

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Awful writing - TV series is superior

I picked this up because I’ve enjoyed SyFy’s The Magicians tv-series because books are always superior right? Wrong. Quentin is extremely unlikable as a main character. The author can’t stop describing breasts of every woman he sees and Quentin can’t stop listing after them. Pacing is all sorts of weird with lots of telling and almost no showing. Five years in Breakbills takes about half of the book where nothing happens except some 3rd rate attempt of re-creating quidditch and completely non impactful appearance of “the Beast”. Fillory is ruined by Quentin’s moping and entitled whining and only thing that got me to the end was the fantastic narrator.

Hard pass for the rest of the series and big recommend to the tv series.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

entertaining

I did like it, but the stereotypes about women were a bit much. I've heard people say it's Harry Potter for older people, with the swearing and the drinking and such, but I do not agree. I like the concept of what it is to go on an adventure as an adult, but it lacks depth, and the story isn't the best. but it is entertaining.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Tediously captivating

A wonderful performance of the embodiment of tedium and chasing happiness beyond the horizon. Annoyingly depressing and yet the story sucks you in and along the dark and gloomy alley towards the blackness at the end.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing!

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Magicians, Book 1?

It's the same magical concept as Harry Potter, but for older people. It's better than harry potter for adults. Brilliant. The writing, the story, the characters. I loved it and can't wait to listen to the others.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

If I could have listened to it in 1 sitting, I would have. I'm happy that it was as long as it is. The interruptions made it better, I would think about the book when I wasn't listening.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Tuke
  • 03-05-16

Narnia and Harry Potter combination for adults

Where does The Magicians, Book 1 rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This story was certainly entertaining. I would suggest that if you grew up with Harry Potter and found that you were never invited to Hogwarts, then your sense of disillusion with the world can be sorted out with this original, if not ground-breaking tale. I liked the concept and the characters were quite well formed, although as the story progressed it got a little bit too referential - Narnia "Magician's Nephew". However, I do like books that refer back to the earlier genre works, and Grossman has certainly wrought something new from children's fantasy fiction. When the next one comes out on audio (only available currently in the US audible site) I shall probably download it and continue listening, but I wasn't left with a desperation to continue to the story. The protagonist, Quentin, was that rather in vogue mixture of brilliance tinged with flaws and issues. I have to say though, that I was increasingly unsympathetic towards him, which could arguably be Grossman's plan with the whole 'disillusionment' thing. Mark Bramhall was a brilliant reader, well paced with good characterisation.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • oliver barrow
  • 02-24-17

loved this book

So much better than the tv show, it's got some brilliantly dark yet wonderful moments and the variation of characters and and adventures is wildly entertaining

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Albion
  • 06-18-16

You're a morbid emo Harry.

Would you try another book written by Lev Grossman or narrated by Mark Bramhall?

The narration was above par, pity it couldn't lift the story.

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

Have some happiness

Have you listened to any of Mark Bramhall’s other performances? How does this one compare?

Yes

What character would you cut from The Magicians, Book 1?

Quentin

Any additional comments?

By the time the principal announces that what makes them magicians is that they are miserable the reader will have already found that out.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • gepocock
  • 05-05-16

The Magicians - absolute magic

What did you like most about The Magicians, Book 1?

It isn't often that you listen to the first in a trilogy and actually want to be bothered to listen to the others, but in this case - you will. Give it a little time to warm up I would say, the first third of the book sets the characters. It is an adults book, similar to 'The Kingkiller chronicles' by Patrick Rothfuss, but with a little more sex and adult language. I am certainly going to use my precious monthly credit to read the second book. Mark Bramhall is easy to listen to, which isn't always the case with American accents if you are British. I would recommend this book.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I found that dealing with 'magic' can sometimes give a book a childish slant, but in this case not. It is matter of fact and deals with magic as if it were a science for those with a natural give. You accept it as such.

What about Mark Bramhall’s performance did you like?

The introduces this magical land Phillory, which they all read as a child in much the same way as 'The lion, the witch and the wardrobe'. However, it isn't all candyfloss and lemon trees, and allows the adults to experience it in an adult way, which is quite enchanting.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Absolutely nothing. Easy listening - but be careful you don't fall asleep in the bath as I did and then have to try to find your place again. He reads so nicely, it's very relaxing.

Any additional comments?

