Customer Reviews for

The Magicians (Magicians Series #1)

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

17 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

It's about time!

Why does it take so long for someone to write a fantasy book for adults? A fantasy that occurs without women in long dresses and men with swords, fantastic! This was great. He takes a lot from Narnia and Harry Potter, but almost in a sarcastic, given kind of way. I go...
Why does it take so long for someone to write a fantasy book for adults? A fantasy that occurs without women in long dresses and men with swords, fantastic! This was great. He takes a lot from Narnia and Harry Potter, but almost in a sarcastic, given kind of way. I got it on my ipod and enjoyed it while I mowed, cleaned, ran and missed it when I had to put it down for a while. Very enjoyable.

posted by 1842652 on August 30, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

25 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

a Harry Potter derivative?

This review contains SPOILERS.

I came away from 'The Magicians' with very mixed feelings. I'm leery of books that have reviews on the back flap that mention comparisons ro other books as part of their summaries - because this book - its plot, characters, and setti...
This review contains SPOILERS.

I came away from 'The Magicians' with very mixed feelings. I'm leery of books that have reviews on the back flap that mention comparisons ro other books as part of their summaries - because this book - its plot, characters, and setting - should stand on its own. Unfortunately, 'The Magicians' does not. It is highly derivative of both the Harry Potter books and the Chronicles of Narnia. To give one example: a fictional 'welters' game is introduced as something that the magicians play at the Brakebills College. The rules of welters are never clearly illustrated and the magical game appears to have been introduced simply to mock the Quidditch game that was invented in the Harry Potter books. (When he first learns about welters, the lead character, Quentin, remarks, "What, no broomsticks?") Indeed, I can't think of any part of the book's plot that was advanced because the characters play welters.

There is one very chilling scene in which Quentin disturbs a spell that one of his teachers is doing as a demonstration and an extra-dimensional creature appears - freezing everyone in the classroom - with a lethal outcome for one of the students. However, the creature is later explained away in connection with the ordinary world - and its actions in the classroom don't make very much sense in retrospect.

Lastly, despite the fact that uncovering the mystery of Fillory is the principal quest of the book, Quentin doesn't actually arrive in Fillory until page 286 and the conflict is resolved by page 365 - leaving the remaining 40-odd pages to cover 2 years and a throw-away quest to get out of Fillory.

To be honest, the book reads like it was the first draft of a novel that somehow made it through the publishing process without ever passing an editor's desk. It breaks - annoyingly so - one of the basic rules of story-telling: show the reader, don't tell the reader. And the book spends pages telling the reader what Quentin is feeling, e.g. "Quentin didn't bother with the DVDs, just flipped channels on the huge TV and slugged stright from the bottle until sunlight came bleeding up over the horizon, like more acid blood oozing out of his sick ruptured heart, which felt - not that anyone cared - like a rotten drum of biohazardous waste at the very bottom of a landfill, leaching poison into the groundwater, enough poison to kill an entire suburb full of innocent and unsuspecting children."

This book is not a fantasy novel - nor does it "enlarge the boundaries of conventional fantasy writing" as the dust jacket would breathlessly have you believe. It is, at best, an incomplete post-modern novel with inexplicably wealthy, navel-gazing characters who can occasionally perform magic and, at worse, it can be construed as a cynical mash-up of others' truly revolutionary fantasy stories.

posted by sap8b on October 22, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2010

    Not terrible, but not terribly original

    I was really looking forward to reading this book. However, I found most of the characters unsympathetic (especially the main character, Quentin), unrelatable, and unlikeable. Also, the constant parallels to The Chronicles of Narnia bypass the realm of trubute and dance upon the edges of blatant plagerism. While I appreciate an attempt at creating a more 'adult' Chronicles of Narnia/ Harry Potter novel, with the inclusion of instances of cheating, drug abuse, alcoholism, and homosexuality, it feels forced and akward at times. Grossman begins many separate plotlines, all of which are hastily and messily tied together in the end. Plot holes abound and character development falls short. I was disappointed that this book likened itself to Harry Potter and other famous fantasy novels only to fall short in plot, characters, and originality. It read very much like fanfiction; not bad fanfiction, but fanfiction nonetheless.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2010

    Just OK

    The Magicians was a little under-polished in my opinion. I loved the idea of this book but the execution left something to be desired. There were many times where the Magicians felt thin, especially in character development, and certain points in the story that read like an afterthought.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 6, 2010

    Not a fan...

