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The Magicians (Magicians Series #1)

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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

28 out of 37 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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  • Posted June 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Good story.. just ignore the back of the book where it compares it to Potter/Narnia.. trust me. :)

    Listen, the story was good... but just ignore the back of the book that compares it to Harry Potter and Narnia becuase if you don't, you'll be left scratching your head as to what it was all about. The book is about magicians and it does reference both series in many ways, but it is intentionally and very cleverly done by the writer. It's not meant to copy those books, or mock them in any way, by referring to them in a joking way, the characters in the book acknowledge that they are indeed different from those books. Oh...and yes, this is definitely not a book for kids... the main character is 17 years old when it starts and he grows into a young man as the book progresses. There is definitely a more adult theme to if you're expecting Potter/Narnia innocence you may not be happy. However, if you take the time to look beyond that and read this book you will find that the sex and alcohol topics are not just there because... they have a purpose. Both are ways that people use to try to fill voids and to find magic...and how that relates to the story was great. Unfortunately, I think this was lost to many people from the comments I've read because of the comparison to the Potter/Narnia books. So take a chance... keep an open mind... and just sit back and enjoy. I admit that at first I also had a hard time separating the stories... but I'm glad I stuck with it and because it truly was worth it. It left me wanting to go out there and live life... A very enjoyable read.. can't wait to read the next one summer 2011.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Coming of age novel with a magical twist

    It pays homage to the Harry Potter and Narnia novels, and it has similarities but that's where it stops. It's a coming of age novel which features Quentin and his friends he meets at Brakebills. It's definitely a more serious novel and delves deeper into emotions and it's more dark and definitely not a kid's book! there's action and drama, romance too, but there's some twists and turns that make the book more darker and includes more "dangerous" themes which makes the book catered towards adults.

    I liked the book. It certainly did grab my curiosity when I first heard about it and as I read further into it, I had to try and not put Harry Potter and Narnia comparisons, or it'll ruin my enjoyment of this book - which I'm glad I managed to fight off. I thought it was pretty well executed and very well thought out especially with trying to juggle the Fillory part into this story and having to put it as once a fictional world that Quentin had been reading since he was a boy into a full fledged real-life fantasy world and also adding a fantasy epic plot into it as well, while also juggling the plot happening on real Earth. However, it went smooth and it did not leave me, as a reader, confused. There's even a helpful map on the inside of the book which is an added bonus. The plot was great, as it followed Quentin from his beginning years in the college, to his graduation, to his real life entrance into the world, and to his adventures in Fillory and afterwards. It's a great chronological way of running the story.

    I have to admit, this is one of the few books I liked, but where I also had an intense dislike for the main character. I actually did not like Quentin at all. He's such a whiner! and he's made out to be such an "emo" I had to roll his eyes while he whined about how unhappy he was, and it was as if NOTHING could absolutely make him content not even for a full fledged chapter. Even as I finished the book, I still found that I did not like him. He just wasn't that great, he was the main character, yes, and you saw the story through his eyes but he wasn't really what you might think as a main character would be (not your stereotypical character in fantasy novels I suppose). I found myself drawn to Eliot more, only because of his charm and although at first I wasn't that impressed with Alice, she earned a lot of respect from me towards the end of the novel. She certainly was a realist and was the main anchor and stability to the group of friends. Character development was great. They were all well rounded and developed as they grew older (except Quentin, who eventually matures much much later in the book).

    So the only thing I disliked about the novel was Quentin and his whiny personality. Even the part with his rocky romance with Alice aggravated me. He is definitely not boyfriend material to me. (More like sledgehammer bashing material). As to the ending, I am now curious and intrigued. Is there going to be a sequel, because if there is, count me in. I'm definitely going to read it! there were some questions I found myself asking. Especially when I reached the ending.

    Overall, it's a great book when you're in the mood for something serious, but something with fantasy as well. Be forewarned, it's not a happy go lucky epic quest, it's quite dark and serious. Nevertheless it was a great dramatic coming of age read that will leave you asking for more.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    My one complaint about this book is that the ending felt somewhat thrown together and abrupt. I wanted to know more about what happened. Hopefully, there will be a sequel so that I can find out...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Narnia, Hogwarts, Wonderland, and The Secret History All In One Book

    If you ever wanted to know what would happen if you combined Harry Potter, Narnia, and The Secret History into one book, this is probably the closest you will ever get.

