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The Magicians: A Novel by Lev Grossman

The Magicians: A Novel (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Lev Grossman

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,756405984 (3.45)1 / 368
Title:The Magicians: A Novel
Authors:Lev Grossman
Info:Viking Adult (2009), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 416 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Magicians by Lev Grossman (2009)

  1. 151
    The Secret History by Donna Tartt (middled, kraaivrouw)
  2. 164
    The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (Jannes)
    Jannes: The Magicians wolud not exist if it wasn't for the Narnia books, and is really a kind of loving deconstruction of Lewis' work. What could be better than giving the books that inspired it a try?
  3. 121
    Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman (catfantastic)
    catfantastic: Read the short story "The Problem of Susan" included in this collection.
  4. 146
    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling (sonyagreen)
    sonyagreen: It's like HP goes to college, complete with drinking and sex.
  5. 127
    Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Magic is real in a world we recognize--Napoleonic England and contemporary New York.
  6. 40
    The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume I by Diana Wynne Jones (Anonymous user)
  7. 20
    Little, Big by John Crowley (rarm)
    rarm: Fairy tale worlds that reveal a hidden darkness.
  8. 20
    Shadowland by Peter Straub (Scottneumann)
  9. 10
    The Vanishers by Heidi Julavits (BeckyJG)
  10. 10
    Bedtime Story by Robert J. Wiersema (ShelfMonkey)
  11. 21
    How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu (lobotomy42)
    lobotomy42: Similar combination of a genre setting, an unlikeable protagonist, and an inward-looking plot.
  12. 10
    The Silver Nutmeg: The Story of Anna Lavinia and Toby by Palmer Brown (tetrachromat)
    tetrachromat: Both describe the reflections of certain pools of water as windows onto other realities. The Silver Nutmeg, however, is much less dark and aimed at younger readers.
  13. 21
    The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (rnmcusic)
  14. 10
    Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill (Scottneumann)
  15. 32
    Among Others by Jo Walton (Jannes)
    Jannes: Both are fantasy or fantasy-sih books about fantasy readers and how the stories you read hape you and affect your sense of the world.
  16. 65
    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1) by J. K. Rowling (kaledrina)
    kaledrina: Older YAs and above. Really for late teens and adults. Potter meets Narnia meet sex drugs and rock n roll.
  17. 65
    American Gods by Neil Gaiman (marvas)
    marvas: A comparable mix of the fantastic and the all too real, proving fantasy can be an adult genre.
  18. 65
    Harry Potter Box Set (Books 1-7) by J. K. Rowling (elleeldritch)
    elleeldritch: An adult version of Harry Potter (and Narnia), albeit with a different (but still interesting) magic scheme.
  19. 00
    Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (aethercowboy)
    aethercowboy: Both books deal with a fictional fantasy series that holds a lot of significance to the story.
  20. 00
    A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Two different schools of magic

(see all 25 recommendations)


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English (403)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  All languages (405)
Showing 1-5 of 403 (next | show all)
The idea of the The Magicians is good—Harry Potter and Narnia, but with jaded, entitled, oversexed asshole teens and early 20-somethings. It's Harry Potter with alcohol and sex! And for a while it holds out promise of being both a page-turner and having some depth. But as things wear on, it doesn't deliver on either score.

I didn't care that the lead character is a jerk. But I minded that I cared less and less about the characters as the novel progressed. Literary novels are allowed to have depressed, unheroic and shallow characters. But they need to be perceptive about it, or at least really well-written. It was neither.

As for the ideas, the set-up was good, building on previous narratives but also adding something. I thought that, if things developed from there, this would end up a solid four-star book. But in the final third the originality ends. Subverting Narnia isn't enough of an invention, especially when the Narnia resonances give it some of its only real life. And don't tell me it's a "critique" of the genre—that's obvious as far as it goes, and it's neither good enough at it nor possessing enough life independent of the object of its criticism. (It's 2 Live Crew's "Pretty Woman" cover, which, intending to subject Orbison only shows how far above them he is.) If you want a far more interesting subversion of Narnia, check out Neil Gaiman's "The Problem of Susan."

