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The Magicians: A Novel (Magicians Trilogy) Paperback – Illustrated, May 25, 2010
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—George R. R. Martin, bestselling author of A Game of Thrones
“This gripping novel draws on the conventions of contemporary and classic fantasy novels in order to upend them, and tell a darkly cunning story about the power of imagination itself. [The Magicians is] an unexpectedly moving coming-of-age story.”
—The New Yorker
“Sad, hilarious, beautiful, and essential to anyone who cares about modern fantasy.”
—Joe Hill, author of Horns and Locke & Key
“If you like the Harry Potter books . . . you should also read Lev Grossman’s Magicians series, which is a very knowing and wonderful take on the wizard school genre.”
—John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars
—William Gibson, author of Neuromancer
“Most people will like this book. But there’s a certain type of reader who will enjoy it down to the bottoms of their feet.”
—Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Name of the Wind
“Lev Grossman’s novel The Magicians may just be the most subversive, gripping, and enchanting fantasy novel I’ve read this century. . . . Grossman is a hell of a pacer, and the book rips along, whole seasons tossed out in a single sentence, all the boring mortar ground off the bricks, so that the book comes across as a sheer, seamless face that you can’t stop yourself from tumbling down once you launch yourself off the first page. 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.”
—Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
“Fresh and compelling. . . . 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.”
“The Magicians is original . . . slyly funny.”
“Lev Grossman’s playful fantasy novel The Magicians pays homage to a variety of sources . . . with such verve and ease that you quickly forget the references and lose yourself in the story.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine
“The novel manages a literary magic trick: it’s both an enchantingly written fantasy and a moving deconstruction of enchantingly realized fantasies.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Intriguing, coming-of-age fantasy”
—Boston Globe (Pick of the Week)
“I felt like I was poppin’ peyote buttons with J. K. Rowling when I was reading Lev Grossman’s new novel The Magicians. . . . I couldn’t put it down.”
—Mickey Rapkin, GQ
“Sly and lyrical, [The Magicians] captures the magic of childhood and the sobering years beyond.”
“Through sheer storytelling grace and imaginative power, Lev Grossman [creates] an adventure that’s both enthralling and mature.”
“Mixing the magic of the most 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 The Magicians reimagines modern-day fantasy for grown-ups. [It] breathes life into a cast of characters you want to know . . . and does what [some] claim 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.”
“The Magicians by Lev Grossman is a very entertaining book; one of those summer page-turners that you wish went on for another six volumes. Grossman takes a good number of the best childhood fantasy books from the last seventy-five years and distills their ability to fascinate into the fan-boy mind of his protagonist, Quentin Coldwater. . . . There is no doubt that this book is inventive storytelling and Grossman is at the height of his powers.”
“An irresistible storytelling momentum makes The Magicians a great summer book, both thoughtful and enchanting.”
“Grossman skillfully moves us through four years of school and a postgraduate adventure, never letting the pace slacken . . . beguiling.”
“Stirring, complex, adventurous . . . from the life of Quentin Coldwater, his slacker Park Slope Harry Potter, Lev Grossman delivers superb coming of age fantasy.”
—Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
“The Magicians ought to be required reading for anyone who has ever fallen in love with a fantasy series, or wished that they went to a school for wizards. Lev Grossman has written a terrific, at times almost painfully perceptive novel of the fantastic that brings to mind both Jay McInerney and J. K. Rowling.”
—Kelly Link, author of Magic for Beginners and Stranger Things Happen
“Fantasy fans can’t afford to miss the darkly comic and unforgettably queasy experience of reading this book—and be glad for reality.”
—Booklist (Starred Review)
“This is a book for grown-up fans of children’s fantasy and would appeal to those who loved Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. Highly recommended.”
—Library Journal (Starred Review)
“Very dark and very scary, with no simple answers provided—fantasy for grown-ups, in other words, and very satisfying indeed.”
“Anyone who grew up reading about magical wardrobes and unicorns and talking trees before graduating to Less Than Zero and The Secret History and Bright Lights, Big City will immediately feel right at home with this smart, beautifully written book by Lev Grossman. The Magicians is fantastic, in all senses of the word. It’s strange, fanciful, extravagant, eccentric, and truly remarkable—a great story, masterfully told.”
—Scott Smith, bestselling author of The Ruins and A Simple Plan
“The Magicians is a spellbinding, fast-moving, dark fantasy book for grownups that feels like an instant classic. I read it in a niffin-blue blaze of page turning, enthralled by Grossman’s verbal and imaginative wizardry, his complex characters, and, most of all, his superb, brilliant inquiry into the wondrous, dangerous world of magic.”