If you are looking for fairytale book, perhaps this isn't for you. The language and sexual references could be offensive for some, although this doesn't take over the book, it is only in a few parts.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • joshua hodson
  • 04-03-16

The love child of Lewis and Salinger

Careful...spoilers...ish

This post modern flurry into fantasy is an enjoyable, if not a cynical look at what would happen if Narnia was invaded by this current depraved generation. Of course they never use the name, for legal reasons I expect, however anyone who is even remotely familiar with Lewis' fantasy saga will see the parallels. The protagonist, Quentin Coldwater, owes more than a little to Holden Caufield and it has the same dry, broken view of this world that Salinger so vividly created.

There are some truly wonderful sequences. The reader spends almost 1 full chapter as a goose and it is delicious. I also had some in the narnia like world that feels like the far more grotesque and gritty version most of us have imagined at some point in our lives.

I enjoyed this book however I never truly connected emotionally to the characters. I guess that is because I am not as cynical as they are and even though lots of exciting things happen it never felt epic. I just didn't care enough about the outcomes. Not that it is a fault with the book per se as I believe this is exactly what the author wanted to achieve. It will never be my favourite book but worth a read.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Franzisca
  • 03-27-16

Entertaining

Harry Potter meets Narnia- not exactly the freshest of ideas but entertaining none the less.
Will see how the story develops.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Georgia
  • 03-08-16

Not what you think it's going to be

This has often been dubbed as a grown up Harry Potter, which I think is utter bull. This is a fantasy book with a magical school however the part that makes it unique has nothing to do with learning magic at all.

I hated the main protagonist as a person but loved him as a character (if that makes any sense). He starts out completely self absorbed but I think the books' strength lies in telling you why he's such an ass. It explores some really important things about most people's dissatisfaction with the world, no matter what they gain or achieve. If anything it uses fantasy as a setting for some really awesome character development and exploration.

I do hope audible adds the second and third books.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Blue Jay
  • 05-15-16

Fantasy lovers beware

As a lover of fantasy, I actually found this book rather insulting. It felt as though it was written by someone who disliked fantasy and had set about to 'debunk' or send up the genre to some extent. Almost as if he had read the Potter books and said to himself "This is all ridiculous" and had set about creating unexceptional, boring characters who are mean, unfaithful, selfish and to whom very little happens. Then towards the end of the novel, he cops out and places them into an actual fantasy setting.

And as for the JD Salinger comparisons, I'm sorry but Quentin Coldwater is no Holden Caulfield. He is completely void of anything like wit, and unable to really engage the reader in his experience.

I like to be swept away by a narrative into a parallel/imaginary world - that's kind of the point of fantasy - and if, like me, that's what you're looking for, I would honestly think twice about trying The Magicians.

I know that reading a book is a very personal experience, and I hate to sound mean, but in my experience this book was dire.

I'm listening to The Name of the Wind now. Phew! A relief to be back in a 'real' fantasy realm...

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • alexander
  • 03-17-16

miserable but relatively interesting.

main protagonist was so boring. only so much you can take. narrative was good but lacked excitement

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • comedaygoday
  • 06-29-16

THe Magicians a book review By Lead Astray.

I liked it enough to buy the other two books. However it does get a bit of a feel of the lion the witch and the wardrobe part way through.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Sort by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Jennifer R Kenny
  • 05-04-17

great idea, poor execution

What did you like best about The Magicians, Book 1? What did you like least?

the idea of a realistic magical world as very intriguing, however very quickly I came to realise that realistic seems to translate into depressing. Quintin is a terrible character to follow, and his mood swings can throw you easily out of a scene. There were plots that we were following and then weirdly neglected for no good reason.

The ending saved the story. There was enough happening that was satisfying that make me finish it but I would not be recommending it to people.

What was most disappointing about Lev Grossman’s story?

plots that went nowhere was the most frustrating. Interesting ideas were cut short with basic explanations that were never questioned. The story might be a warning for the rich kids of the world that have no direction in their lives beyond spending daddy's money but that isn't enough to save it from its many weaknesses.

What about Mark Bramhall’s performance did you like?

The reading was good, with enough differences between character voices to follow along easily. An easy and calming voice.

If this book were a film would you go see it?

This book is a tv show, and my friend has watched the first season. We compared notes. If the show has brought you here, do not bother with the book. They are drastically different.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • DoctorFirefly89
  • 08-26-17

Save your time and watch the tv series instead

I read this book because I watched the tv adaptation and really liked it. I thought, of course the book must be better. I was wrong. The problem is that the characters are not developed enough. They don't really grow, and there's no nuance. I think the author was going for gritty, but their drunkenness and apathy just put me off. They are one-dimensional. The thing that really got me was that the author can't seem to decide whether the readers should hate Janet or not. She's nice, then she's the worst of the worst, then she's good again. I also didn't connect with the protagonist. He came across as whiny and defeatist.
I will not be reading the sequels.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • B.W
  • 05-21-16

I think someone forgot to include a narrative

Talk about squandering a good idea. A group of largely unloveable characters experience an adventure with no discernible point. Along the way they fail to demonstrate any personal growth or character development and generally get on the readers nerves.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Nick
  • 05-17-16

.

its a slow start to the book but then it just keeps building to the point that you cant stop

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Anonymous User
  • 08-11-17

Good Book to Read, Very Slow Audiobook

What did you like best about The Magicians, Book 1? What did you like least?

