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The Magicians (Magicians Series #1)

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Overview

"Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he's still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery." "He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. ...

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The Magicians (Magicians Series #1)

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Overview

"Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he's still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery." "He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn't bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin's fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart." At once psychologically piercing and magnificently absorbing, The Magicians boldly moves into uncharted literary territory, imagining magic as practiced by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions. Lev Grossman creates an utterly original world in which good and evil aren't black and white, love and sex aren't simple or innocent, and power comes at a terrible price.

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Editorial Reviews

Michael Agger
Brakebills will remind readers of Hogwarts, though with more illicit fondling. Grossman has written what could crudely be labeled a Harry Potter for adults. He takes the rudiments of that story—an alternate society of magicians bumpily coexists with our own—and injects mature themes. Quentin and his circle sleep around. They cook great meals and slosh wine. They also mope about and ponder the purpose of the magical life. It turns out that it can be kind of boring. You have great power but no meaningful way to apply it. Kind of like comp lit majors, or faded rock stars.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Grossman's novel is a postadolescent Harry Potter, following apprentices in the art of magic through their time as students at an upstate New York college to their postcollegiate Manhattan misdeeds, with jaded ennui tempering the magical aura. Mark Bramhall, a smooth baritone with a supple speaking voice, reads carefully, with a slight air of heaviness and sorrow. He pauses frequently and freights the silences with a tenderness well befitting a coming-of-age novel. A Viking hardcover (Reviews, June 1). (July)
Entertainment Weekly
Sly and lyrical, [The Magicians] captures the magic of childhood and the sobering years beyond.
Washington Post
Grossman clearly has read his Potter and much more. While this story invariably echoes a whole body of romantic coming-of-age tales, Grossman's American variation is fresh and compelling. Like a jazz musician, he riffs on Potter and Narnia, but makes it his own.
Salon
An irresistible storytelling momentum makes The Magicians a great summer book, both thoughtful and enchanting.
Seattle Times
Grossman skillfully moves us through four years of school and a postgraduate adventure, never letting the pace slacken . . . beguiling.
Library Journal

Most of us secretly believed as children that we were somehow destined for greatness. Someday there would be a letter delivered by owl or a magical wardrobe, and it would turn out we were the long-lost ruler of a land in eternal winter! Time magazine book critic Grossman (The Codex) explores what it might be like if this really happened. High school senior Quentin is on his way to a college interview when he wanders off the street and ends up transported to another place...where it's still summer. At first he thinks he must be in the land of Fillory, where his favorite childhood books took place, but no, he is actually at a magical college in upstate New York. He passes the entrance exam and decides to skip the rest of senior year and become a wizard instead-well, wouldn't you? In the course of his adventures, he finds out that studying magic is actually insanely difficult and that fighting a war for the royal succession of an alternate world is much less glamorous than it sounds. But this is not quite a "be careful what you wish for" story. Ultimately, being a magician is, in fact, awesome. This is a book for grown-up fans of children's fantasy and would also appeal to those who loved Donna Tartt's The Secret History. Highly recommended.


—Jenne Bergstrom
Kirkus Reviews
Grossman (Codex, 2004, etc.) imagines a sorcery school whose primary lesson seems to be that bending the world to your will isn't all it's cracked up to be. When Quentin manages to find Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy and pass its baffling entrance exam, he finally feels at home somewhere. Back in the real world, Quentin and fellow students, like brilliant, crippling shy Alice and debonair, sexually twisted Eliot, were misfits, obsessed with a famous children's series called Fillory and Further (The Chronicles of Narnia, very lightly disguised). Brakebills teaches them how to tap into the universe's flow of energy to cast spells; they're ready to graduate and . . . then what? "You can do nothing or anything or everything," cautions Alice, who has become Quentin's lover. "You have to find something to really care about to keep from running totally off the rails." Her warning seems apt as he indulges in aimless post-grad drinking and partying, eventually betraying Alice with two other Brakebills alums. The discovery that Fillory actually exists offers Quentin a chance to redeem himself with Alice and find a purpose for his life as well. But Fillory turns out to be an even more dangerous, anarchic place than the books suggested, and it harbors a Beast who's already made a catastrophic appearance at Brakebills. The novel's climax includes some spectacular magical battles to complement the complex emotional entanglements Grossman has deftly sketched in earlier chapters. The bottom line has nothing to do with magic at all: "There's no getting away from yourself," Quentin realizes. After a dreadful loss that he discovers is the result of manipulation by forces that care nothing about himor his friends, Quentin chooses a bleak, circumscribed existence in the nonmagical world. Three of his Brakebills pals return to invite him back to Fillory: Does this promise new hope, or threaten more delusions?Very dark and very scary, with no simple answers provided-fantasy for grown-ups, in other words, and very satisfying indeed. Agent: Tina Bennett/Janklow & Nesbit
The Barnes & Noble Review
Harry Potter was the top Twitter topic for days on end when the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, came out in paperback and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince opened in movie theaters. Fans were taking the "Which Harry Potter Character Are You?" quiz and bemoaning the coming Harry Potter vacuum ("If only Hogwarts were real..."). Having read every Harry Potter novel within days of release in "real time," I'm among those feeling bereft.