—Kate Christensen, PEN/Faulkner award winning author of The Great Man and The Epicure's Lament
“Remember the last time you ran home to finish a book? This is it, folks. The Magicians is the most dazzling, erudite, and thoughtful fantasy novel to date. You’ll be bedazzled by the magic but also brought short by what it has to sayabout the world we live in.”
—Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante’s Handbook
“The Magicians brilliantly explores the hidden underbelly of fantasy and easy magic, taking what’s simple on the surface and turning it over to show us the complicated writhing mess beneath. It’s like seeing the worlds of Narnia and Harry Potter through a 3-D magnifying glass.”
—Naomi Novik, author of His Majesty’s Dragon
About the Author
- Publisher : Penguin Books (May 25, 2010)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 432 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0452296293
- ISBN-13 : 978-0452296299
- Item Weight : 13.1 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.47 x 0.88 x 8.44 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #33,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Objectively, there is little wrong with the book itself. The writing is, for the most part, decent, even if the author has the infuriating tendency to tell, not show. Yes, the pacing manages to be laborious, even when skipping months at a time, but other books have that problem and still manage to be decent.
The fundamental problem of this book is that nothing happens. At all. There's something to be said for a book exploring the life of the everyman, to whom nothing of import happens, instead of a mythic hero, but that's not what's going on here. Many things - wonderful things - happen to the main character, Q. He learns magic, travels to other worlds, falls in love but, throughout it all, he rejects them. Nothing is good enough for him. His magic isn't magical enough. His lover is boring. And so he continues to tell himself he's meant for something better, all he while failing to live up to what minor expectations are put on him at all.
There is no character growth. Q remains the whiny, entitled, depressed child he was at the beginning of the book, only with a whole host of new, wonderful things to go on about, at the end. He lauds himself for making such good choices and goes off and does the opposite for no adequately explored reason. He tells himself he's better than everyone and fails to see he's the least of them, even after encountering gods and genuinely decent people. If anything, he revels in the depression this causes him, almost to the point of glorifying untreated mental illness.
The characters with the most potential are hardly explored at all, with most appearing to be written out by the end of the book.
The "villain" - indeed, the overarching "plot" itself - seems like an afterthought, as if the author wrote a book about your average wizard and realized he needed an actual reason for someone to read it. Indeed, the author uses the "villain"'s appearance at the end of the novel as a chance to be preachy, going on about how getting what you want is awful because it always ends up badly, and how having emotions is terrible because you might get hurt, tacked on as if an afterthought.
None of this even begins to touch the magical worlds the author has built. Rather than being a "Hogwarts for adults", as advertised, we are given a magical college that somehow manages to be more dull than any real college ever attended, and people who are, to varying degrees, obsessed with a slightly less Christian allegory version of Narnia. Neither are flushed out to anything close to the degree Hogwarts (or Middle Earth or Narnia) was, so that instead of a "magical world that feels real" that could have possibly redeemed the rest of the book, we get a suggestion of a magical world as seen through fogged glasses from a distance.
In short, I have never encountered anything that was such a waste of time. I can't even bring myself to properly hate the book because there is nothing, fundamentally, to hate. It just is. And for that reason alone it becomes the new #1 on my "Books Never To Read Again And Keep The Rest Of The World From Reading At All Costs" list, above books I've outright loathed, because there is nothing to enjoy and even less to hate.
If you don't read much and you're into the angst and self-indulgence of the most obnoxious of teenage pity, this might just be the book for you!
There was a lot packed into this book - to me it could easily have been broken up and expanded into at least two books, if not a full trilogy itself. We start with meeting our protagonist, Quentin Coldwater, an extremely smart high school student in New York. He's not rich and he doesn't have the girl he wants and he's not happy. Unfortunately, the last part of that sentence - he's not happy - will practically be the theme of the book. No matter what twists and turns come up, no matter what Quentin accomplishes, who he is with, how he seeks happiness - he never quite seems to grasp it.
There is a magic school for the gifted - it's not Hogwarts. This magic school is called Brakebills and it's hidden away in upstate New York. There's a game only played at the magic schools (only a few in the world) - called welters (it's not quidditch). I will give the author credit - the comparisons are pretty unavoidable, so the author embraced that by giving a few sideways winks to Harry Potter in the text. The first chunk of the book really revolves around the magic school and training to be a magician.
The second part of the book sees Quentin and his friends traveling through portal and the place they end up seems to be a fictional world called Fillory that Quentin and his friends all read about and loved as kids (somewhat Narnia-esque). Getting to and from Fillory, and finding why they are in Fillory does not go so smoothly.