The narrator creates very distinct personas for each character, and performs them with real personality behind the words. (but he does like to pronounce the "w" in words with "wh" like "wwwwho")

What was most disappointing about Lev Grossman’s story?

This is the sort of story that value world building above all else. I imagine you could ingress yourself into it on paper, but for an audiobook I like to anticipate the action. I kept thinking "this is where the plot begins!", only to have this part of the story fizzle out, just another random scene without real conflict. It took almost the whole book to realise the only development happens in the psyche of the protagonist, as his mental health deteriorates, but it is so repetitive in an audio medium that it was still hard to appreciate. The story only picks up about 12 hours in, making the first 3 quarters of the book seem inconsequential and needing a good trimming down.

Have you listened to any of Mark Bramhall’s other performances? How does this one compare?

No, but this one is fantastic, and I might look for more just based on the narrator.

Did The Magicians, Book 1 inspire you to do anything?

If I find a second hand paperback, I might pick it up, as I suspect I would get a better insight into mental health, but its a hard thing to appreciate in audio, given how it is written.

Any additional comments?

Just get it paperback, I reckon its worth it over audiobook. Just too slow and seems so unimportant for the first 10 hours of listening. Its hard to appreciate it with such an unpleasant protagonist

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • phoebe
  • 05-19-16

rich exploration of fantasy scapes and personality

great. exciting. slow start but worth hanging in for the climactic finish. creative. a rich fantasy.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Rebecca Y
  • 09-29-17

Why?

I was told that this was a good book in a good series. I struggled to finish this, and I will not be reading the others.
It felt like a crossover between Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia, but done poorly. It dragged on and on, giving you far too much detail on stuff you couldn't care less about, glossing over things that could, maybe, have been interesting. I feel like a lot of it was setting up for the sequels, but it put way too much into that.
I'm not actually certain that the author realises that women are humans. In one part of the book, Quentin's professor (a woman whose cleavage he kept staring at, thus we had to hear about it, over and over, along with the brests and physical appearance of every female character in the book) had "unladylike" sweat patches under her arms. It was not relative to the story at all.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • kelly oates
  • 06-26-18

Something for those Childhood dreamers

If you loved to dream about escaping to magical lands or just discovering magic as a child then this is the grown up book for you. This book was the perfect level up from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, which (let's be real) Grossman borrowed heavily from. What he did not borrow however was the magic that he created. I found the years that Quentin and the gang spent at Breakbills to be captivating and so inventive.
Warning for those with little patience, Quentin is a morose and difficult protag to live with and that does not get better as the book (and books) go on.
The narration is pleasant and easy to listen to, Bramhall bringing his own lilts and nuances to each characters portrayal.
This is by far my favourite book in the series. And if you finish this and find the last quarter a little so so, i would recommend leaving the series at just this book.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Oliver
  • 06-09-18

Intriguing beginning that went nowhere

After reading an online review that put this in the reviewers top 25 fantasy books of all time and described it as "Harry Potter for adults", I thought I'd give it a go. The sample and then the first couple of hours intrigued me and held my attention. The premise and the characters were original and interesting. Unfortunately, it just never went anywhere. I found myself increasingly disliking the protagonist with his whiney, depressed and depressing attitude. He started the novel as an interesting character with quirks, good traits and bad but but they end was a caricature of a depressed teen - the opposite of good writing. The other characters weren't much better.

As with the protagonist, the story started quite well and I was looking forward to how the story might develop. In the first half of the book the author dangled many possible story threads which would have made for quite an acceptable story arc - none of which were taken. Instead by the midpoint, I was totally at a loss as to where the story was heading - and more importantly - why I should care. I could (should) have stopped right there as there were only a few unimportant loose ends. If I had, I would have finished only mildly unsatisfied. But I didn't and the second half takes a turn for the worse. The books actual story arc was weak and uninteresting.

The narrator managed quite well with the material he had - and the only reason I have given it two stars.

In the end was I glad to have finished the book so I could stop listening.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Anonymous User
  • 06-05-18

well below average

one of the worst books I have read it was hard to finish and I really just could not get into it the main character was far to self pittying and it just really wasn't the book for me I hope the second one is better than the first