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The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Lev Grossman

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4,2773611,155 (3.47)1 / 343
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)

2009 (30) 2010 (38) 2011 (37) 2012 (31) adventure (24) college (57) coming of age (91) ebook (46) fantasy (760) fiction (495) Kindle (35) library (24) magic (307) magicians (61) Narnia (39) New York (37) novel (45) own (22) read (61) read in 2009 (23) read in 2010 (35) read in 2011 (37) school (30) sff (28) signed (21) speculative fiction (23) to-read (174) unread (20) urban fantasy (65) 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 could be 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 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 361 (next | show all)
Review Posted from Tenacious Reader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2014/07/08/the-magicians-by-lev-grossman/

The Magicians by Lev Grossman is one of the most divisive, marmite books I have come across. Love it or hate, it usually gets a reaction. So, no need to keep you in suspense, I fall on the love side of the fence here. I realize the book is not perfect, but for me, it was a great read.

A common claim with this book is that it is Harry Potter meets Narnia. I suppose I can see where they are coming from since this is a school to learn magic. And the Narnia reference comes into play as well. But just because a book has some basic similarities in the general blurb does not mean the books are at all the same type of read. So, if you have break down the book like that, I think I’d have to throw a little Catcher in the Rye as well.

Even in Harry Potter’s darkest days, he never achieves the level of depression, self-doubt, and angst, etcetera that Quentin Coldwater feels. Also, this is college. And not the college that the Hogwarts kids would likely go to either. It has sex, drugs, and alcohol to help feed the angst. The level of angst and Quentin’s dark state of mind is quite often the chief complaint for those that fall on the non-love side of this book. I actually quite enjoyed it. I like downtrodden protagonists and I relate to characters that are not all sunshine and rainbows.

But there’s more to love here than just the depressed antagonist. I really enjoyed reading a fantasy book that has characters I could relate to, people from our world that have suddenly found themselves in a world of magic. Then they are tasked with learning it, but not in a wand waiving, Harry Potter kind of way. There are some scary lessons and some rather bizarre ones as well.

And then there is the Narnia comparison. The alternate world (Fillory) that the students find themselves in turns out to be the land from children’s books that Quentin still obsesses over. Fillory is such a contrast to the students’ regular lives, both before and during their time at Brakesbill. It lets the reader also see a different side of our protagonist. Also, the contrast of this fairy tale setting and that of the angsty college life at Brakesbill is rather fun and interesting.

So, love it or hate it, you’re bound to have an opinion on this one, and the only way to find out for yourself is to read it. Hopefully you like, but, if not, well, then you’ll know. ( )
  tenaciousreader | Jul 15, 2014 |
First, this book is nothing at all like Harry Potter. There is some obvious borrowing from the Chronicles of Narnia but the book is so filled with all the most contemptible qualities of the human race that even that comparison is troubling. Having reviewed this book for potential inclusion in a list of young readers books, I can only conclude that most young readers would be better served to miss this one. The characters are superficial, spoiled and egocentric. The plot is silly. The story line is virtually non-existent and the book is tedious, tedious, tedious. ( )
1 vote turtlesleap | Jun 24, 2014 |
Originally posted at http://www.matildaallgrownup.wordpress.com

Lev Grossman’s The Magicians has been described as Harry Potter plus The Chronicles of Narnia for adults, and in a way, that’s a fair assessment. But The Magicians is also something entirely its own. It has a vastly different feel than the Harry Potter books: grittier, more sordid. It seems to be at once more and less magical than Harry Potter or Narnia—more technical, but less wondrous.

Our protagonist is Quentin Coldwater, a brilliant young man who also happens to be a pretty self-absorbed downer. I did not hate Quentin, but nor did I care very much about his well-being. Having a semi-unlikeable character at the center of the story is, I believe, intentional on Grossman’s part: the whole “point” of the book seems to be that magic would actually impact real life and real, flawed people in a much less exciting and more dangerous way than we would like to believe.

In fact, Quentin himself has been led to believe that magic, if it exists, would make life much more, well, magical. He, like millions of real-life Harry Potter and Narnia fans, reads and re-reads a children’s fantasy series about a magical world named Fillory, which is reminiscent of Narnia in that a group of siblings accesses this magical land via one particular grandfather clock.

Obsessed with magic tricks and the Fillory books, Quentin one day stumbles upon (really, he’s “invited” to) a boarding school for magicians, the prestigious Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy. He passes the entrance exam and is enrolled at the five-year school. It seems that his wildest, most improbable dreams have come true: magic is real, and he can perform it! Unfortunately, magic also turns out to be extremely challenging. (There is no foolish wand waving at Brakebills; rather, magic is performed with the hands and is much, much more difficult to learn than it is at Hogwarts.) So Quentin experiences life as a student of magic in much the same way as college students do today, complete with lots of studying, sex and copious amounts of alcohol.

Unfortunately, Quentin finds that simply being a magician does not make him Happy or Fulfilled; nor do his friends or his (totally awesome and brilliant) girlfriend. And when Quentin and his friends find out that Fillory actually exists—and manage to find their way there in search of a quest, like the ones they’ve read about—they realize that even that magical world is a disappointment; it’s nothing like Quentin’s favorite books have led him to believe. In Fillory, there is real danger around every corner.

I found the pacing of The Magicians to be annoyingly varied. The novel is divided into books, and I found some of them to be much more exciting than others. The first (very long) book details Quentin’s years at Brakebills, during which nothing much happens. Sure, we get to know the characters better, and a big plot point or two makes an appearance, but for the most part these plot points are there are and gone in a flash, barely understood and not to be returned to until much later on in the book. I was interested in the magical world that was being set up, but I kept wondering,Where’s the plot? When is something going to happen?

