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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

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,5373881,059 (3.46)1 / 358
Member:rebhodson
Title:The Magicians: A Novel
Authors:Lev Grossman
Info:Plume (2009), Edition: 1, Kindle Edition, 416 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:***
Tags:fantasy, modernist, dark

Work details

The Magicians by Lev Grossman (2009)

  1. 152
    The Secret History by Donna Tartt (middled, kraaivrouw)
  2. 144
    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. 111
    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 (386)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  All languages (388)
Showing 1-5 of 386 (next | show all)
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 |
Quentin Coldwater is about to graduate high school; his future is catching up with him. Suddenly an offer to a very exclusive private college has become a real possibility, but this is no ordinary university, this is a school of magic. Not only will Quentin have the normal college experience of sex, love, booze and friendship, he will also discover his magical abilities. Not just a coming-of-age novel, Quentin will also discover that the world of Fillory from a children’s fantasy series he obsesses over is very real.

Lev Grossman’s The Magicians on the surface reads like a cliché fantasy novel but there is something deeper here. If you think of The Magicians as a homage to series like Harry Potter, The Golden Compass and Narnia, you can focus on the coming-of-age element of the novel. I found similarities to The Neverending Story but if I looked deeper I would say this is more of a magical version of The Catcher in the Rye. Quentin Coldwater follows the Holden Caulfield archetype, full of angst, self-loathing and all the normal teenage boy awkwardness, almost to the point where he could be considered an antihero.

Quentin not only has to work through his new found magical abilities, this only takes a side plot to what is really happening in The Magicians. The novel depicts and often amplifies the prototypical teenage boy experience, the depression, angst and emotional carelessness. The idea of magic being a gift turns out to be more a curse for Quentin. Unlike Harry Potter this novel looks at the magic being a curse, choosing Brakebills to get an education was possibly a downfall in his adolescent life, or at least that would be how Quentin will view it.

This is not an escapist novel; in many cases The Magicians is anti-fantasy. Viewing magic as a curse was an interesting way to view life and the fantasy genre. While it does this in a very interesting way, the homage to children’s fantasy novels was a bit over the top, while trying to avoid being a cliché; it ended up falling face first into the formulaic. I would have liked to explore the ideas of education and growing up with a gift/curse more than the actual fantasy elements but that might have risked alienating the target audience.

The Magicians is not without its flaws; in fact this novel could have been so much better if it took a more focused approach. The coming of age elements were interesting, the homage and Fillory parts of the novel were annoying and I think it would have worked out better without them. If the next books in the series continue to explore magic as a curse, I will gladly read it but I’m not interested in the Fillory story arch.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2014/04/29/the-magicians-by-lev-grossman/ ( )
  knowledge_lost | Dec 4, 2014 |
Absolutely awful. Derivative, written with a sense of ennui, full of characters one would like nothing more to do with than slap them. ( )
1 vote CaineBooks | Nov 27, 2014 |
Not to my taste. ( )
  Darrol | Nov 26, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 386 (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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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
He was either going to hit somebody or start a blog. pg 107
Space was full of angry little particles.  212
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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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 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)

» see all 8 descriptions

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