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The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Lev Grossman

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4,6563971,019 (3.46)1 / 363
Title:The Magicians
Authors:Lev Grossman
Info:William Heinemann (2009), Paperback, 416 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Magicians by Lev Grossman (2009)

Recently added byolongbourn, arena100, cattylj, private library, elm_sw, dougcornelius, ShelleyMcCullen
  1. 152
    The Secret History by Donna Tartt (middled, kraaivrouw)
  2. 164
    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. 121
    Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman (catfantastic)
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  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)
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  6. 40
    The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume I by Diana Wynne Jones (Anonymous user)
  7. 20
    Shadowland by Peter Straub (Scottneumann)
  8. 20
    Little, Big by John Crowley (rarm)
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  9. 10
    The Vanishers by Heidi Julavits (BeckyJG)
  10. 10
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  11. 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.
  12. 21
    The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (rnmcusic)
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 65
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    elleeldritch: An adult version of Harry Potter (and Narnia), albeit with a different (but still interesting) magic scheme.
  16. 10
    Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill (Scottneumann)
  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. 11
    The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis (Anonymous user)
  19. 22
    Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (vnovak)
  20. 56
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(see all 23 recommendations)


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Showing 1-5 of 394 (next | show all)
I wanted something like Harry Potter but set in the non-magical world with adults. Instead I got angst. SO much angst. There's a big difference between realistic fantasy (There's no doubt that these characters are real because they have real issues and problems...with a dash of fantasy thrown in i.e. this book.) and fantastic reality (Wait, is that a dragon? Holy cow, I just levitated! Gee willikers, I can control forces heretofore undreamed of by man or beast...with a dash of reality thrown in i.e. most other fantasy novels.) I was looking for something fun which would transport me to another world. What I got instead were young adults abusing alcohol, having promiscuous sex, lamenting their genius level IQ's, and whining about the monotony of studying spells. ( )
  AliceaP | Feb 25, 2015 |
This book is frustrating. The story was engaging but ninety percent of the time I hated the main characters, especially Quentin, and that ten percent I didn't have them they would always do something or say something so unbelievably stupid I would go back to loathing them, especially Quentin. It's like having friends you know it's unhealthy to hang out with but you keep doing it anyway. All except Alice. Oh Alice.
  FourOfFiveWits | Feb 23, 2015 |
I would really give this 3.5 stars.I did have to keep reminding myself that this story takes place while the main character Quentin is in high school/college. I found that reasoning to be confusing. While the story was engrossing, I felt that it was rushed. I personally would have preferred to get to know a few places and characters a bit better. I think it would have created a deeper story. Despite my nitpicking I am entranced by the concept of some of the things that happen in. Any more said would create spoilers and I will be reading the next book in this series. Because we are left up in the air.... ( )
  jaddington | Feb 16, 2015 |
This book was disappointing since the idea of teenagers going to Magicians School has potential. Yet none of the characters was very likeable. They were mainly mopey and self-centered and competitive, and regularly drank to the point of passing out. The school had a failing, for me, because it had no moral teachings. It simply taught magic and when the students graduate they are on their own. After graduation the main characters decide to go to the magical land of Fillory and go on a quest to get the crowns and become kings and queens of Fillory. This is a let down as a quest goal; there was no noble leader in Fillory asking for their help and the students did not risk their lives in defense of a great good. On page 272 Penny demonstrated a dark magic weapon and Quentin did not smile because dark magic crosses so many lines. I did not find a true hero in this book, or even a likeable character. Since the writing style was good one day I may read another of Grossman’s books. ( )
  hangen | Feb 8, 2015 |
You will of course have heard of the Fillory series by the late Christopher Plover (pronounced ‘Pluvver’, like the wading bird). In order the five titles are The World in the Walls, The Girl Who Told Time, The Flying Forest, The Secret Sea and The Wandering Dune. You will know all about the Chatwin children — Martin, Rupert, Fiona, Helen and Jane — and how they manage to escape to the magical land of Fillory, where they have adventures before they are called back to their own world. And you will remember that Martin was the only sibling to remain in Fillory because after The Wandering Dune the series just stopped, not long before Plover died in 1939.

