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The Magicians: A Novel by Lev Grossman

The Magicians: A Novel (original 2009; edition 2010)

by Lev Grossman

Series: The Magicians (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,800580769 (3.46)1 / 435
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)
Title:The Magicians: A Novel
Authors:Lev Grossman
Info:Plume (2010), Edition: 1st, Paperback, 416 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fantasy, schooldays

Work details

The Magicians by Lev Grossman (2009)

  1. 201
    The Secret History by Donna Tartt (middled, kraaivrouw, Euryale)
    Euryale: No magic, but I thought the tone and setting were otherwise very similar.
  2. 225
    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. 131
    Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman (catfantastic)
    catfantastic: Read the short story "The Problem of Susan" included in this collection.
  4. 157
    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. 158
    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
    Little, Big by John Crowley (rarm)
    rarm: Fairy tale worlds that reveal a hidden darkness.
  7. 40
    The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins (TFleet)
    TFleet: Both novels are centered in the modern real world, but with a set of young adults who have magical powers. The novels are different takes on the question, "What would the modern real world be like if there were magic?"
  8. 40
    The Chronicles of Chrestomanci: Charmed Life / The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones (Anonymous user)
  9. 41
    The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (rnmcusic)
  10. 85
    Harry Potter: The Complete Collection (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.
  11. 20
    Shadowland by Peter Straub (Scottneumann)
  12. 20
    Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Cecrow)
  13. 10
    The Alchemyst by Michael Scott (Jess1106)
  14. 10
    Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill (Scottneumann)
  15. 10
    The Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish (charlie68)
  16. 10
    A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer (beyondthefourthwall)
    beyondthefourthwall: Teenagers suddenly plunged into the magical-boarding-school experience and, once their training is behind them, having to figure out who is trustworthy, what they need to do with their lives, whether they are being summoned into leadership roles, and maybe - just maybe - where their reality is coming from in the first place.… (more)
  17. 10
    Vita Nostra by Sergey Dyachenko (KatyBee)
  18. 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.
  19. 10
    Phantastes by George MacDonald (charlie68)
    charlie68: Similar themes.
  20. 21
    The Once and Future King by T. H. White (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: I thought of making this recommendation when reading the magical education section of The Magicians, which reminded me of the first book of The Once and Future King. But the wider idea - that magical powers can't stop us from making stupid human mistakes - is also relevant to both books.… (more)

(see all 33 recommendations)


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English (573)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (576)
Showing 1-5 of 573 (next | show all)
Many people have recommended this book, which takes the idea of a sort of Narnia and heads downhill. It's very readable and interesting, but it has a protagonist who is perpetually sorry for himself and who drinks heavily, and I keep wanting to shake him. I have a low tolerance for that kind of nonsense. I'm probably going to read the second and third, all the while hoping that the protagonist stops being so insufferable. ( )
  dmturner | Jun 29, 2020 |
For the most part, I liked the novel, but I have some very serious bones to pick with it. First of all, it was only a very slightly veiled story about super-rich-kids pissing and moaning in an extremely exclusive ivy-league college, reminiscing tones of Bret Easton Ellis as Harry Potter. The whole Narnia riff-nee-theme is too obvious to mention, because it's so huge, but unlike C. S. Lewis, the underlying concept is reversed, and not in a good way.

(My idea of a reverse Lewis is basically your evil realm of darkness that you can step through as if you were Stephen King.)

No. Instead we have here a world of magic that appears to be one of deep happiness and wonder, but at its heart is the idea that it exists only for unhappy people. If you're content, you can never have magic. To that, I want to say, "Shit" in all the complex and various ways we get right out of The Wire. It's like we're dealing with a critic/novelist who saw Harry Potter as unbelievably happy and decided to take a nice, long, 400 page dump over it.

I wouldn't be bothering to bring up the riffs if Lev Grossman hadn't done it, himself.

So the kids matriculate out of college, discover that they're spoiled rich kids that never have to work or do anything serious again, waste their lives around the warm heart of the void, screw everything up, and then discover that they can go to the other world and drag all their unhappiness around with them.

How delightful. I might have been carried around my the concept if one of the characters had proved to be the happy foil to all this misery, but no, everyone is pretty much set on being humorless pricks.

So after saying all this, you ask, "Why do you even think it was a pretty good story, then?"

The hidden plot with the beast was actually rather satisfying, the learning at school was pretty neat, and at one point I was actually rooting for Quentin and Alice.

The fact that I liked Quentin for a while made me hurt more when he turned into such an ass.

The book is somewhat redeemed for the wrap-up, while not redeeming any single character, did leave a lot open for later improvement. The fact that the two next novels get much better reviews helps a lot, here, or I might have stopped with this one. Yes, I am a lemming, but I am a discerning lemming. :)

I want to see where it all goes from here. ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
Overall, I thought this was a pretty interesting book. I heard that this was "Harry Potter for grown ups" and I can certainly see it, though it is an incredible stretch. It'd be like if Harry joined Slytherin at age 30 (though the characters in the book are much younger than that) - it's a pretty dark book.

This is also one of those books I read because of a book that comes later in the series. I heard great things about the 2nd and 3rd book, but for some odd reason, saw the first book was universally hated (by most people) or loved by a few. Luckily, perhaps because my expectations were so low, I found bits of enjoyment and let the words wash over me.

Very minor spoiler:

Still...for parts of the second-half of the book I was pretty lost. I was able to find my way back, but the book definitely makes a left-turn and doesn't look back.
( )
  cgfaulknerog | May 28, 2020 |
A lot of interesting ideas, some complex characters--it could have been such a good book/series. But my gosh, the arcs. The arcs (what little exist) are just not good. We don't get an actual antagonist until the end of part 1--that's the halfway point of the book, and it isn't a short book. That antagonist is immaterial and actually could have made for an intensely psychological and emotional second half . . . but then part 2 ends really, really quickly and we move to part 3 wherein we finally get some real challenge and antagonists, but the inconsequential nature of part 1 and shortness of part 2 just don't let me really feel anything about it. Then there's a part 4 that's also pretty short and ends on a note that barely even feels like it's leading to a sequel, even though it is. ( )
  Kalal | May 27, 2020 |
Rating increased from 3/5 to 5/5.

SPOILER ALERT: This whole deal is real. No, not the magic part, but the part with power to do anything screwing up our head. We are the living proof of this.

Where real world meets a screwed up Narnia and an inconsistent magic system, you get Magicians.
I know the main focus of the writing was never the magic system, but at least some level of consistency was expected. Magic can do something at sometimes and fail at others at some moments, and there's only a blurry line between them at best; and a humongous overlap at worst. Same goes for characters magical abilities; at one scene Martin stops a class and a school full of professors from getting to him, and on another scene a just out of school like Alice gets him because Martin was weak on basics. Seriously, the professors never thought of those?
Still, the depiction of emotions was good, at very many points of the books. Will look for better read in next books, till then, 3.5/5 seems appropriate. ( )
  MahiShafiullah | May 25, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 573 (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 editionscalculated
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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Average: (3.46)
0.5 14
1 122
1.5 19
2 292
2.5 63
3 680
3.5 188
4 806
4.5 81
5 428


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