    I picked up this book on a whim when I was at B&N. I read the back and was curious, it sounded like a dark fairytale more like an Alice in Wonderland then a Harry Potter which it references. I was happy when I first started it out, I could relate to the character, and he questions what I think everyone on some level who reads a book like Harry Potter or Narnia questions, wouldn't it be wonderful if what you read was real? What you heard was not a fantasy, however after that it turns into kind of on odd book. I find myself having a hard time relating to any of the characters, not to mention I start to question if the writer was high in some areas when he wrote this, the whole middle portion of the books was a struggle for me to get through. The only reason I kept reading till the end is I was I felt like there had to be some purpose to this book, when it finally found a purpose it was so anticlimactic, then it finally started wrapping up and I am in disbelief that I wasted this time reading this. Don't get me wrong there are some good things, the writer has great potential, it just like an M Night Shyamalan movie, the ides are great, the thoughts are there, but he spends so much time trying to make this twist in the end, that it leaves you hanging, and disappointed. I felt that way about this book, the potential was there but it didn't meet up to it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 6, 2009

    Didn't Fulfill Early Promise

    I wanted to really like this book and greatly enjoyed the first hundred pages. But the story failed to build for me. The main character drifted from scene to scene, becoming more unlikable as time went on. At times, I wasn't sure if it was science fiction or a retelling of Revolutionary Road, accentuating the lack of purpose in may peoples' lives. Without rapport for the characters and a certain level of discomfort with borrowed themes from other authors, I can't say that I would be intrested in another visit to this world.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2009

    Good, but not great

    I really loved the first section of this book. I thought Mr. Grossman had a really interesting plot and I could not wait to see what happened. However, character development seemed to end with the two main characters, Quinton and Alice and also Eliot. And the end of the book was just really unsatisfying.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2014

    Doubt i'll finish

    Half way through and fighting myself to finish .... best part so far Eliot and Eric's little scence ... Quentin you little peeping tom you !!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2013

    WARNING: THIS MAY SPOIL THE NOVEL FOR A READER Imagine growing u

    WARNING: THIS MAY SPOIL THE NOVEL FOR A READER
    Imagine growing up as a depressed teenager in the city of Brooklyn, having an obsession with magic tricks and fantasy novel, and then all of the sudden being able to go to a magical school and venture to the setting of those fantasy novels. Well if you’re looking for a story as such this is the novel. Quentin, the main character get invited to a Harry Potter like school called Brakebills. After completing his education he finds a way to journey to Fillory, a Narnia like land that was only possible in his fantasies. After Quentin had ventured to Fillory he had chosen to go back to Brooklyn and live a normal life, due to mishaps that happened there. Until the reader encounters the last few pages of the book, they may feel as if they had not remembered what they read due to the dullness of the last few chapters.
    Being classified as a fantasy novel, some of the details and events should be expected, for example, the talking animals and the other unworldly beings. The conventions of a fantasy novel almost require these kinds of elements. Although Grossman uses the Fillory novels as an escape for Quentin in these novels, he also even mentions Harry Potter and Narnia that in itself is an original idea; one may also view this as some sort of plagiarism.  One of the main differences in the three novels in the characters. Grossman provides unlikable, depressing characters, while the Narnia and Harry Potter books include lovable and full of emotion. This novel may be derivative but Grossman adds scenes (and characters) that are fully his own .A different sort of back story in the plot provides a new type of scenery and leads one to believe in the novel itself.
    Grossman drags the novel on. His anticlimactic scenes lead to a full throttle ending that again stops and ends with the “hero” being in a depressed state, just as he had started in the novel. A reader may get annoyed with Quentin, feeling as if they want to rigorously shake his and ask him what’s going through his head. But feelings like this are caused from good writing. Though one may get frustrated with the way in which Mr. Grossman puts forth his chapters and meaningless scenes, one can’t help but finish the novel. He succeeds in providing wonder and curiosity throughout this novel.
    The novel winds down with monotonous events that seemed thrown in just for the sake of ending the novel. Mr. Grossman does throughout the whole novel; using events are thrown around almost to meet a length requirement of some sort. Until reaching the very last page I had no hope for the novel to go any further. I feel as if Grossman had achieved his goal of suspense and wonderment but I also think that the suspense and waiting occurred for too long of a time and at too many points in time. As any reader would I had the impulse to buy the second novel to see what would occur next, and see if more questions that I had had could be answered after reading the last few pages. Although I believed that the plot behind this story was a good one I feel as if it was cliché and if not cliché then ideas were presumably taken from the Harry Potter series (“Brakebills”)  and/or the Chronicles of Narnia (“Fillory”). The same ideas develop in both them and in this novel. Reading other reviews I was expecting The Magicians to be a kind of adult version of Narnia, and being one of those kids who fell in love with those novels, I thought yeah I’m older now; it could be like a mature version of the story. As a read further into the novel I realized that 'and adult version' was really just the same exact story with a few naughty scenes thrown in here and there with a pinch of Harry Potter.
    If you are a reader who enjoyed the Harry Potter novels and also had interest in the Narnia novels I recommend this novel, it may be dreary at some points but some of the scenes occur with exhilarating events and will push you through the dullest parts of this novel. BUT if you’re looking for a happy go lucky land of love and joy this novel is not the place to go.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2012