    The first 2/3 of the book deals with Quentin discovering he is a magician and the years he spends at Brakebill honing his skills. I found him then and throughout the book to be a little to annoying and depressing to really like him as a character. He falls in love, discovers friends, and finds himself to be in the elite group of students. He does all this in a rather superficial way, without really connecting on any visceral level with anyone other than himself. He doesn't really come out of his own head until it's too late and tragedy has already struck.

    My other slight issue with the book was that the trip to Fillory didn't take long enough. It felt rushed and more like an afterthought, like the author forgot to add it in until the last minute. I would have loved to have more of this world. It was a twisted version of Narnia with a good dose of a dark Wonderland thrown in for good measure.

    Now you may be surprised, after what I just wrote, by the fact I loved this book. This was one of those rare books that you don't need to like the characters in order to like the book. I found this to be due to the author's storytelling and writing style. They kept me engaged and caring about what happens to these characters, almost against my will.

    I would encourage anyone with a passion for urban fantasy to add this to your TBR pile.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 12, 2014

    I highly enjoyed this series.

    I highly enjoyed this series and strongly recommend. The jaded satire and willingness to have angst was refreshing and amusing.

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  • Posted November 4, 2014

    An entertaining fantasy novel; full of magic, romance, drama and

    An entertaining fantasy novel; full of magic, romance, drama and tragedy.

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  • Posted September 5, 2014

    This is a good adult Harry Potter type of a story

    This would be great for as another young people's book if it wasn't for the bad language! Very entertaining and moves quickly. But some content too adult for even teens.

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  • Posted January 24, 2014

    Interesting view from a different side of the same story

    Anyone who loves a fantasy setting has a secret desire to be a part of the story. Other books indulge that desire and tell a story of people who transcend the mundane world into a land of magic and fantasy, this book indulges that desire, but tells a story of what it may actually be like if such a thing were to happen. The result is a very interesting view into one young adults mind as he deals with growing up and finding a purpose in life, and then discovering that if you do find a way into a magical land, you still have to deal with growing up and finding a purpose.

    Overall a good read that is half discovering a new world, and half discovering ones self. Full of adolescent mistakes, angst, vulnerability, invincibility, and just a dash of sexuality as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2013

    Decent book, dunno what the fuss is all about

    This guy got a ton of coverage for being such a great writer...I think the book is good, not super.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2013

    This book is magical. It¿s filled with a few years of Quentin¿s

    This book is magical. It’s filled with a few years of Quentin’s young-adult to adult transition to life. Quentin, being the brightest student of his year and who also lives in New York state, is obsessed with the fact that these magical books could be real. He is unhappy with anything in the real world. He believes there could be no better of place to be than the place in the Fillory novels. When Quentin gets accepted into Brakebills Academy for learning magic, he realizes that it isn’t exactly everything he’d hope for. This book is realistic in a magical way and is definitely relatable to real life college. There’s Brakebills Academy for magic, which is a college, which consists of studying just as much, if not more, than the average college student. Along with during the college years, there’s the after college years where you find out what exactly you want to do. Most people go through that transition, just without magic involved. It’s realistic in the sense of relationships and not to mention alcohol abuse. This book is a brilliant mixture of realistic concepts and fantasy concepts. Lev Grossman has done an amazing thing with this book by mixing reality with fantasy and most young adults and adults can relate to this book and enjoy it. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2013

