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The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Lev Grossman

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,932418928 (3.45)1 / 375
Title:The Magicians
Authors:Lev Grossman
Info:William Heinemann (2009), Paperback, 416 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Magicians by Lev Grossman (2009)

  1. 161
    The Secret History by Donna Tartt (middled, kraaivrouw)
  2. 121
    Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman (catfantastic)
    catfantastic: Read the short story "The Problem of Susan" included in this collection.
  3. 165
    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?
  4. 146
    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. 137
    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. 20
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  9. 31
    The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (rnmcusic)
  10. 10
    Bedtime Story by Robert J. Wiersema (ShelfMonkey)
  11. 10
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  12. 10
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  13. 10
    The Vanishers by Heidi Julavits (BeckyJG)
  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. 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. 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.
  17. 65
    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.
  18. 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.
  19. 00
    A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Two different schools of magic
  20. 00
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    aethercowboy: Both books deal with a fictional fantasy series that holds a lot of significance to the story.

(see all 26 recommendations)


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English (416)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  All languages (418)
Showing 1-5 of 416 (next | show all)
This book is excellently written and interesting, with a well-formed world and characters. I love how the ultimate story is foreshadowed and built up over a very long time. The problem with the very good writing is that the protagonist is a teenage boy who is as realistically fucking stupid as every other depressed, emotionally-stunted, unobservant, overly-educated teen boy. I constantly want to punch him in the throat. In any righteous world, Alice would be the hero.

But I'm not sure the book would even work without that kind of completely self-centred male protagonist, written intentionally to be that way, mirroring every other male protagonist who was unintentionally written to be the same. ( )
  collingsruth | Sep 13, 2015 |
Magic and magicians for adults. Following Quentin Coldwater as he matriculates at the very un-Hogwarts-like Brakebills. Satisfying, but not Harry Potter. ( )
  VashonJim | Sep 5, 2015 |
@magicians +john_green

This is possibly my all-time favorite book (and I have hundreds of #2s); it's for all those kids who grew up with Harry Potter but never got an owl. I've since read every other book in this series and they simply get better and better. I simply can't sing enough praises for this book ( )
  Lorem | Sep 4, 2015 |
I’ve read lots of books and seen lots of movies and TV shows with characters that are less than stellar. Heroes, even, who are deeply flawed and, in many cases, assholes. I get it. A complex and tortured protagonist makes for compelling drama. But in all of my life, I’ve never wanted to haul off and hit a fictional character.

Until I met Quentin Coldwater. If I ever, somehow, ran into Quentin, I would no doubt pop him in the mouth on general principles. Quentin is the hero and main character of The Magicians, which more than one reviewer dubbed “Harry Potter for adults.” Quentin is also a complete, utter, and colossal douchebag.

Quentin is an about-to graduate high school student who is whisked away to an exclusive (and invisible) college in upstate New York, where he will study instead of Princeton. During his years there he, along with his friends and rivals, learn to be magicians. To what end? Well, there isn’t really one. There’s no great battle against evil for which they are being trained. Further study of the actual mechanics of magic is discouraged, as it tends to make people go crazy (allowing the author to skirt the issue of how magic in this world actually works – either a clever sidestep or a cowardly dodge, I’m not sure which). Although we’re told that magicians work around the world behind the scenes of governments and other power centers, the world of The Magicians is, in terms of history and society, exactly like ours.

Which is why, for the last hunk of the book, after Quentin and crew have graduated, they spend most of their time in another world, where their training comes in handy. Called Fillory, it’s a lot like C.S. Lewis’s Narnia with the serial numbers filed off. In fact, according to a comment to this review, it was originally supposed to be Narnia but Lewis’s lawyers put the kibosh on that. Exciting things happen in Fillory, and lessons are learned, but none of it really carries much weight.

That’s because Quentin is such a colossal douchebag. He begins the book as the stereotypical moody teenager, completely disaffected with the world around him. And by the end of the book . . . he’s exactly the same, only older (horribly lame attempt at a happy ending/sequel setup notwithstanding). I get the point being made (Quentin is constantly looking for meaning anywhere but where he is and is never able to find it), but it doesn’t make for a protagonist that I can really care about.

Take, for instance, the time Quentin spends in New York City after graduating from college. He reunites with some friends who graduated a year earlier. Unlike his dour home in Brooklyn, they live in Manhattan. They don’t have to work, have mastery over the elements, and spend their days planning lavish dinner parties. They drink too much and fuck (too much, too, as it turns out). All the while, he’s got a girlfriend whose only real problem is that, for all her brilliance, she can’t see what a douchebag Quentin is. With all this going for him, Quentin is still a miserable shit. Seriously? He’s not even the 1%, he’s the 0.01% and he’s still a mopey twit? Arghh!

Given all that, I can’t say I really liked The Magicians, obviously. However, it’s got an episodic feel to it and some of the individual set pieces are worth the trip. Others aren’t, such as the laughably bad ending. It’s definitely a mixed bag.

There’s a sequel, as I mentioned, which I already have to I figure I’ll get around to reading it at some point. I only hope that, a few years on, Quentin’s learned to enjoy himself a little bit. Or I’ll have to pop the douchebag in the mouth.

www.jdbyrne.net ( )
  RaelWV | Aug 16, 2015 |
I found this book in the YA section and I'm pretty sure that's not where it belongs. At times it was a little difficult to get into, but I actually really enjoyed it once they got to Fillory and I'm excited to read the other 2 books in the series. ( )
  vickimarie2002 | Aug 3, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 416 (next | show all)
”Magikerna” marknadsförs som ”Harry Potter för vuxna”, men i själva verket är det en ovanligt vacker sorgesång över hur det är att lämna barndomen. Det var faktiskt bättre förr, när man kunde uppslukas helt av leken.
added by Jannes | editDagens nyheter, Lotta Olsson (Feb 4, 2013)
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)

» 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.
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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(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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:45 -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 7 descriptions

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