    Readable.

    Prose is good. Awkward pacing in places. Unlikable main character. Way too much Narnia.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2012

    Too emo.

    This book was like hanging out with a bunch of emo or goth people: interesting and stimulating for awhile, but ultimately too heavy to be much fun.

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  • Posted August 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Read it, but be prepared to hate it a little

    I've got to say that I enjoyed the story a little bit; but I also hate it, too. There were a few moments where I just sat there, staring at the page like -_- It also felt very, very, verrrryyyy long to read. Also, the ending had me go what the heck? and then I just gave up. All in all, it wasn't the worst book I've ever read, but I've read better. I'd say to get it from you're local library and read it before buying it, unless you really really want to have the book so you can throw it against the wall as much as you want without worrying about damaging it.

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  • Posted August 13, 2011

    So so

    I'm re-reading cause I purchased the second in series....I remember it starting out slow and not really having any love for main character.....as story progressed I started falling in love with secondary characters instead.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2011

    Why $13?

    The hardcover version is $6 and the e-book, which costs you NOTHING to print, is $13? What a racket.

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  • Posted April 29, 2011

    Gripping, well paced... too much D&D.

    If you are a fan of fantasy and have some maturity, you will certainly enjoy the play on the Harry Potter and Narnia stories. This book gripped me all the way up to a ridiculously D&D ending: one chamber after the next.

    Overall, an excellent escape that asks some questions of the magical genre that aren't normally asked. It will be interesting to see how Grossman grows up.

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  • Posted April 11, 2011

    Magical But Unfinished

    Lev Grossman's THE MAGICIANS is a magical tale of a young man embarking on an adventure of not only discovering his supernatural abilities, but also of growing up and discovering himself. Though the protagonist's fantastical situation may be difficult to relate to, his character and personality reflects that of any other normal adolescent. Readers who have read the Harry Potter series may find this book to be very similar. However, THE MAGICIANS begins with a much more mature character, which makes a significant difference for the book reveals explicit themes such as sex and alcohol.

    What's unique about THE MAGICIANS is that Lev Grossman is able to fuse aspects of the ordinary world with the paranormal world that he creates. While most fantasy stories leave behind ideas like sex and drugs behind in the ordinary world, THE MAGICIANS describes a land in which the adolescents are still exposed to these dark ideas. In a way, this mixture of fantasy and reality makes the story seem less ridiculous and more reasonable.

    A negative aspect of this book is its tendency to draw plotlines that never find a conclusion. Characters that readers may initially be excited to read about and discover are never fully developed. There are also many instances in which the protagonist would hint at a possible relationship with a certain female character but his interest would drop in a mere amount of three pages. Writers may use this technique in mystery novels to trick readers into predicting a certain solution to the mystery, however, when it comes to leading a reader on with a character's relationship with other important characters, it confuses the plotline.