You don’t remember? Surely you must — there’s even a Facebook page, Christopher Plover: The Fillory Series, to remind us. At least, it’s a page maintained by Lev Grossman or his publishers or … but, ah, hang on. Doesn’t this smack a bit of The Chronicles of Narnia? Of course it does: that’s a deliberate ploy by Grossman, a bit of metafiction. I have to say that in The Magicians he carries off this particular sleight of hand extremely well (it’s fooled some gullible readers) — it’s all worlds within worlds, or rather parallel worlds. Grossman’s novel describes a world very like our own except that real magic exists; the Narnia books never appeared but the Fillory series did; J K Rowling’s Harry Potter books certainly get referenced (Hermione, threstrals, broomsticks, wands and the cottage in the grounds) but there is no South Pole Base in Antarctica. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that fantasy world of Fillory really existed on some plane of existence which one could readily access?

Quentin Coldwater is seventeen, and is off down Brooklyn’s Fifth Avenue to be interviewed for Princeton. It doesn’t go according to plan. There’s a dead body, a mysterious messenger and an enigmatic manuscript entitled The Magicians: Book Six of Fillory and Further. Then there’s a space in some waste ground which shouldn’t exist, and somehow Quentin joins the new intake of Brakebills College, a higher education institution like no other in North America. Imagine the Hampden College student clique from Donna Tartt’s The Secret History plonked into some kind of Hogwarts University; remember the same intensity, the similarly obscure subject matter, the same possibilities for violent death — with the addition of magic. We see everything through the main protagonist’s eyes — family, staff, friends, enemies — while, simmering in the background, there is the clique’s collective obsession with the childhood novels of Fillory, and the fantasy that it may be a real place. But how dangerous would it be to enter this fictional world if access were ever possible?

I really did enjoy this book which, despite its nearly 500 pages, kept me reading avidly. It takes us at a steady pace through five years of Quentin’s education and beyond, with a tightknit quintet of friends, lovers and fellow students — Quentin, Eliot, Alice, Janet and Josh — sharing leisure, study and experiences. There are no paragons of virtue here, and they all have their weaknesses and foibles as well as strengths of character and magic abilities. Grossman somehow managed to sustain this reader’s affection for these flawed oddball characters, particularly Quentin: on the surface it’s hard to like a student who finds A grades easy yet spends much of the time vacillating and being depressed, but at a deeper level it’s easy to empathise with the growing pains of adolescence and the sense of being an outsider. I also rather suspect that there is a lot of Grossman himself in the figure of Quentin, which must lend depth to his characterisation.

Fiction dealing with the possibility of magic in a ‘real’ world for me preferably has to provide some kind of rationale for its nature and its limits, or at least construct a framework on which to hang it. All through The Magicians characters try to get a handle on this without the author actually specifying either nature or limitations; they theorise and experiment and create, they are catalysts at times or the magic is channelled through them. But always the narrative drives any reservations I have aside, for example in the epic journey of the geese from New York to Antarctica (perhaps inspired by Paul Gallico’s The Snow Goose, with the concept of a person’s spirit reincarnated in the body of a bird). For all its length there’s a deep satisfaction in the author’s plotting, where incidents apparently casually dropped into the action are shown to have significance later when you’ve all but forgotten them.

PentagramI have mentioned the occurrence of the number five — five undergraduates, five years of study, five books of Fillory — and it turns up in other ways, such as the pentagram tattooed on the backs of Brakebills graduates. But there is a sense that the number sequence continues. Fillory is the key: six graduates discover the ultimate secret in the sixth year after commencing at Brakebills; the purported Book Six of the fantasy series Quentin glimpses early on is entitled The Magicians, and in a sense Grossman’s novel is that sixth book, with the same title and promising resolution of several mysteries.

Grossman's The Magicians seems to me absolute recompense for my disappointment in the same author’s Codex (which also had a metafictional element). The good news is that it’s part of a trilogy, subsequent volumes having been well received (though I’ve taken care to avoid reading any spoilers). The ultimate test for me of any book is, would I read it again? The answer, to paraphrase Christopher Plover, is that this is no ordinary book, and that it will go on the appropriate shelf for a revisit. Along with the realm of Fillory.

http://wp.me/s2oNj1-fillory ( )
  ed.pendragon | Feb 5, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 394 (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.

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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.
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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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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