Along comes Time magazine senior book critic and Nerd World blog regular Lev Grossman's impeccably timed fantasy novel aimed at grown-ups who love J. K. Rowling's bewitching tales. The Magicians has the familiar mix of budding magicians and villains, and a group of spell-casting friends who are transported to a magical kingdom -- called Fillory -- not unlike Narnia. However, while The Magicians draws inspiration from Rowling, Lewis, Tolkien, and others, with appropriate tips of the hat, Grossman avoids schematic parallels to his predecessors. His creation is a deliciously detailed new universe -- notably X-rated in comparison to those more child-friendly fantasies, filled with complicated adult impulses and angst, not to mention sex, drugs, and single-malt scotch.

Quentin Coldwater is a tall, thin 17-year-old who yearns for happiness but settles for being "ridiculously brilliant" in matters mathematical and magical. Quentin is obsessed with the "Fillory and Further" novels, a series of five 1930s English books in which five Chatwin siblings discover a magical land while visiting their eccentric aunt and uncle in the countryside. In the last book in the series, the eldest son, Martin, does not come back from Fillory.

While his classmates have moved on, Quentin never quite outgrew the Fillory books, nor the hope that they could do what books promised to do and never quite did --"get you out, really out, of where you were and into somewhere better."

The novel opens in Brooklyn, where Quentin and his best friend, James, are on their way to a final admissions interview with a Princeton graduate. "The real problem with being around James was that he was always the hero," Quentin notes wryly." And what did that make you? Either the sidekick or the villain." Quentin and James discover their interviewer dead on the floor of his den. An attractive paramedic gives Quentin an envelope that contains a notebook with the first page handwritten in ink: "The Magicians: Book Six of Fillory and Further." Drum roll. A piece of white notepaper flies out of the notebook and leads Quentin to a portal in a community garden in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope. From there he is whisked off to Brakebills, a school for magicians up the Hudson.

Step one: Quentin is tested. As he comes to the end of the day, he's called upon to prove his magical talent with a deck of cards. "With two hands together, as if he were releasing a dove, he tossed the deck of cards lightly up to the ceiling. The deck broke apart and scattered in flight, like a meteorite losing cohesion in the atmosphere, and as the cards fluttered back down to earth they stacked themselves on the tabletop. They formed a house of cards."

Quentin passes, joining 100 students (20 in each class) to spend five years studying the art and craft of magic. Obviously, Brakebills is modeled after Hogwarts, but most everything is freshly minted and enthralling (an exception is the game of "welters," an echo of Quidditch that doesn't quite work as well). Each year at Brakebills has its challenges, rivalries, and casualties. The most ominous moment comes during Quentin's third year. Bored during a lecture, he casts a spell. For an instant, "the film of reality slipped off the spokes of its projector." And standing behind the lecturing professor is a small, well-dressed man with a leafy branch partially obscuring his face.

Everyone in the room is frozen in place for hours. Finally Amanda Orloff, a Brakebills student, gets free and begins chanting a powerful offensive spell, a bit of war magic -- taboo to students -- aimed at tearing an opponent apart. The dapper fellow -- termed thereafter "the beast" -- retaliates by eating Amanda alive. At last he disappears, although he pops up more than once to terrorize Quentin and his friends.

Grossman is superb at describing Quentin's transformations into animals. Along with half the other fourth-year students, Quentin is awakened one January night and magically turned into a goose for a flight to Brakebills South (at the pole)."Quentin's new goose-brain, it emerged, was not much given to reflection. His senses tracked only a handful of key stimuli but it tracked those very, very closely. This body was made for either sitting or flying, not much else, and as it happened, Quentin was in a mood to fly. In fact, he felt like flying more than he had ever felt like doing anything else in his entire life."

As a fox at Brakebills South, Quentin has sex with a fellow student named Alice. "He locked his teeth in the thick fur of her neck..... Something crazy and urgent was going on.and there was no way to stop it, or probably there was but why would you? Stopping was one of those pointless, life-defeating human impulses for which his merry little fox brain had nothing but contempt."

By his fifth year, Quentin is obsessed with what to do after graduation. The thought of a transition to a world outside of magic brings him to despair. At the Brakebills Fifth Years graduation banquet, he has his first taste of scotch." It was amazing that anything in liquid form could taste that much like both smoke and fire." That night each Brakebills graduate is gifted with a tattoo inset with a customized demon that will fight to the death to protect them.

