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The Magicians: A Novel by Lev Grossman

The Magicians: A Novel (original 2009; edition 2010)

by Lev Grossman

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4,5073821,077 (3.47)1 / 352
Title:The Magicians: A Novel
Authors:Lev Grossman
Info:Plume (2010), Paperback, 416 pages

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 (377)  Swedish (1)  All languages (378)
Showing 1-5 of 377 (next | show all)
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 |
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 |
Full review:

By all rights, The Magicians, by Lev Grossman should never have crossed my path as a reader. I didn’t know it existed. I didn’t want to know it existed. I was actually reading a transcript from a chat with Keith Law (though I can’t recall which one). Anyway, Keith Law describes it as “a parody of popular fantasy novels”. I’m not really sure what to do with that one, actually, because it certainly doesn’t do the book justice. Or follow the implication of using the word comedy. This book isn’t comedic. Is it a take on material we’ve all read before? (Don’t lie. Everyone’s read Harry Potter. Sales numbers prove it.)

I’m going to try and avoid spoilers in my review for once, because, well, that’s sort of going to ruin this book and, if anything, The Magicians plays on expectations of the genre. The main character, Quentin Coldwater, has exactly the problems one imagines of a teenager in modern United States of America culture. Namely, mood swings, constant imagining that life is horrible and that it’s bound to get better. So, when the opportunity to escape his failure of a life appears, obviously he takes it.

Except, that doesn’t solve his problem with life because he takes the exact same baggage with him to the magical academy of Brakesbills university. Yes, university. Quentin is almost assuredly a senior in high school, discussing visiting and applying for college with his friends.

By making Brakesbills college/university level, complete with a plethora of references to understanding magic relative to quantum physics and modern science, it sets a decidedly more mature tone for the book. If Harry Potter features an 11-year-old boy experiencing with fulfillment of the 8-year-old crowd, The Magicians is playing a 18-year-old boy to the crowd of moody teenage angst. That a hell of an expectations curve, based on all the normal teenage wizardry stuff. ( )
  sypherhawq | Oct 4, 2014 |
A well written magical thriller. It contain twists, suspense and revelations. The main characters are well rounded and interesting making the story addictive to read. The ending stopped a bit abruptly but I liked it as it makes me wonder what happens next. Not getting all the answers you desire can be a good thing. ( )
  Ridhe | Oct 3, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 377 (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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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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