Finally, reading this on the Kindle meant I evesdropped on the passages other readers highlighted. Without fail, they were the many "lesson" passages, where the author spells it all out for us, revealing this "subversion" to be at heart a 19th-century children's novel, with more fucking. "Relationship fights are like bad magic!" "Circumstances don't make you happy!" "Growing up is haawd!"

Lewis was never that trite. ( )
4 vote timspalding | May 19, 2015 |
Following the adventures of eighteen year old Quentin, this novel has characters that are at once relatable and wholly not. Magicians with the power to affect reality in any way they choose are dissatisfied with their own existence. Some bide their time in games manipulating mortals or pushing various interest groups and political puppets, some disappear into scholastic endeavors, but in a world where nothing wanted is lacking, stagnation and apathy easily seep in. Intelligent but introverted Quentin is drawn into a world where magic is real, but even as each of his own dreams is realized he finds himself dissatisfied with existence and wanting another dream.

An adult take on the 'youth gets accepted into magic academy/school/university' plot, this novel received much acclaim when it was first published. Much of this may be for its odd appeal and Grossman's apparent disinterest in creating strongly likable (or even despised) characters. ( )
  Ailinel | May 2, 2015 |
Stalled at page 94. Interesting but other books got in the way. Will come back to.
  mlake | Apr 28, 2015 |
Nice, fast paced story. I started out with a sense of dread, because it got some bad reviews in my reading club, but once I started reading I was pleasantly surprised. It is a nice coming of age novel in a fantasy setting with references to Narnia and okay, a little bit of Hogwarts. The protagonist, Quentin, is al little bit melancholy - a real outsider - always hoping his life will start now... adventure and wonder will be around the corner. When he is dissapointed (which happens often) Quentin doesn't always handle it well. At the end, I did find him a little bit unsympathetic at times, but not so much I wanted to stop reading. The best feature I cannot reveal here... it would be a major spoiler. I will certainly read the sequel. ( )
  Maaike15274 | Apr 21, 2015 |
I disliked this book immensely. I kept waiting for it to get better, but it just didn't. The "plot" was almost non-existent. It just kind-of rambled around taking bits and pieces from other (much better) fantasy novels. There's a school of magic that has 1st through 5th years. Sound familiar? Except at this school the kids are college age, and mostly alcoholics. There is a magical land that was once entered through a wardrobe grandfather clock, and now you get to it with magic buttons (a la Magician's Nephew/Narnia books). In the magical land, there are animals that talks -- Beavers, Fauns, Bears, Centaurs. Sound familiar? Yes. It even called a cave "Hobbit-like" and there were references to Hermione. However as much the author appreciated the referenced novels, his own novel failed in comparison.
As I mentioned, the plot was weak. There was pretty much no antagonist throughout the book. Sure at the end the kids had to fight a monster, but it showed up with about 20% of the book left to finish, and it wasn't there all along. It just was very incoherent. On top of that, the language was horrible. There was a lot of swearing "f-this and that" all throughout, which is a big turnoff to me in a book. Also, there was a lot of sex and substance abuse, most of which really had nothing to do with moving the storyline along. So, not one I'd be recommending to anyone.

