Dan Schwent's Reviews > The Magicians

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
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Feb 08, 11

bookshelves: fantasy, plan-on-rereading-one-day, favorites
Read in September, 2009

Quentin Coldwater is an unhappy teen, eyeing up an uncertain future in college. He's secretly in love with his friend Julia. Nothing else really matters to him except the Fillory and Further series of books he's loved since childhood. Imagine how he feels when a seamingly routine college interview drops an undiscovered Fillory book in his grasp and leads him to Brakebills, a college of wizardry, and worlds beyond...

First of all, this isn't Harry Potter for adults, no matter how much people want to slap that label on it. Although if you expanded that label to Harry Potter for cynical adults who've read Harry Potter and don't think it's the greatest series ever written, it would be more accurate. It has a superficial resemblance to Harry Potter in that both books involve learning to be a wizard. That's about it. Parts of it remind me of Stephen King's The Talisman, while others reminded me of Wizard of Earthsea, and the magic reminds me of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

In a nutshell, The Magicians depicts what would happen if regular people went to a college for wizards, complete with parties, sex, drugs, cursing, and making stupid choices. The characters make mistakes and act like normal people, not heroes. Quentin's never happy, not even in his relationship with Alice or his friendships with the other wizards.

One thing that stands out in The Magicians is the magic. It's not fake latin and waving wands around. It's taxing and has consequences and learning it is extremely difficult. One character's speculation that magic might be the tools left behind after the universe was created really sticks in my mind.

The back cover says it's a coming of age story. It is, and the moral of the story is Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.
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Reading Progress

08/30/2009 page 1
0.25%
08/30/2009 page 1
0.25% "Taking a Hard Case break"
08/31/2009 page 90
22.39% "There's a faint hint of Ender's Game in this."
09/02/2009 page 202
50.25% "I can't wait to review this!"
09/03/2009 page 262
65.17% "I might have to stay up late to finish this tonight."
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Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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message 1: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn Great review Dan! I actually want to read this now. I had been put off by everyone comparing it to Harry Potter. I have not read HP and as more time goes on, I realize that I probably never will. The Magicians sounds much more promising to me.


message 2: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent Kathryn wrote: "Great review Dan! I actually want to read this now. I had been put off by everyone comparing it to Harry Potter. I have not read HP and as more time goes on, I realize that I probably never will. T..."

I was entertained by the Harry Potter books but I didn't find them overly original. It sucks that people equate everything involving wizards with Harry Potter since the books took off.



Kemper Glad you liked it.


message 4: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent I had a pretty good idea that I'd like it after your review. The magic system and the reallistic behavior of the characters were my favorite parts.


Kemper I loved the way he did the magic stuff. If you get a chance check out some of the on-line interviews that Grossman did. He talks a lot about the idea of how he thought that magic should be hard to learn and do and not just a matter of flicking a wand.


message 6: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent I'll have to check that out. Magic with consequences is the way to go.


message 7: by Mohammed (new)

Mohammed "The Magicians boldly moves into uncharted literary territory, imagining magic as practiced by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions. "

That part of the info makes it interesting to me. An adult,more real take on wizards.

Since its new book it will be easy to try this.


Jeremy "Harry Potter for cynical adults who've read Harry Potter and don't think it's the greatest series ever written"

It's like...it's like you know me.


message 9: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent Jeremy wrote: ""Harry Potter for cynical adults who've read Harry Potter and don't think it's the greatest series ever written"

It's like...it's like you know me."


I thought Harry Potter was okay but didn't think it brought anything new to the table. I also HATE how it's the measuring stick for any book about wizards now.


Jeremy Especially since there's so much better out there. Even in just the past few years, Butcher's Dresden series is vastly superior. Better characters, better dialogue, much tighter plotting, and a main character who isn't a weeping idiot who relies on his friends for everything. It's sheer schlock, but it's better than Rowling.

Hell, even if you're just looking at juvenile fantasy, the Percy Jackson (while constantly being slammed for being derivative, and, well...kind of is) series is far more fun, and I found myself reading it faster and with more interest.

But then, Harry Potter seems to hit the vast majority of my pet peeves, the foremost of which is a pure and undying hatred of passive protagonist who do little but ride the coattails of their far more intelligent colleagues. Most of my issues with the series are personal rather than technical, but much as I wanted to like it, I just couldn't.

The Magicians is in the mail right now, and I'm very much looking forward to that. Until then, I'll continue my current trend of Scalzi gluttony.


Cinderela I agree I agree I agree! Thank you..


message 12: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent Cinderela wrote: "I agree I agree I agree! Thank you.."

You're welcome. I have a feeling the people who blast this book are the ones who need a hero for a main character instead of someone more real.


Jeremy To be fair, it's possible to have characters who are both real and heroes. Peter Parker's probably the easiest example, at least for me. He has trouble holding a job or making rent, he has difficulty getting close to people (even without the whole "secret identity" schtick getting in the way), and all his actions seem to breed mistrust or hatred. But at the end of the day, when shit needs solving, whether by wit or by fist, he's there to cowboy up and do it. Real characters and heroism are not mutually exclusive.

However, I do agree that not every book needs to be about a heroic, stand-up guy to be good.


Nicole Dan. Very good review. I would like to add that with the Magician's there is a sense of danger, that the universe is not intrinsically a safe place. This more than anything is what separates it from Potter, which takes place in a world that is essentially good and can be righted.


message 15: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent Nicole wrote: "Dan. Very good review. I would like to add that with the Magician's there is a sense of danger, that the universe is not intrinsically a safe place. This more than anything is what separates it fro..."

Just saw this comment. You're definitely right about Grossman's universe not feeling like it has a safety net like Potter's.


Susan "Harry Potter for cynical adults who've read Harry Potter and don't think it's the greatest series ever written…"
Guess this goes on my TBR list!


message 17: by Rei (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rei I love HP and I loved THIS :3


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