The Magicians by Lev Grossman
A Recommended Book of the Month
Quentin Coldwater’s life is changed forever by an apparently chance encounter when he turns up for his entrance interview to Princeton he finds his interviewer dead – but a strange envelope bearing Quentin’s name leads him down a very different path to any he’d ever imagined.
The envelope, and the mysterious manuscript it contains, leads to a secret world of obsession and privilege, a world of freedom and power and, for a while, it’s a world that seems to answer all Quentin’s desires. But the idyll cannot last – and when it’s finally shattered, Quentin is drawn into something darker and far more dangerous than anything he could ever have expected…
Lev Grossman knows and understands the academic elite. His time spent - and the experiences gained - living and studying at Harvard and Yale have been used to good effect in the creation of an ambitious and compelling urban fantasy titled The Magicians.
On first glance the reader may be forgiven for thinking that this is simply another novel about gifted youngsters attending a school of magic, albeit aimed at a more mature audience. They would be mistaken. The author has taken all that is held dear in the fantasy genre, reverently (most of the time) tipping the hat to Rowling, Tolkien, Lewis, Le Guin and others, and shown it from a completely different and unique angle.
The Magicians is split into four books, all markedly different. Part one mainly deals with the discovery of the magical academy (called Brakebills and hidden to the none-gifted), and the subsequent training in the arts of magic. The second book deals with the difficulties faced by students when their education is over and they are faced with the stark reality that is working life and responsibility. In the third book the fantasy elements take full control as we enter the magical (more so) world of Fillory (think of a Tim Burton realised Narnia). By the beginning of the fourth and final book the reader is completely hooked and Grossman delivers the final flourish with a thrilling climax and an extremely satisfying ending.
The characters that inhabit Grossman’s worlds are flawed and very, very realistic. The thoughts and behaviour of the late teen / early twenty-something’s whose lives we follow are excellently, and sometimes uncomfortably accurate. From the casual alcoholism to the hormone-controlled behaviour, the way these people behave will leave many cringing as they recognise themselves amongst the far-from-perfect ensemble.
The narrative is precise and well constructed as works well with Grossman’s style of characterisation, which is often reminiscent of Stephen King, particularly in the way that Quentin, Eliot, Alice and others gain faces and step lifelike from the page as soon as they are introduced. The author also shows an admirable eye for detail and an obvious talent for human observation.
The book has many highlights, one of them being the magical school of Brakebills South, situated in Antarctica. The except below describes Quentin’s first impressions of this magical place:
“Stone for stone, board for board, Brakebills South was the same house as the House at Brakebills. Which was reassuring in a way, but it was incongruous to find what looked like an eighteenth-century English country house planted in the middle of a soaring Antarctic wasteland. The roof of the West Tower was broad and round and paved with smooth flagstones, with a stone wall running around the edge. It was open to the elements, but some kind of magical arrangement kept the air warm and humid and protected it from the wind, or mostly. Quentin imagined he could feel a deep chill lurking underneath the warmth somewhere. The air was tepid, but the floor, the furniture, everything he touched was cool and clammy. It was like being in a warm greenhouse in the dead of winter.”
The Magicians: Marie Byrd Land
The Magicians is a book that will likely divide opinions leaving very few sitting on the fence. The majority will love it but there will be some that will detest it (ardent Potter and Narnia fans possibly). The fantasy genre always needs an author to come along a show it in a different light and this is exactly what has Grossman has done. He has injected sexual tension and questionable morals into a school for wizards and the result is a rousing, perceptive and multifaceted coming of age story that is both bright and beguiling. The Magicians is a perfect fantasy book for older teens that will find that the author understands them, and their feelings, possibly better than they do themselves.
Lev Grossman was born in 1969, the son of two English professors, and grew up in a suburb of Boston. He graduated from Harvard with a degree in literature and went on to the Ph.D. program in comparative literature at Yale, although he left after three years without finishing a dissertation.
This The Magicians book review was written by Floresiensis
All reviews for: The Magicians series
The Magicians series: Book 1
Quentin Coldwater’s life is changed forever by an apparently chance encounter: when he turns up for his entrance interview to Princeton he finds his interviewer dead ...
The Magician King
The Magicians series: Book 2
Nothing is ever as it seems. Quentin Coldwater is king of the bizarre and wonderful land of Fillory, but the days and nights of royal luxury are losing their appeal and Que...
Have you read The Magicians?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
The Magicians reader reviews
Anon from US
This is the most ridiculous pretentious crap fantasy book that I read. Characters are over exaggerated and quite unnatural beings. Maybe the author has some compulsion to problematic subjects. It seems to me the greatest waste of time and paper that I ever read.
Bob from China
Idk how I feel about this book. I thought my English was good until I started reading this book. The language is too difficult for me, so I couldn't understand it. Even native speakers I feel would have a problem understanding this book. On every page there were words I couldnt understand. Did anyone else feel this way?
Corey from Michigan
Sometimes Grossman tends to get too caught up in the details, and suddenly switches his focus to something else, making you believe he either gave up on an idea mid-way, or that he suffers from A.D.D. and its apparent even in his finished writing. Aside from this irksome habit, I found this to be a painful, refreshing fantasy novel, that almost destroys it's own place as a fantasy due to how realistic it feels. Forget the petty teen angst Harry Potter and friends face, The Magicians is crammed to the brink with reality; apathy, depression, sex, drugs, alcohol, fumbling for purpose and happiness. I found myself assuming he would take things one direction, and much like life, I found myself hoping or expecting for something much different then what he gave me. This novel is by no means typical to the genre. It's been a week since I finished it, and I still find myself personally tormented by the ending, and waiting extremely impatiently for the sequel.
