Kemper's Reviews > The Magicians

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
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Aug 02, 11

bookshelves: fantasy, magic, 2011-r

A quick and easy way to describe this would be to call it Harry Potter for adults. There's a magic school and a lot more sex and booze than poor old Harry ever had. But that doesn't do it justice because this was an extremely original and unique twist on the notion of what it would be like to actually live in a world where magic and fantasy realms exist.

Quentin Coldwater is a bored teenager getting ready to apply for college but is already seriously disillusioned with his life and wishes things were more like his favorite fantasy novels set in a land called Fillory, which is essentially the author's stand-in for Narnia. However, Quentin quickly learns that he's got magical talent, and he's suddenly attending a training academy called Brakebills.

Quentin is the kind of guy who after finding out he won a huge lottery would instantly start bitching about how bad the taxes will be. Even though he's always longed for a world closer to his Filory novels, he never sees the adventure he's living by learning magic and all the things that go into his training. Learning magic and even falling in love don't make him happy, and he holds onto the childish idea that there's some 'next place' that will finally make him complete.

To make matters worse, once he and his friends graduate, they learn that there's no real need for magic since there are no big magical threats so they use their talents to live fat and easy while partying too much and trying to entertain themselves. Until an old classmate appears with the news that Filory is real.

There's three big things at work in this book. The idea that magic is real, and the author put a great deal of effort into developing the idea of magic in the real world with specific rules. The second is that the idea of journeying to a magical land on some kind of quest would be a fun adventure is actually pretty naive when you consider how actually bloody and insane the kind of things described would be. (Think about what it would REALLY be like to have some kind of half-human/half-beast run at you with a sword.) The third (and most interesting) is that a young man with a world of possibilities in front of him would find himself disappointed with life because it isn't like an adventure story and his stubborn refusal to realize that life will never be like a fantasy novel even if he eventually makes it to an actual fantasy world.

Fast-paced, funny, sometimes tragic and always entertaining, this was a book that I really enjoyed for it's offbeat way of looking at magic and fantasy stories.
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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent Damn it! Now I have to read this...


message 2: by Amanda (new) - added it

Amanda This has been on my Amazon wish list for quite sometime now while I debated whether or not to get it. I think you just made up my mind for me.


Kemper I'm not even the world's biggest magic/fantasy fan, but I read the author's blog on Time quite a bit so I thought I should give it a try. I was really impressed with it.


message 4: by Kemper (last edited Aug 15, 2009 04:39AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kemper Dan wrote: "Damn it! Now I have to read this..."

I owed you one because I gotta find that Chester Himes book now that I know he was a Joe R. influence. So we're even now, right? Let's not start a book recommending war neither one of us will walk away from....


message 5: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent Kemper wrote: "Dan wrote: "Damn it! Now I have to read this..."

I owed you one because I gotta find that Chester Himes book now that I know he was a Joe R. influence. So we're even now, right? Let's not sta..."


That sounds reasonable. No one wants an unwinnable recommending war.




Chip Finally read this after having seen it highlighted again and again in bookstores. Not fundamentally original, but a great spin on Narnia and Harry Potter. Reminds me of when I first read The Black Company books. Fully agree with your review - and looking forward to the sequel.


Kemper Chip wrote: "Finally read this after having seen it highlighted again and again..

I'm looking forward to the next one, too. Seems like this was a love-it or hate-it book for most people but I was in the love-it camp.


Cera I loved it, too, and thought it was a really good & loving deconstruction of the entire Narnia thing. And I liked how the magic was hard work!


Kemper Cera wrote: "I loved it, too, and thought it was a really good & loving deconstruction of the entire Narnia thing. And I liked how the magic was hard work!"

The thing about it being so much work to learn magic was one of my favorite parts of it.


message 10: by Meg (new) - added it

Meg Great review! This is now on my TBR list.


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