The Magicians takes a sinister turn as the new graduates settle into gritty life in New York. Quentin has forgotten what it was like to be in the mundane world all the time. "Nothing was enchanted; everything was what it was and nothing more. Every conceivable surface was plastered with words -- concern posters, billboards, graffiti, maps, signs, warning labels, alternate-side parking regulations -- but none of it meant anything, not the way a spell did....To a magician's eyes, Manhattan looked like a desert."

Quentin, Alice, Eliot, Janet, and Josh laze away their days and give lavish dinner parties. Quentin grows so bored he betrays Alice after a long, boozy night and wakes up in bed with Janet and Eliot. Just as Alice confronts him, former Brakebills classmate Penny reappears and offers the gang a chance to go to Fillory. Off they go, without knowing that something ominous is going on, and evil has taken over the magical place.

The final battle of The Magicians is a hair-raising and riveting phantasmagoria of demons and monsters armed with the finest in battle magic. There are dead to be counted in the end, and several after-moments (including the appearance of a memorable centauress doctor named Alder Acorn Agnes Allison-fragrant timber). When, at last, The Magicians concluded, I wanted to keep the magic going. So I reread it. With relief I realized that although Grossman polished each plot turn and detail to a fine finish, he has left enough of a question mark at the end to make for the possibility -- yes! -- of a sequel. --Jane Ciabattari

Jane Ciabattari is president of the National Book Critics Circle.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670020553
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 8/11/2009
  • Series: Magicians Series , #1
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 114,117
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Lev Grossman

LEV GROSSMAN is a senior writer and book critic for Time magazine and author of the international bestselling novel Codex. He is also the creator of the Time blog Nerd World. Grossman holds degrees in comparative literature from Harvard and Yale. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.
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Read an Excerpt

BROOKLYN

Quentin did a magic trick. Nobody noticed.

They picked their way along the cold, uneven sidewalk together: James, Julia, and Quentin. James and Julia held hands. That's how things were now. The sidewalk wasn't quite wide enough, so Quentin trailed after them, like a sulky child. He would rather have been alone with Julia, or just alone period, but you couldn't have everything. Or at least the available evidence pointed overwhelmingly to that conclusion.

"Okay!" James said over his shoulder. "Q. Let's talk strategy."

James seemed to have a sixth sense for when Quentin was starting to feel sorry for himself. Quentin's interview was in seven minutes. James was right after him.

"Nice firm handshake. Lots of eye contact. Then when he's feeling comfortable, you hit him with a chair and I'll break his password and e-mail Princeton."

"Just be yourself, Q," Julia said.

Her dark hair was pulled back in a wavy bunch. Somehow it made it worse that she was always so nice to him.

"How is that different from what I said?"

Quentin did the magic trick again. It was a very small trick, a basic onehanded sleight with a nickel. He did it in his coat pocket where nobody could see. He did it again, then he did it backward.

"I have one guess for his password," James said. "Password."

It was kind of incredible how long this had been going on, Quentin thought. They were only seventeen, but he felt like he'd known James and Julia forever. The school systems in Brooklyn sorted out the gifted ones and shoved them together, then separated the ridiculously brilliant ones from the merely gifted ones and shoved them together, and as a result they'd been bumping into each other in the same speaking contests and regional Latin exams and tiny, specially convened ultra-advanced math classes since elementary school. The nerdiest of the nerds. By now, their senior year, Quentin knew James and Julia better than he knew anybody else in the world, not excluding his parents, and they knew him. Everybody knew what everybody else was going to say before they said it. Everybody who was going to sleep with anybody else had already done it. Julia—pale, freckled, dreamy Julia, who played the oboe and knew even more physics than he did—was never going to sleep with Quentin.

Quentin was thin and tall, though he habitually hunched his shoulders in a vain attempt to brace himself against whatever blow was coming from the heavens, and which would logically hit the tall people first. His shoulder length hair was freezing in clumps. He should have stuck around to dry it after gym, especially with his interview today, but for some reason—maybe he was in a self-sabotaging mood—he hadn't. The low gray sky threatened snow. It seemed to Quentin like the world was off ering up special little tableaux of misery just for him: crows perched on power lines, stepped-in dog shit, windblown trash, the corpses of innumerable wet oak leaves being desecrated in innumerable ways by innumerable vehicles and pedestrians. "God, I'm full," James said. "I ate too much. Why do I always eat too much?"

"Because you're a greedy pig?" Julia said brightly. "Because you're tired of being able to see your feet? Because you're trying to make your stomach touch your penis?"

James put his hands behind his head, his fingers in his wavy chestnut hair, his camel cashmere coat wide open to the November cold, and belched mightily. Cold never bothered him. Quentin felt cold all the time, like he was trapped in his own private individual winter.