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  • Posted August 25, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    An Unlikeable Protagonist

    The Magicians is off-putting because it attempts to taint the world of fantasy and magic with the angst and turbulence of young adulthood - in this case, the young man is unfortunately our protagonist Quintin Coldwater. I say unfortunately because he's not someone you would want to spend time with. He is ungrateful, moody, selfish, and never fails to blame others for life's pitfalls and his own misfiring. He is completely blind to his own flaws and does not redeem himself, even when circumstances come down to the wire, even when we're down to the last page.


    The book seems to struggle between being a fantasy novel with delicately hidden messages about life's deeper meanings, or a coming-of-age novel about privileged youth growing up in New York who learn magic (and happen to decide that their lives are meaningless unless they can burn holes through the ground, and other tricks). The book fails to be either.


    The Magicians is awkward as a coming-of-age novel because we never really get to know the characters. Everyone we meet pretty much all embody cliches - yes, there is the fat insecure boy, the slutty girl, the mousy girl who becomes endearing, the angst-ridden intelligent guy, it's all there. They remain on the same level of emotional immaturity throughout the entire novel - especially Quintin.


    As a fantasy novel, like noted in a review by the New York Times, the place and characters would have to be absolutely believable- every fabric must radiate authenticity, cohesion, some form of a method to all of the madness. In The Magicians, the fantasy worlds of Fillory and the school grounds of Bakebills College for Magical Pedagogy are never easy to buy. Despite the fact that the worlds are so outlandish, details are not robust. Even the characters constantly question the reality of their settings, which isn't very convincing to the reader. In Harry Potter (apologies for the expected comparison), it was really hard to believe that a place like Hogwarts didn't exist - to this day I don't look at empty office spaces without thinking it may be a hideout for wizards. The Magicians didn't accomplish this.


    Perhaps what is most concerning is that this school of magic doesn't really serve a purpose. They simply churn out magicians by submitting them to rigorous and brutal training, and these magicians are left to spend the rest of their days doing whatever the hell they want. There is no noble pursuit. If the kids at Bakebills could have recognized that, they may have actually learning something useful at college.


    For pure entertainment purposes, I recommend it. It's not too long and quick to read, Grossman is a fantastic writer ("He felt chastened by their gravity"), and even being annoyed at the characters is fun - it's a different experience to read about a character who you don't want to root for, and only think "he had it coming," when he faces devastation. karma.

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  • Posted April 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Lazy Days Kind of a Read

    This book wasn't bad. It was hard to keep going sometimes because the characters could get annoying and I felt that the author spent more time on some things than necessary and not enough details to keep the story connected and moving in other areas. I was just as excited to end the story as I was to start it.

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  • Posted April 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Not the most original, but still a decent read

    The Magicians starts out very light and fairy tale like. There is a nice recognizing of the feeling that everyone who reads a childhood fantasy book gets. It addresses the escapism and desire to be part of the world you're reading about. The childhood books referenced in this story reminded me a lot of the Chronicles of Narnia. However, once you get into it, the story takes a much darker turn. It brings in reality to contrast with the unrealistic hopes of the childhood fantasy. It also talks about the inner struggle of a young man trying to figure out who he is and his place in the world. The wording is very vivid throughout but the feeling at the end of the book is more of depression than elation.

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  • Posted January 12, 2010

    Disapointing.Juvinille.

    I had been rally looking forwrd to getting this book, but for $27, I had to wait until Christmas. I was sooo disapointed. I love the scifi fantasy genre, but I felt like this was lame. I started off good but I felt like I never got to know many of the characters, huge spans of time seemed to be missing, and so many things never got wrapped up. The ending is AWFUL. Who is this hedge witch they brought in? The couldn't have found someone already part of the story to use? I also felt like it was pretty juvinille with a few sex and drug scenes thrown in. It was mildly entertaining, if not original, but I was glad when I was done so that I could write this review.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Magicians is a solid book

    This book smacks of a lot Lion witch and wardrobe series. If you are in love with that series this is definatly a must read. The character are well constructed with problems. At some times the plot dragged for me but that is my personal preference for how a book is written. Solid book good buy.

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  • Posted October 17, 2009

    The Magicians

    Interesting book. A little disconcerting -- a lot of expletives I didn't particularly care for. Not a very optimistic book - a little on the dark side. If you like magic you'll probably enjoy reading this book but it is definitely not a "feel good" book.

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