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The Magicians: A Novel by Lev Grossman
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The Magicians: A Novel (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Lev Grossman

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4,894415942 (3.44)1 / 374
Member:elevbess
Title:The Magicians: A Novel
Authors:Lev Grossman
Info:Viking Adult (2009), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 416 pages
Collections:Your library
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Work details

The Magicians by Lev Grossman (2009)

  1. 161
    The Secret History by Donna Tartt (middled, kraaivrouw)
  2. 121
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    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?
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  15. 21
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(see all 26 recommendations)

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English (413)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  All languages (415)
Showing 1-5 of 413 (next | show all)
I’ve read lots of books and seen lots of movies and TV shows with characters that are less than stellar. Heroes, even, who are deeply flawed and, in many cases, assholes. I get it. A complex and tortured protagonist makes for compelling drama. But in all of my life, I’ve never wanted to haul off and hit a fictional character.

Until I met Quentin Coldwater. If I ever, somehow, ran into Quentin, I would no doubt pop him in the mouth on general principles. Quentin is the hero and main character of The Magicians, which more than one reviewer dubbed “Harry Potter for adults.” Quentin is also a complete, utter, and colossal douchebag.

Quentin is an about-to graduate high school student who is whisked away to an exclusive (and invisible) college in upstate New York, where he will study instead of Princeton. During his years there he, along with his friends and rivals, learn to be magicians. To what end? Well, there isn’t really one. There’s no great battle against evil for which they are being trained. Further study of the actual mechanics of magic is discouraged, as it tends to make people go crazy (allowing the author to skirt the issue of how magic in this world actually works – either a clever sidestep or a cowardly dodge, I’m not sure which). Although we’re told that magicians work around the world behind the scenes of governments and other power centers, the world of The Magicians is, in terms of history and society, exactly like ours.

Which is why, for the last hunk of the book, after Quentin and crew have graduated, they spend most of their time in another world, where their training comes in handy. Called Fillory, it’s a lot like C.S. Lewis’s Narnia with the serial numbers filed off. In fact, according to a comment to this review, it was originally supposed to be Narnia but Lewis’s lawyers put the kibosh on that. Exciting things happen in Fillory, and lessons are learned, but none of it really carries much weight.

That’s because Quentin is such a colossal douchebag. He begins the book as the stereotypical moody teenager, completely disaffected with the world around him. And by the end of the book . . . he’s exactly the same, only older (horribly lame attempt at a happy ending/sequel setup notwithstanding). I get the point being made (Quentin is constantly looking for meaning anywhere but where he is and is never able to find it), but it doesn’t make for a protagonist that I can really care about.

Take, for instance, the time Quentin spends in New York City after graduating from college. He reunites with some friends who graduated a year earlier. Unlike his dour home in Brooklyn, they live in Manhattan. They don’t have to work, have mastery over the elements, and spend their days planning lavish dinner parties. They drink too much and fuck (too much, too, as it turns out). All the while, he’s got a girlfriend whose only real problem is that, for all her brilliance, she can’t see what a douchebag Quentin is. With all this going for him, Quentin is still a miserable shit. Seriously? He’s not even the 1%, he’s the 0.01% and he’s still a mopey twit? Arghh!

Given all that, I can’t say I really liked The Magicians, obviously. However, it’s got an episodic feel to it and some of the individual set pieces are worth the trip. Others aren’t, such as the laughably bad ending. It’s definitely a mixed bag.

There’s a sequel, as I mentioned, which I already have to I figure I’ll get around to reading it at some point. I only hope that, a few years on, Quentin’s learned to enjoy himself a little bit. Or I’ll have to pop the douchebag in the mouth.

www.jdbyrne.net ( )
  RaelWV | Aug 16, 2015 |
I found this book in the YA section and I'm pretty sure that's not where it belongs. At times it was a little difficult to get into, but I actually really enjoyed it once they got to Fillory and I'm excited to read the other 2 books in the series. ( )
  vickimarie2002 | Aug 3, 2015 |
Reasons to read this book: If you love Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, this will appeal to you for nostalgic reasons. If you're now a young adult who loved such novels when you were a child, this book is a great next step, a sort of "coming of age" story for the twenty-something fantasy readers who grew up looking for portals in wardrobes and waiting for acceptance letters from wizardry school. The plot is fun and moves fast and the writing is lovely.

Putting aside all the Harry Potter comparisons, The Magicians stands on its own and is worth reading no matter what your preferred genre. None of the characters in this story are perfect, least of all Quentin, the protagonist. They all do some dumb things, make some regrettable choices and are, despite the magical backdrop, very human. ( )
  WritingHaiku | Jul 28, 2015 |
Interesting plot. A lot of plot within one story, which means time speeds by and leaves some character development assumed rather than earned. The young male protagonist struggles to mature; although I realize his coming of age will be protracted throughout the trilogy, the character's personality is grating and thus his maturation is agonizingly slow. I was a little put off by how the author abuses his female characters, which are arguably the most interesting ones in the story. ( )
  Barnum | Jul 24, 2015 |
I enjoyed this fantasy. It is a much more psychologically realistic fantasy of a school for young magicians like Hogwarts. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 413 (next | show all)
”Magikerna” marknadsförs som ”Harry Potter för vuxna”, men i själva verket är det en ovanligt vacker sorgesång över hur det är att lämna barndomen. Det var faktiskt bättre förr, när man kunde uppslukas helt av leken.
added by Jannes | editDagens nyheter, Lotta Olsson (Feb 4, 2013)
 
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)
 

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lev Grossmanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bramhall, MarkNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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
Dedication
For Lily
First words
Quentin did a magic trick. Nobody noticed.
Quotations
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."
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
Haiku summary

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:45 -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)

» see all 7 descriptions

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