Would I recommend this to my BFF? Nope. Nor to my enemy (if I had one).
Would I recommend this to my teenage daughter? Absolutely not.
( )
  lauraodom | Apr 16, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 403 (next | show all)
This isn't just an exercise in exploring what we love about fantasy and the lies we tell ourselves about it -- it's a shit-kicking, gripping, tightly plotted novel that makes you want to take the afternoon off work to finish it.
added by lampbane | editBoing Boing, Cory Doctorow (Oct 20, 2009)
It’s the original magic — storytelling — that occasionally trips Grossman up. Though the plot turns new tricks by the chapter, the characters have a fixed, “Not Another Teen Movie” quality. There’s the punk, the aesthete, the party girl, the fat slacker, the soon-to-be-hot nerd, the shy, angry, yet inexplicably irresistible narrator. Believable characters form the foundation for flights of fantasy. Before Grossman can make us care about, say, the multiverse, we need to intuit more about Quentin’s interior universe.
Somewhat familiar, albeit entertaining... Grossman's writing is intelligent, but don't give this one to the kids—it's a dark tale that suggests our childhood fantasies are no fun after all.
added by Shortride | editPeople, Sue Corbett (Aug 31, 2009)
Grossman has written both an adult coming-of-age tale—rife with vivid scenes of sex, drugs, and heartbreak—and a whimsical yarn about forest creatures. The subjects aren’t mutually exclusive, and yet when stirred together so haphazardly, the effect is jarring. More damaging still is the plot, which takes about 150 pages to gain any steam, surges dramatically in the book’s final third, and then peters out with a couple chapters left to go.
added by Shortride | editBookforum, Michael Shaer (Aug 14, 2009)
Grossman, Time magazine's book critic and a frequent writer on technology, clearly has read his Potter and much more. While this story invariably echoes a whole body of romantic coming-of-age tales, Grossman's American variation is fresh and compelling. Like a jazz musician, he riffs on Potter and Narnia, but makes it his own.

Vladimir Nabokov once observed, "The truth is that great novels are great fairy tales." "The Magicians" is a great fairy tale, written for grown-ups but appealing to our most basic desires for stories to bring about some re-enchantment with the world, where monsters lurk but where a young man with a little magic may prevail.

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lev Grossmanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bramhall, MarkNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I'll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound
I'll drown my book.

--William Shakespeare, The Tempest
For Lily
First words
Quentin did a magic trick. Nobody noticed.
That guy was a mystery wrapped in an enigma and crudely stapled to a ticking fucking time bomb. He was either going to hit somebody or start a blog.
Space was full of angry little particles.
He had no interest in TV anymore - it looked like an electronic puppet show to him, an artificial version of an imitation world that meant nothing to him anyway. Real life - or was it a fantasy life? whichever one Brakebills was - that was what mattered, and that was happening somewhere else.
No one would come right out and say it, but the worldwide magical ecology was suffering from a serious imbalance: too many magicians, not enough monsters.
"Never cook with a wine you wouldn't drink," he said. "Though I guess that presupposes that there is a wine I wouldn't drink."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0670020559, Hardcover)

Amazon Best of the Month, August 2009: Mixing the magic of beloved children's fantasy classics (from Narnia and Oz to Harry Potter and Earthsea) with the sex, excess, angst, and anticlimax of life in college and beyond, Lev Grossman's Magicians reimagines modern-day fantasy for grownups. Quentin Coldwater lives in a state of perpetual melancholy, privately obsessed with his childhood books about the enchanted land of Fillory. When he’s admitted to the surreptitious Brakebills Academy for an education in magic, Quentin finds mastering spells is tedious (and love is even more fraught). He also discovers his power has thrilling potential--though it's unclear what he should do with it once he's moved with his new magician cohorts to New York City. Then they discover the magical land of Fillory is real and launch an expedition to use their powers to set things right in the kingdom--which, naturally, turns out to be a much murkier proposition than expected. The Magicians breathes life into a cast of characters you want to know--if the people you want to know are charismatic, brilliant, complex, flawed magicians--and does what Quentin claims books never really manage to do: "get you out, really out, of where you were and into somewhere better. " Or if not better, at least a heck of a lot more interesting. --Mari Malcolm

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:52 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

As a senior in high school Quentin Coldwater became preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. After graduating from college and being admitted into a highly exclusive, secret society of magic in upstate New York, he makes 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 for his childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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