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The Magicians: A Novel by Lev Grossman

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

by Lev Grossman

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4,6363921,029 (3.46)1 / 360
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. 152
    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. 147
    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
    Shadowland by Peter Straub (Scottneumann)
  8. 20
    The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (rnmcusic)
  9. 20
    Little, Big by John Crowley (rarm)
    rarm: Fairy tale worlds that reveal a hidden darkness.
  10. 10
    Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill (Scottneumann)
  11. 10
    The Vanishers by Heidi Julavits (BeckyJG)
  12. 10
    Bedtime Story by Robert J. Wiersema (ShelfMonkey)
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 22
    Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (vnovak)
  19. 11
    The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis (Anonymous user)
  20. 56
    Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone 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.

(see all 23 recommendations)


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English (389)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  All languages (391)
Showing 1-5 of 389 (next | show all)
I was really excited to start this book. I was drawn to the cover (the story of my book loving life) and the story sounded like a darker, more mature version of Harry Potter. Except turns out it's not really. Don't get me wrong I did like this book. I just didn't love it. And I really wanted to love it. I kept reading, hoping that I would feel that magic "click" with the story and with the characters but it just never came around.

Yes, this is a story about a lonely, extremely smart boy unexpectedly attending a secret magic school. Except that the boy is on the verge of adulthood and the school is a college. The parallels end here though. Harry Potter was much more action driven and moved at a faster pace. Everything in this book was slower, darker, and to me anyway, less magical. Quentin is quite morose and though I understand that that's supposed to be part of his character that drives the narrative forward there were times where it was becoming increasingly annoying.

I liked the concept of the book - a boy who cannot seem to grow up and who keeps searching for happiness without understanding what it actually is. I also liked some of the "supporting cast" and most of the story taking place at Quentin's magic college. I also liked the story well enough to continue reading the series at some point in the future. There is always the possibility that the next book ends up making me love it instead of just liking it. ( )
  anais_nin | Jan 21, 2015 |

Lev Grossman’s adult fantasy novel “The Magicians” follows Quentin Coldwater, a smart but mopey teen from Brooklyn. Quentin is disappointed and depressed, and the only thing he is genuinely interested in is a series of five children fantasy novels set in a magical land called Fillory. When Quentin is unexpectedly admitted to a secret Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy, things seem about to change. However, new powers come with new disappointments. Quentin’s life soon becomes as dull as it was before, until one day he discovers that his childhood fantasy is real. But you know what they say: be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.


1) Unique perspective on magic.
Grossman can be complemented for an unusual yet very convincing perspective on magic, which might not be that magical after all. In “The Magicians,” magic is complicated and organic, it does not promise you happiness or adventure, and it is definitely not an answer to everything.

2) Realistic and relatable perspective on life.
The characters in “The Magicians” are flawed, depressed and bored. They constantly make bad decisions, do not appreciate what they have and are lost and disappointed in life. Things do not always turn out OK and there is no happily ever after. Sounds like an entry from my diary.

3) Important message.
Indirectly, Grossman urges us readers to seize the moment and appreciate what we have, because if we are not happy with who we are and what we have, there is no guarantee that we will ever be happy, even if we get what we want.


1) Misleading comparison to Harry Potter.
I REALLY wanted to love this book. How could I not when it was advertised as Harry Potter for adults? Unfortunately, “The Magicians” is nothing like Harry Potter. I don’t mean it as an insult though; I don’t think this book was supposed to be like Harry Potter. It is rather like Bill Willingham’s comic book series “Fables,” which boldly suggests that happily ever after does not exist. Anyway, Harry Potter comparison totally misdirected my expectations, and, as a result, I was deeply disappointed.

2) VERY depressing.
The life portrayed in “The Magicians” is very realistic, yes, but it’s just too dark and too depressing, without a hint of transformative joy. It’s definitely not an escapist fantasy, but, unfortunately, that’s exactly what I want from the book: to escape into a good story.

3) Unlikable characters.
I neither liked nor cared for any of the characters, which made even the most suspenseful scenes rather boring. They are nothing more than self-centered, arrogant and ungrateful privileged brats who waste their lives away… though, unfortunately, there are many like them in the real world.

4) Overdone.
Although “The Magicians” is indisputably creative, quite often certain details seem a little bit forced, too random and too weird, and almost always extremely cynical.


Despite my every effort to like this book, I didn’t enjoy it. However, it is creative and extremely realistic (depressing and hopeless included!). Thus if it sounds like something you might want to try out, go ahead and see for yourself. Just don’t expect it to be anything like Harry Potter. ( )
4 vote AgneJakubauskaite | Jan 11, 2015 |
Definitely a pleasurable read - Harry Potter and the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for adults, in a blender. Enough said on that. I noticed two mistakes in this book, something I have never done. One of the students is allegedly the daughter of a five-star general...we haven't had one of those since 1950. Yeah, I know it is fiction, but...let's be real, ha ha. The other was when they could see the outline of the Adirondacks from outside of Buffalo. That is more than a stretch. The Catskills maybe on a good day, but I will leave it up to Buffalo folks to comment on that. Looking forward to reading the sequel at Christmas! ( )
  MaureenCean | Jan 1, 2015 |
Great book; proclaiming and asking us to dream the big dream in our imagined realities despite our economic woes. Loved it. Can't wait for the sequel. ( )
  Gregorio_Roth | Dec 5, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 389 (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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