Steve from Augusta, Georgia
Rarely in the genre do I not know how the book will end. I think you can't have enjoyed any of the best fantasy books and not felt something for this one. It very much brings the whole idea home again, after traveling to all of those far away lands. It was a pleasure.
Gem from London
As a quick read, itís a good book, and a vast improvement from his first novel. However Lev Grossman tries to be more visual than he is capable of writing, leaving you slightly lost at points especially during the more dramatic scenes. Once again as well with his books the ending felt rushed (although clearly left open for a sequel) but with such a fast paced book leaves the reader more disappointed than craving more. Although very funny at points, almost felt like Grossman was being a little too clever with current references, which wonít partially aid the book in becoming a classic.
Kai from Michigan
This was a book that was highly hyped but failed to live up to even a skosh of what it was suppossed to be. The writing was the only "decent" part of it, where the story was rushed and contrite, the characters unwelcome and not fully realized. Consequently, in a book that was trying to bridge the gap between High Fantasy and fiction, Grossman failed in creating anything believable. The magic system was subpar and undiscovered from the reader's perspective throughout the whole of the novel. Don't read it.
Derek from US
Best fantasy book all year. Highly recommended.
Jonathan from US
Loved the first half of the book, hated the second. Hated watching Q self-destruct in the middle, but most of all, hated the ending. The true "villian"(s) of the book (from the protagonist's perspective) shows up on the last page and everything is ok?! Doesn't make any sense, he should have blasted the villian to oblivion and become a niffin.
6.3/10 from 9 reviews
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
The Powder Mage Trilogy
The alchemy of gunpowder fused with the magic of sorcery. In a time of upheaval, resurgence and corrupted Royalty Privileged, one-man’s love for his lost wife and his...
In the first age of Andeira, men and dragons brought together the two halves of the elemental magic of the world to create a union through which their magic, and the world,...
The House of Shattered Wings
Aliette de Bodard
Paris in the aftermath of the Great Magicians War. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black, thick with ashes and...
When a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford - Samuel Johnson. In fact, Dr Johnson was only half right. There is in Lo...
Winter Be My Shield
Sierra has a despised and forbidden gift - she raises power from the suffering of others. Enslaved by the king's torturer, Sierra escapes, barely keeping ahead of Raste...
Mark de Jager
Stratus wakes alone, with no memory of his past. All he knows is his name and that he is not human. Possessing immense strength, powerful sorcery and an insatiable hunger, ...
The Dresden Files
Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Reasonable rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment. Harry Dresden is the best and technicall...
The Relic Guild
Magic caused the war. Magic is forbidden. Magic will save us. It was said the Labyrinth had once been the great meeting place, a sprawl...
Alex Verus series
Camden, North London. A tangled, mangled junction of train lines, roads and the canal. Where minor celebrities hang out with minor criminals, where tourists and moody teena...
Rivers of London series
My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Ser...
Cloak of Magic
Somewhere along the line where human nature meets human imagination, myths are created. Somewhere in that space lives the spirit that created and sustains Shehaios, the Fai...
Condemned to four thousand years of loneliness and regret, Ilfayne finds a rare thing in Hilde: a friend. For that, he will do anything to keep her safe. Just as he gathers...
Stranger of Tempest
Lynx is a mercenary with a sense of honour; a dying breed in the Riven Kingdom. Failed by the nation he served and weary of the skirmishes that plague the continent's p...
Arrows of the Queen
Thirteen-year-old Talia longs for a better life, far away from her repressive stepmothers and the village of Sensholding, where books chronicling the adventures of the Hera...
The Wizard of Rainbows
Mark A Cropper
There is a road of darkness and awful peril, a path that shall take you to places beyond the knowledge of men. The Lord-of-Mists has awakened in his dark realm with one pur...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
- Recommended contemporary / urban fantasy books/series
- Recommended books/series featuring wizards and magicians
Best of 2016
Stranger of Tempest
Lynx is a mercenary with a sense of honour; a dying breed in the Riven Kingdom. Failed by the nation he served and weary of the skirmishes that plague the continent's prin...
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
Every dog has its day... And for Lineker, a happy go lucky mongrel from Peckham, the day the world ends is his: finally a chance to prove to his owner just how loyal he can be. Reg, an agoraphobic writer with an obsession for nineties football, plans to wait out the impending doom in his second floor flat, hiding himself away from the riots outs...
The Shadow Crucible
Taking humanity back to their primordial beliefs and fears, Estella confronts Mikhail’s faith by revealing the true horror of the lucrative trade in human souls. All ...
The Dog Stars
Hig, bereaved and traumatised after global disaster, has three things to live for - his dog Jasper, his aggressive but helpful neighbour, and his Cessna aeroplane. He's...
Beren and Luthien
Painstakingly restored from Tolkien’s manuscripts and presented for the first time as a continuous and standalone story, the epic tale of Beren and Lúthien wil...
Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall - named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn h...
While honeymooning in the Tower of Babel, Thomas Senlin loses his wife, Marya. The Tower of Babel is the greatest marvel of the Silk Age. Immense as a mountain, the ancient...
The Ninth Rain
The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the real...