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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
4,7064011,003 (3.45)1 / 364
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: Short Fictions and Wonders 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
    Little, Big by John Crowley (rarm)
    rarm: Fairy tale worlds that reveal a hidden darkness.
  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. 21
    The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (rnmcusic)
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  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. 10
    Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill (Scottneumann)
  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. 11
    The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis (Anonymous user)
  19. 22
    Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (vnovak)
  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 (399)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  All languages (401)
Showing 1-5 of 399 (next | show all)
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 |
Harry Potter with vices and a book within a book sums up this novel. A cast of rather unlikeable characters, starring a mopey teen, Quentin, find themselves taking entrance exams for Breakbills Academy, a college for magicians. Quentin, along with Penny, Alice, and others, make the cut. The school is a 5 year program, and most of the book tells the story of their education (this is the start of a trilogy, so other adventures are to follow).

Before being whisked away to magic school, Quentin was involved in a fantasy novel series set in a mystical land called Fillory. Quentin didn't realize this escapist text was actually a historical narrative...something fleshed out in the second half of the book.

Quentin, and the others, are entirely unlikeable characters. Some don't survive, and I'm okay with that, I wish more of them didn't. There's the obligatory setup for the next book at the end, but it's tough to work up enthusiasm for it. When the graduate magicians go to Fillory, it's like being dropped into a simplistic fantasy novel -- even the characters realized they need only play out the plot line, whatever it was. A clever idea...but executed with a teenage simplicity that is more annoying than charm.

Grossman's writing isn't all bad, but the story doesn't rise above teen angst. I'm a little interested in where the story goes next, but my library doesn't have audiobook versions of the last two books and Kindle versions will have to wait in a long queue before I get to them. ( )
1 vote JeffV | Mar 31, 2015 |
Really well done deconstruction of the Narnia/white male savior trope done in a way that doesn’t interest me: by having the privileged white guy be quite obviously a nearly useless asshole, with bonus casual misogyny. Grossman clearly knows this about his protagonist! “Quentin took the subway and rode the elevator and ordered in lunch like the rest of humanity, or at any rate the most privileged 0.1 percent.” Yes, exactly. Magic school, and even the Narnia-like magic land Quentin wanted to be a part of as a child, don’t change Quentin’s fundamental dissatisfaction with himself and the world around him; his entitlement does not match his gifts; others are braver and less bored and more interesting … which is kind of the problem, though if Quentin had been less of a git then I could probably have enjoyed it more. ( )
1 vote rivkat | Mar 9, 2015 |
What a disappointment. The story was derivative and the character were unlikable.

The first half is Harry Potter goes to college. The main character, Quentin, goes the same trial and tribulations of finding out magic is real and being good at it. He assemble s a scooby gang for future adventures. The second half is a re-told Narnia-like story.

Being derivative would be fine if the characters were not so unlikable. ( )
  dougcornelius | Mar 4, 2015 |
Harry Potter meets Narnia, the blurbers promised! What's not to love?

The Magicians is a novel where a socially awkward kid finds out that he has amazing powers. The blurbers were right—almost to a fault. The first half of the book concerns a magician's school while the second half explores alternate universes. Rowling meets Lewis, indeed! My only criticism was that the nods to Potter and Narnia felt too derivative at times. I quickly got over that.

This book gripped me from the first until the last page. Grossman has written a lead character that acts as realistically as you might expect in the situation he's given. He makes the sort of decisions any one of us might make in the same circumstances.

The villain is truly terrifying and the magic system is complex and satisfying. I'm curious to see where the next books takes us! ( )
  StephenBarkley | Mar 3, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 399 (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.

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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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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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