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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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4,4663791,097 (3.47)1 / 354
Title:The Magicians: A Novel
Authors:Lev Grossman
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:fantasy, modernist, dark

Work details

The Magicians by Lev Grossman (2009)

  1. 152
    The Secret History by Donna Tartt (middled, kraaivrouw)
  2. 133
    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. 101
    Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman (catfantastic)
    catfantastic: Read the short story "The Problem of Susan" included in this collection.
  4. 137
    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 Sorcerer'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 (378)  Swedish (1)  All languages (379)
Showing 1-5 of 378 (next | show all)
I liked it, loved it, and then was disappointed with the ending. I can't say it was poor writing, but I just got so angry about one of the characters he killed off. Irrational perhaps, but there you have it. ( )
  borbet | Oct 21, 2014 |
Two stars only because the writing in itself was decent, if not mind-blowing.

What. A. Fucking. Mess.

Really, that was pretty awful. Quentin is horrendous. Alice is a non-character and has a complete personality reversal about midway through the book. Eliot is... what the fuck is Eliot supposed to be? This author vacillates between ripping off plot ideas from other books (for the first 200 pages I could buy that it was more of a pastiche or a sort of loving nod, but it quickly veered into total running-out-of-ideas-so-I'll-borrow-some territory) and just skipping large periods of time because he's not sure what to do. The plot was just plain ridiculous, boring, and non-existent and I'm not even sure how that's possible. And don't even get me STARTED on the characterisation. These people seem to exist for the purposes of the (non-)plot and have no real qualities inherent to themselves. Apart from Alice, until the Fillory incident. SIGH. The first 200 pages were easily worth 3.5 stars, maybe even four and then it all falls apart so spectacularly that I almost ended up hating it completely. ( )
  humblewomble | Oct 19, 2014 |
"The Magicians" is a fast-moving, dark fantasy following the adventures of your typical depressed american teenager Quentin Coldwater, as he goes from searching for that world hidden behind our own, to having everything he ever wanted, to facing cold hard reality.

Personally i loved this book; the story was amazing, the characters were original and deep, and even though it was pretty dark and depressing at times it still compelled me to read on.

However it wasn't perfect the first half of the book in my opinion did not have a smooth flow, it was like the author had written the book but only put in the action parts, leaving out all the politics, drama, and other things that usually allow you to connect with the characters and see how they grow as each event takes place, to me that was the hardest part of reading the book, but the second half of the book i would say the author definitely picked up the slack from the first half and fill in the missing parts allowing you to finally get to know the character.

Overall i gave the book 4/5 stars because even though i didn't like the flow of it in the beginning the ending definitely made up for it. I would recommend this book anyone who enjoys dark fantasy type books, or characters who have huge flaws, or a world that is very unforgiving and has real consequences to every action. ( )
  EmFisher | Oct 18, 2014 |
Liked this better on re-reading (after reading The Magician's Land for the first time). Perhaps I judged Quentin too harshly the first time or remembered him too ungenerously. It was also satisfying to refresh my memory: I'd forgotten entirely who Penny was, and that Josh was originally one of the Physical Kids, and how Alice defeated the Beast and became a niffin, and how Fogg put the cacodemons in the Fifth Years' backs before graduation, who Emily Greenstreet was, Jane Chatwin's exact role, and the entire game of welters. I think I'll re-read The Magician King as well and revisit Julia's experience.


...but now that the ripened fruit of all that preparation was right in front of him he suddenly lost any desire for it. He wasn't surprised. He was used to this anticlimactic feeling, where by the time you've done all the work to get something you don't even want it any more. He had it all the time. It was one of the few things he could depend on. (8-9)

He'd spent too long being disappointed by the world - he'd spent so many years pining for something like this, some proof that the real world wasn't the only world, and coping with the overwhelming evidence that it in fact was. He wasn't going to be suckered in just like that. It was like finding a clue that somebody you'd buried and mourned wasn't really dead after all. (with Dean Fogg at Brakebills, 37)

Now there was a rip in the corner of his perfect world, and fear and sadness were pouring in like freezing filthy water through a busted dam. (Quentin after the Beast's first appearance and Amanda Orloff's death, 118)

"For the true magician there is no very clear line between what lies inside the mind and what lies outside it. If you desire something, it will become substance. If you despise it, you will see it destroyed. A master magician is not much different from a child or a madman in that respect." (Mayakovsky at Brakebills South, 161)

Who would have ever thought he could do and have and be all those things and still feel nothing at all? What was he missing? Or was it him? If he wasn't happen even here, even now, did the flaw lie in him? As soon as he seized happiness it dispersed and reappeared somewhere else. (Quentin after graduation, 220)

"You hate yourself so much, you'll hurt anybody who loves you. That's it, isn't it? Just to get even with them for loving you. I never saw that before now." (Alice to Quentin after he sleeps with Janet, 254)

Now he had answers, but they weren't doing what answers were supposed to go: they weren't making things simpler or easier. They weren't helping. (Quentin in Fillory with the centaurs after fighting the Beast, 382)

None of these adventures inspired in Quentin anything resembling wonder or curiosity. All that was over for him.
Being brave was easy when you would rather die than give up. Fatigue meant nothing when you actually wanted to suffer. (hunting the Questing Beast, 387) ( )
  JennyArch | Oct 14, 2014 |
I liked this because it was a really quick read for me, I finished in four days which was nice after the Noble House. It's a more serious and depressing type of Harry Potter. The plot line is strange. I felt like it didn't follow the regular narrative path which was refreshing and a little annoying. But I enjoyed it enough to start reading the next book in the series. ( )
  avs24 | Oct 9, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 378 (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.
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."
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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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