The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Series: The Magicians #1
Also by this author: The Magician King
Published by Penguin on 2009-08-11
Also in this series: The Magician King
The New York Times bestselling novel about a young man practicing magic in the real world Like everyone else, precocious high school senior Quentin Coldwater assumes that magic isn't real, until he finds himself admitted to a very secretive and exclusive college of magic in upstate New York. There he indulges in joys of college-friendship, love, sex, and booze- and receives a rigorous education in modern sorcery. But magic doesn't bring the happiness and adventure Quentin thought it would. After graduation, he and his friends stumble upon a secret that sets them on a remarkable journey that may just fulfill Quentin's yearning. But their journey turns out to be darker and more dangerous than they'd imagined. Psychologically piercing and dazzlingly inventive, The Magicians, the prequel to the New York Times bestselling book The Magician King and the forthcoming The Magician's Land, is an enthralling coming-of-age tale about magic practiced in the real world-where good and evil aren't black and white, and power comes at a terrible price.
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.