    Take Harry Potter, throw him in a blender and add a dash of Narn

    Take Harry Potter, throw him in a blender and add a dash of Narnia to it, and what do you get? You get The Magicians by Lev Grossman. If you have any interest in either Harry Potter, Narnia, or Magic in general then I would definitely recommend The Magicians.  I feel that the book was very well written and it kept me interested. The story is very fast passed because each year at the school is only about 2 to 3 chapters long which I really liked. I felt that Lev Grossman did a fantastic job with the characters. Throughout the novel the main character, Quentin, meets some very interesting people and Grossman does a great job and really making the characters unique and come to life. Another thing that I liked about the story was that it did mix in the Harry Potter and Narnia ideas but didn’t copy them exactly. 
    In what ways does The Magicians connect with Harry Potter and Narnia? First of all, the story starts with a boy, Quentin, who doesn’t really fit in anywhere, very similar to Harry Potter at the beginning of the first book when Harry is living with his aunt, uncle, and cousin and they don’t accept him. Quentin is accepted into a school for Magic and well as Harry Potter was. In Harry Potter, Harry and Ron are always playing wizard chess together. Wizard chess is a game of chess except the board and the pieces are magical. In The Magicians they have a game very similar to wizard chess, it’s called Welters. In welters the people are the chess pieces.  In Harry Potter they have the different houses like Gryphandor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff. In the Magicians they have different disciplines which in a way are like houses. In each students third year they would get put into a discipline which would be something like physical or natural. In the story of the magicians there are a set of books that are about this place called Fillory. Fillory is a magical place and the way to get there is by going through a cabinet. This obviously is very similar to the idea of Narnia which is also a magical place that you get to by going through a wardrobe.  In the story of Narnia 2 brothers and 2 sisters go through the wardrobe into this magical land. In the story of Filloy 2 brothers and 2 sisters also go into this magical land. 
    I personally really like the way that Grossman added in these ideas from other novels. The Magicians is definitely a book for people who are older whereas the first few Harry Potter novels and the Narnia novels were meant for a younger audience. I felt that Grossman was able to take some of these ideas and make then for an older audience while still keeping it fun. I loved the book and I definitely recommend it.  

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2012

    N.B. - this review contains spoilers. When I was eight years ol

    N.B. - this review contains spoilers.

    When I was eight years old, I read "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," a book I found captivating. Over the next few years, though, some niggling questions kept poking holes through my appreciation of Lewis's work: didn't Lucy deserve the highest honor, as she went through Narnia with the truest heart? Did Peter deserve a high kingship for being eldest and dutiful, but, for all that, quite a bore? And, as kings and queens, who had the Pevensie children grown into? Who were their friends, and what were their joys?

    In the decades since, I had forgotten those questions, but it seems Lev Grossman still ruminated on them, and, perhaps in response, brought us an original take on power, pleasure, and pain. The nearest comparisons may not be to the Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, or any of the other fine works typical of the fantasy bildungsroman, but our own experiences of how success can go beautifully but terribly wrong (or that our failures and disappointments are, in some ways, great blessings in their own right). In Quentin, we are introduced to a character who, at the point of applying to college, is damaged goods. One gets the sense that, even in interviewing for a place in the corridors of power (here represented by one of the historically recognized universities of the United States), the world this would - or could - lead him to is already dead to him. There is no possibility of greatness not tainted by vanity or corruption.

    Offered the chance to escape through literature, he finds himself in a mise en abyme, with the questions of his own potential greatness reflecting darkly in the world of Brakebills, with further reflections that may turn more sinister in the worlds beyond. Like many who have, in their idealized futures, visions of what knowledge and skill can do, Quentin is disappointed in the typically accepted reality of magical life, in its banality and interpersonal frustrations. Would, or should, we be any more entranced by the corridors of power if the coin of the realm is magic and not economics or mechanical engineering? Is life after Brakebills any better than life after university? In picking up this book, you will not find a supernatural plan, or a hero whose goodness and tenacity are bound to save the world - you will meet an anti-hero, a human whose angst, ennui, and self-centered questioning will leave you disappointed in this all too recognizable figure. And you will hope, time and again, that next time he will make a better choice.

    Lev Grossman puts to us the question Quentin might have been asked in the beginning of the book had his college interview proceeded in a typical fashion -- if given the chance, what would you do with this opportunity? As the book progresses, Grossman suggests that Quentin's answer is at turns facile and naive, but, for better or worse, while he lives and opportunities exist, his answer is not final. If you are looking for a bildungsroman that sees the opportunity for growth, horror, love, disappointment, and, perhaps, a bit of magic in the choices we make with the rest of our lives - after Hogwarts and Mordor and Narnia and all the other black and white choices we see as the paths to greatness and failure - "The Magicians" may be well worth your while.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2012

    Not a HP rip-off!