Quentin is a very realistically drawn character. He's unfulfilled, he's angsty, he's never happy with what he has, he's not particularly heroic or physically gifted. He's smart but not the smartest person out there, not even within his circle of (also mentally gifted) friends. There's addiction issues among Quentin and his friends, not to mention a lot of emotional abuse and sexual promiscuity that ends up causing emotional issues. Although Quentin is an eminently believable character, he's not someone that leaves you feeling inspired or with a warm and fuzzy feeling. He's so wrapped up in his own unhappiness it makes it hard to connect with him.
Top reviews from other countries
Basically, everything my fellow 1 * reviewers said is accurate. For some odd reason that I can't explain, I read all of this and I'd resolved some time ago to go with my gut when I suspect I'm reading dross and stop before wasting any more of my time. The only explanation I can come up with is that the pace does kind of sweep the reader along - the only problem is, it doesn't really sweep you to anywhere. It was like reading a Narnia-set novel for young adults complete with all the unpleasant arrogance, angst and awkward sex, but missing any real action, empathetic characters or dynamic and interesting storyline - a real conundrum, but seriously - leave it - it's dross.
Almost any review of these books will mention that they are derivative. And it’s true that the books could be subtitled “The Famous Five become geeky teenagers, study at Hogworts and then visit Narnia”. But just because something is a remake or a homage, doesn’t make it bad art. Picasso reworked Velazquez’ “Las Meninas” and created a masterpiece. Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Robbins updated “Romeo and Juliet” to 1950’s New York and so created the powerful and enduring musical “West Side Story”. E. L James wrote fan fiction for the Twilight series and, well, created a whole new genre.
The references that Grossman makes to other giant works of fiction only underscore one of the key themes – which is the role that beloved works of fiction can play in a reader’s life – from being a source of inspiration to acting as a ever-dependable friend and support in difficult times. The Fillory stories not only provide the central character, Quentin, with entertainment in his youth, but in times of despair he turns to them as a source of comfort, a mental blankie under which he can take refuge against the world. One can only assume that Grossman bases Quentin’s profound love for the Fillory books on his own experience of being transported by similar fantasy works.
The premise of the books is “what would happen if a modern urban teenager suddenly entered Hogwarts / Narnia, with all his modern teenage neuroses and limitations”. The internal journey that Quentin undergoes is as important to the plot as the adventures that the characters experience – finding peace with himself and acceptance of his place in the world. The books can be seen as a metaphor for the experience of many real life generation X-ers – the world they find themselves is extraordinary, rich, full of opportunity, and compared with the world of say, 100 years ago, full of magic. The ability to communicate with someone miles away through a small handheld device, to search for information on almost any topic, to hold a video conference call, to find directions to your destination from wherever you are, with accuracy down to scant metres – these technologies are nothing short of magic if one can imagine viewing them through the eyes of a person living 100 years ago. Quentin’s personal difficulties should resonate with everyone who has felt unfulfilled while ostensibly living a comfortable life: even with all the gifts and wonder in the world available to you, why does happiness elude you. Quentin’s complaint that “it wasn’t what thought it would be” may sound frighteningly familiar. As Quentin discovers, blaming external circumstances does not solve the problem. Quentin only truly comes into his power when he accepts things, and himself, for what they are. The message here is that happiness comes from our internal journey and acceptance of ourselves, not our access to external wonders, now matter how magnificent.
The subtle genius of this series is that the combination of influences is NOT an obvious one. It just seems that way because of Lev Grossman’s incredible imagination and the strength of his writing. The world he conjures is rich in detail and ideas, which, while riffing off the masterpieces that have gone before, nevertheless transports you to a new and vibrant universe. His writing is so strong that it disappears and allows the reader to fully enter the story without the distraction of poor prose or clunky similes. And what a world! Grossman launches off the base idea of “a school for magic” and “a world of talking creatures” to create a world so inventive and coherent that you have to make an effort to step back to appreciate just how imaginative it is. The plot and pacing are tight, and there is an acerbic humour that works like a slice of lemon in a gin and tonic.
The premise is straightforward but intriguing: a mash-up of Harry Potter (wizard school) and Narnia (portals to other worlds) but with modern, American, adult protagonists. On the whole, it delivers quite well on this, with a nice blend of magic and realism. It definitely kept me engaged.
For me, the main problem was the plotting and pacing. The two homages took up about half the book each and had little to do with each other, which made it feel a bit disjointed and made it harder to suspend disbelief. And then certain plots points seemed to be rushed over – most strikingly, four years of magic school in half a book – while others were lingered on. And for a book with so much going on, there was a surprising lack of plot, though I did enjoy the way that several elements were ultimately wrapped up and brought together.
Overall, I would recommend this, and I plan to read the sequel in due course, but I’m not rushing to pick it up.