The last third of The Magicians is where the real action takes place, and in my opinion, it made up for the lack of action in the first two thirds. Questions were answered; everything fit perfectly into place like a puzzle, which I appreciated. There are real, scary moments in this book—moments where magic goes awry, where terrifying creatures appear—which I absolutely loved. I understand what The Magicians is trying to say: that magic is not all fun and games and childish fantasy, but that didn’t stop me from falling in love with Fillory.

For the most part, this book was well done. There were a few rough spots; for example, at one point it seemed as though Grossman was attempting to ask serious existential/religious questions, but he never really followed through on that. But despite its slow beginning and whiny protagonist, this book is definitely worth a read. I liked that even though The Magicians was in many ways similar to Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, the magic was so different. I think it’s a world (or worlds) worth exploring. ( )
1 vote blackrabbit89 | Jun 24, 2014 |
Self-absorbed, annoying, moody, smug, dissatisfied, spoiled, fake, maudlin, insecure, aimless, whiny, stupid, pampered, emo, vain, egotistical, small-minded, excessive, inconsiderate, thankless, pretentious, snobby, entitled, mercurial, immature, depressed, hypocritical, mean-spirited, cynical, clueless – just a small sample of the words I could use to describe the characters in this book.

No, The Magicians isn’t going to your big smiling ball of sunshine no matter how many Harry Potter comparisons you see slapped on it. Instead, you have a book featuring a much darker, grittier and almost satirical aura, a New Adult urban fantasy about letting the unhappiness of wanting something you can never have consume you. We follow disillusioned Quentin Coldwater, a high school student who never really grew out of his love for a series of novels he read as a kid about the adventures of five siblings in a magical land called Fillory. Compared to that, what can the real world offer him?

Imagine how he feels then, when he discovers that magic is real. And not only is it real, Quentin himself is a promising young magician, accepted into very secret and highly exclusive Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy in upstate New York. It should have changed everything. Quentin should have been ecstatic.

But he is not. But of course he’s not. Magic isn’t going to make Quentin happy. Neither is finding out that Fillory actually exists. It’s a sad moment when the realization hits. There’s really no cure for what Quentin’s suffering from, except one thing and one thing only: a few years of life experience and a whole lot of growing up. Well, that or maybe a swift and forceful kick in the seat of his pants.

Thing is though, you can write a miserably unlikeable character for the sake of writing a miserably unlikeable character. I don’t mind that, really. Not even if your character is an insufferably whiny little ingrate. You just have to give me a reason – any reason – to make me care about what happens to him. That’s not too much to ask, is it? My issue with this novel wasn’t so much with the mopey protagonist than it was with the directionless storytelling. In fact, I was quite excited for the first part of this book. I couldn’t get enough of the magical school idea the author’s jabs and funny references to Harry Potter and other humorous injections. That there was no sign of a main conflict didn’t bother me at this point either, as I was relishing the setting and enjoying myself too much.

Around the midway point was when the book started to lose me, coinciding with Quentin’s graduation and life after Brakebills. Until then I never really bothered asking where the story was going, and hadn’t felt the need to – but eventually there was a creeping sense that giving Quentin and his magician friends’ “real life” problems like relationship hang ups and dismal prospects for the future just wasn’t going cut it. Worse yet, there is absolutely no development in the characters (unless you count decline as growth – which I don’t) and that’s mind boggling especially when you consider how a person’s time at college should have been the most formative years. Like, dudes, I get that y’all are bored with life. But I’m bored with you too now. Sorry.

Admittedly, the final handful of chapters about the discovery and exploration of Fillory had their charm. Possibly enough to salvage my feelings for this book for a solid middling rating. And I suppose the conclusion, while incomplete and flinging the doors wide open for a new adventure, also manages to offer a sense of closure and satisfaction in its own unique way. The ending gives me hope for Quentin, and the promise of more Fillory makes me feel a lot more optimistic about the next book. ( )
5 vote stefferoo | Jun 13, 2014 |
I roared through this novel in just a few days. It's that kind of book. Quentin was always in those gifted and talented programs at school. Raised by older parents who seemed to forget about him for long stretches, he had a lonely childhood, where he spent much of his time fantasizing about the world depicted in a series of children's fantasy novels, one which looks a lot like Narnia. Coming home one November afternoon, he stumbles into what he thinks is another world, but which turns out to be a college of sorts for magicians.

The Magicians has been compared to the Harry Potter series, but despite the school setting in the first parts of the book, there is less reference to Hogwarts than there is to Narnia. Here, the central characters graduate and move into New York City as adults and then enter into the meat of the novel relatively late.

This is a quick, action-packed read. While Grossman examines what being able to work magic means for young adults sent out into a mundane world, and emphasizes that the world does not generally throw together interesting and safe challenges for those who are floundering, he doesn't let this affect the speed of events. A lot happens, quickly. This is a fun, imaginative novel.

Now for the nit-picking. Grossman doesn't write women well. He does try, but he's not good at it. The two female characters who spend significant time together never interact and dislike each other in a catty way. Girls are either saintlike or looking to make trouble. The guys are complex and capable of having both good and bad traits. And the breasts. There are a lot of them mentioned with reference to shape and size. One character has "heavy breasts". Her breasts are mentioned a lot, and always with the descriptor "heavy", which eventually made me wonder how she could get around so quickly, being weighed down as she was. That said, I enjoyed the book and will eventually read the sequel, hoping that Grossman will, in the meantime, have met some three-dimensional women, gotten to know them beyond their breasts, and been able to add that nuance to his female characters. ( )
4 vote RidgewayGirl | May 10, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 361 (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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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)

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