    Floats away from the conventional idea that magic makes everything easy and fun. It only reminds us of titles like harry potter because of the great impact jk. Rowling left about magical worlds. The Magicians takes a leap and takes us to a more mature and realistic story plot.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2012

    If you’re a Harry Potter or Narnia fan, then you will th

    If you’re a Harry Potter or Narnia fan, then you will thoroughly enjoy the novel The Magicians by Lev Grossman. This novel seems as though it is a combination of these two fantastic stories into one. Although the themes of the three books are the similar, you would think The Magicians is just copying the aspects of the well known books, but it greatly differs and has its own unique twists and turns. This book is very entertaining and is a must read in my opinion. I had a hard time putting this book down.
    You follow the lives of a group of teenagers that have been accepted to the secret, magical college of Brakebills. You see what it takes to be a real magician and the struggles that come with this special gift. You immediately become attached and interested in each one of the quirky characters while you watch them develop throughout the novel. Along with magic there are budding romances, jealously, depression, anger , secrets and suspense that will cause you not to put the book down.
    Lev Grossman makes this book an easy read and easy to follow. While reading this novel it is important to be open minded and try not to compare The Magicians to Harry Potter. Grossman makes this novel interesting and comes up with unique ideas that are perceived as fascinating. I recommend this book and you will not be disappointed.

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  • Posted March 13, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Adult Fantasy Fiction

    What do you get when you mix Harry Potter, Narnia and The Secret History together? This book answers that question. The Magicians, by Lev Grossman is a magical cocktail for adults. College, relationships, sex, and alcohol all combine with magical abilities, alternate realities, dimensional travel and shapeshifting. The end result is a very gripping journey (or at least the first segment of it, as it is the beginning of an intended trilogy). What I love about the story is the interpersonal dynamic between the various characters, and the realities that the author allows us to see -- their faults and flaws breathe life into them. The only criticism I have of this novel is that the passage of time is quite bumpy and there are abrupt transitions throughout. I look forward to getting the next leg of the journey in The Magician King. Highly recommended if you enjoy some of the titles mentioned above or that particular genre of modern fiction.

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  • Posted January 10, 2012

    That NYT reviewer must have no friends. Or taste.

    What's with the hate and snark? Thinking you're really clever in your reviews when you're actually just mean made me want to buy this book. And I'm glad I did. It's a really fun book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2011

    A Realistic Fantasy

    I was so skeptical of this book because the plot is so similar to Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia. I like books to be unique and memorable, and felt certain that this book would not be either of those things. But when I actually read it, I was NOT disappointed. Sure, it's similar to the fantasy staples, but it offers such a fresh view on it that I was completely engaged from beginning to end.

    It's not a book for everyone BECAUSE of how realistic it is. It is gritty and painful and crushes your dreams as a reader. It shows you the flaws in your favorite fantasy worlds - flaws so honest and terrible that it leaves you feeling bitter and wounded. You want Narnia or Hogwarts to be a safe and wonderous place, but through the eyes of protagonist Quentin you see how, once the novelty of fantasy and magic wears off, reality is just as jaded and perverted as the reality of our real world.

    I see a lot of complaints about all of the characters being awful people, but this was another thing that endeared the book to me. I know if I was reading a novel about any people I know, their faults and quirks would grate on me; even my best friends have negative qualities. The characters here are so close to real life people that it can be hard to go on these journeys with them without hating them a little. But that just makes me think thebauthor has an excellent grasp of character building. Sometimes I want a hero with flaws, you know? Sometimes a hero who is fearless and strong and kind gets a little old. And Quentin is a selfish coward at times, and I just love the author for having the guts to make him that way. My only real complaint is that these kids are all rich, so they start off the story facing "rich people problems" but I guess that's another way the author is making a statement - it'd be so expensive to attend a magical boarding school like Hogwarts or Brakebills that the student body would probably be exclusively rich kids.

