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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
4,186None1,188 (3.47)1 / 329
Title:The Magicians: A Novel
Authors:Lev Grossman
Info:Plume (2009), Edition: 1, Kindle Edition, 416 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:fantasy, modernist, dark

Work details

The Magicians by Lev Grossman (2009)

2009 (30) 2010 (39) 2011 (37) 2012 (30) adventure (24) college (57) coming of age (88) ebook (44) fantasy (748) fiction (487) Kindle (35) library (24) magic (304) magicians (59) Narnia (40) New York (36) novel (44) own (20) read (60) read in 2009 (23) read in 2010 (34) read in 2011 (35) school (30) sff (28) signed (21) speculative fiction (24) to-read (144) unread (19) urban fantasy (63) wizards (38)
  1. 151
    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's better than giving the books that inspired it a try?
  3. 91
    Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman (catfantastic)
    catfantastic: Read the short story "The Problem of Susan" included in this collection.
  4. 127
    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. 117
    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
    Little, Big by John Crowley (rarm)
    rarm: Fairy tale worlds that reveal a hidden darkness.
  8. 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.
  9. 10
    Bedtime Story by Robert J. Wiersema (ShelfMonkey)
  10. 10
    The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (rnmcusic)
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 10
    The Vanishers by Heidi Julavits (BeckyJG)
  14. 10
    The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis (Anonymous user)
  15. 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.
  16. 22
    Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (vnovak)
  17. 55
    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.
  18. 56
    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1) 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.
  19. 35
    Watchmen (Absolute Edition) by Alan Moore (Jannes)
    Jannes: Okay, I know it seems somewhat of a stretch, but the Magicians actually tries to do with fantasy fiction what Watchmen does with superhero comics: twists it around and looks at it from a completely different angle to try to find out what it is really all about.… (more)
  20. 13
    Sir Apropos of Nothing by Peter David (Alliebadger)
    Alliebadger: Both take fantasy conventions and make a fool of them. They also have protagonists that are self-centered. I didn't care for either one for the same reasons, so if you like one you'll probably like the other!

(see all 21 recommendations)


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Showing 1-5 of 356 (next | show all)
Quentin receives an envelope from a dead man he had an interview with and in it finds a book, The Magicians. A wrong turn and seasons changed and he is offered the chance to take a test. What's he got to lose? He passes and so begins his entrance into a magicians school, something he had dreamed of as a child but never knew such a thing really existed.

I was quite charmed with the first half of the book and highly entertained at the escapades of the blossoming magicians and the school they were in. It was kind of a Harry Potter to the university level, complete with adult activities such as drinking, sex and an occasional orgy. There was even a special game, not quiddich, but it did ring heavily of borrowing the concept, if not the actual game.

The second half of the book was not quite as fun as the first half. All of these students have read a series as children about a place called Fillory, which is almost borrowing close to the Lion, Witch And Wardrobe books. Add to that, throwing in the God influence and struggling story, it became tedious to get through. It felt almost like he had set up the second half with the Fillory references and therefore had to follow through with it. And its not that it was "bad", just a bit tedious and drawn out and lacking in the fun and humor of the first half. And its obvious that he has set it up for a sequel. We'll see what he does with that.

I am torn on what to rate this one. I would give the first half a 4 and the second a bare 3 and since you can't rate at a half star, I think I will have to go with 3. Its a good book, but could have been a whole lot better. ( )
  sephibitchwitch | Apr 8, 2014 |
Oh, wow. This book has me quite confused.
I can't say I loved it, yet I can't say I didn't love it.
It was all kinds of depressing, but still it was enjoyable.
Reading it felt somewhat like a fever dream.
I didn't much like the protagonist, I didn't like the ending,
I didn't like many things. But... I don't regret it.
I guess the only thing there is to say is that it is definitely
worth a read. ( )
1 vote MilesVor | Apr 4, 2014 |
While I enjoyed this book, I couldn't quite get passed the numerous grammatical errors that clearly should have been fished out during editing. However, the story itself was intriguing, if not a little too fast-paced. I couldn't put it down, though, and can't wait to start the next one. ( )
  lilysreads | Mar 23, 2014 |
Quentin is what would happen if Holden Caulfield went to Hogwarts. Quentin is surrounded by magic and fantastic opportunities, in all senses of the word.
And yet, he spends much of the book complaining and howling about how miserable he is, and lashing out at his friends to make himself more miserable. In a world where he gets to go to a magical college, and then have the fantasy land adventure that he's been dreaming of and hoping for all his life. He gets everything he wanted. And he is a jerk about this, and squanders the opportunities.

I lost patience with Quentin early on, and it's just lucky I was assigned to read the book. Because, as my instructor says, the last third or so is somewhat better than Quentin just moping around. ( )
1 vote ewillse | Mar 23, 2014 |
A bildungsroman set in modern times, I liked how dark and gritty this story was. It dealt with teens both going to school and feeling lost afterwards, two feelings I can closely relate to at the moment. Lev Grossman has a quick wit and a fantastic vocabulary. ( )
  wluce12 | Mar 19, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 356 (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."
Last words
(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)

Haboring secret preoccupations with a magical land he read about in a childhood fantasy series, Quentin Coldwater is unexpectedly admitted into an exclusive college of magic and rigorously educated in modern sorcery.

(summary from another edition)

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