    In my opinion, calling this a Harry Potter or whatever else for adults is appropriate. There is sex and alcohol and drugs and death and violence filling this book from beginning to end, first of all. And the students are college-aged, as opposed to children. But also it shows the adult fantasy fans that these imaginary worlds and people we'd like to visit are corrupt just like in the real world, and with many adult experiences under my belt at this point, it's nice to think maybe I wasn't missing out on so much by never getting my Hogwarts letter.

    I love this book so much I bought it after reading it in the library. This flavor of fantasy needs to be explored more.

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  • Posted October 25, 2011

    An anti-faery tale with an anti-hero

    I also found the initial comparison to Harry Potter misleading, but still enjoyed the book. This is definitely NOT a feel-good book. The author apparently attempts to reverse many of the young-adult fantasy tropes inherent in such books as Narnia, Harry Potter, The Dark is Rising, etc. Instead of such tropes/cliches as the principled/good mentor, good career counseling, the prophesized hero (or the hero-who-inherently-knows-what-to-do-next), supportive friends, easy magic ("swish and flick"), genial quest givers, cute/happy/engaging but harmless magical creatures, true love, etc., etc. Grossman attempts to reverse as many of these as he can. Unfortunately, this makes the book cliched in a different sort of way as the characters stumble their way into situations in order to break those selfsame cliches. While interesting as a study of fantasy cliches, some readers may find the anti-hero protagonist's confusion and passivity a turn off, among other elements of the narrative - further comments removed to avoid spoilers. Promises of a sequel make one wonder what is left...

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  • Posted September 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Make up your own mind!

    I recently finished The Magicians. While reading the book I randomly went and looked at reviews to see what people were saying about the book. They're pretty evenly split you either LOVE or HATE this book there's no inbetween, until me. I did not either LOVE or HATE this book. I did, however; enjoy it for what it was. A good story. People keep compairing this to Harry Potter, Lion Witch & the Wardrobe and they shouldn't. They're saying it's a complete rip off and combination of those two books. Well if that's the case, then every fantasy story ever written is a rip off of every other fantasy story ever written. It's like saying every story with an elf is a rip from The Lord of the Rings. Or every story with a multiverse is a rip for every other story with alternate universes. Come on. This is a good story for what it is, a grown up version of what magic is and could be. It's filled with swearing, sex, drugs, rock & roll. It does have it's down points at which I found my eyes drooping a bit, but they're few and far between. I'm planning on reading the Magician King as soon as I finish another book and if it's half as good as this book, it'll still be worth reading.

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  • Posted August 6, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Dark and enthralling

    So this book sounded interesting, cute, and relatable initially. I was wrong about cute. I thought it would be sort of like Harry Potter...kind of a children's book, kind of an adult book that everyone could understand. This is NOT a children's book by any means! Graphic and cynical, this book is very realistic. If Harry Potter were part of the real world, this is what it would actually be like; full of sexual tension, depression, angst, broken dreams, and awkward situations. It does not have the light and enchanted tone of Harry Potter. It's more like the thoughts you actually have in your head. It's raw and imperfect. It satisfies a wilder part of you.
    I thought The Magicians was a hilarious book. I swear, every couple pages I was stopping to explain to the people around me while I was laughing so hard while I read. It's a childish, very particular sort of silly humor. Immature, yet honest and blunt.
    I laughed, I cried...I cringed, I grimaced and felt awkward about letting my mom read this book after me. I felt like I was the main character and like she was reading some account of a personal experience I'd had. It made me uncomfortable and yet life never really is one-hundred percent comfortable.
    To sum it all up, I think this author is a genius. I will definitely be buying the next book in the series and I would recommend this book to most people if I know they can handle it. I was torn between giving The Magicians a four or five star rating. While the writing style is perfect, I'm very picky about books. I think that the story was a little disorganized and took a long time to just get to the point and the climax. And then abruptly it tragically ended and I was surprised. That did, however, leave me hungry for more. I also think the scattered and random pattern the story took was all part of the charm, so those are the reasons I went with five stars. I've definitely never read a book like this one before. It has its own definitive style! I hope that you do read it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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