James sang, to a tune somewhere between "Good King Wenceslas" and "Bingo":

In olden times there was a boy
Young and strong and brave-o
He wore a sword and rode a horse
And his name was Dave-o …;

"God!" Julia shrieked. "Stop!"

James had written this song five years ago for a middle-school talent show skit. He still liked to sing it; by now they all knew it by heart. Julia shoved him, still singing, into a garbage can, and when that didn't work she snatched off his watch cap and started beating him over the head with it.

"My hair! My beautiful interview hair!"

King James, Quentin thought. Le roi s'amuse.

"I hate to break up the party," he said, "but we've got like two minutes."

"Oh dear, oh dear!" Julia twittered. "The duchess! We shall be quite late!"

I should be happy, Quentin thought. I'm young and alive and healthy. I have good friends. I have two reasonably intact parents—viz., Dad, an editor of medical textbooks, and Mom, a commercial illustrator with ambitions, thwarted, of being a painter. I am a solid member of the middle–middle class. My GPA is a number higher than most people even realize it is possible for a GPA to be.

But walking along Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, in his black overcoat and his gray interview suit, Quentin knew he wasn't happy. Why not? He had painstakingly assembled all the ingredients of happiness. He had performed all the necessary rituals, spoken the words, lit the candles, made the sacrifices. But happiness, like a disobedient spirit, refused to come. He couldn't think what else to do.

He followed James and Julia past bodegas, laundromats, hipster boutiques, cellphone stores limned with neon piping, past a bar where old people were already drinking at three forty-five in the afternoon, past a brown-brick Veterans of Foreign Wars hall with plastic patio furniture on the sidewalk in front of it. All of it just confirmed his belief that his real life, the life he should be living, had been mislaid through some clerical error by the cosmic bureaucracy. This couldn't be it. It had been diverted somewhere else, to somebody else, and he'd been issued this shitty substitute faux life instead.

Maybe his real life would turn up in Princeton. He did the trick with the nickel in his pocket again.

"Are you playing with your wang, Quentin?" James asked.

Quentin blushed.

"I am not playing with my wang."

"Nothing to be ashamed of." James clapped him on the shoulder. "Clears the mind."

The wind bit through the thin material of Quentin's interview suit, but he refused to button his overcoat. He let the cold blow through it. It didn't matter, he wasn't really there anyway.

He was in Fillory.

Christopher Plover's Fillory and Further is a series of five novels published in England in the 1930s. They describe the adventures of the five Chatwin children in a magical land that they discover while on holiday in the countryside with their eccentric aunt and uncle. They aren't really on holiday, of course—their father is up to his hips in mud and blood at Passchendaele, and their mother has been hospitalized with a mysterious illness that is probably psychological in nature, which is why they've been hastily packed off to the country for safekeeping.

But all that unhappiness takes place far in the background. In the foreground, every summer for three years, the children leave their various boarding schools and return to Cornwall, and each time they do they find their way into the secret world of Fillory, where they have adventures and explore magical lands and defend the gentle creatures who live there against the various forces that menace them. The strangest and most persistent of those enemies is a veiled figure known only as the Watcherwoman, whose horological enchantments threaten to stall time itself, trapping all of Fillory at five o'clock on a particularly dreary, drizzly afternoon in late September.

Like most people Quentin read the Fillory books in grade school. Unlike most people—unlike James and Julia—he never got over them. They were where he went when he couldn't deal with the real world, which was a lot. (The Fillory books were both a consolation for Julia not loving him and also probably a major reason why she didn't.) And it was true, there was a strong whiff of the English nursery about them, and he felt secretly embarrassed when he got to the parts about the Cozy Horse, an enormous, affectionate equine creature who trots around Fillory by night on velvet hooves, and whose back is so broad you can sleep on it.

But there was a more seductive, more dangerous truth to Fillory that Quentin couldn't let go of. It was almost like the Fillory books—especially the first one, The World in the Walls—were about reading itself. When the oldest Chatwin, melancholy Martin, opens the cabinet of the grandfather clock that stands in a dark, narrow back hallway in his aunt's house and slips through into Fillory (Quentin always pictured him awkwardly pushing aside the pendulum, like the uvula of a monstrous throat), it's like he's opening the covers of a book, but a book that did what books always promised to do and never actually quite did: get you out, really out, of where you were and into somewhere better.

The world Martin discovers in the walls of his aunt's house is a world of magical twilight, a landscape as black and white and stark as a printed page, with prickly stubblefields and rolling hills crisscrossed by old stone walls. In Fillory there's an eclipse every day at noon, and seasons can last for a hundred years. Bare trees scratch at the sky. Pale green seas lap at narrow white beaches made of broken shells. In Fillory things mattered in a way they didn't in this world. In Fillory you felt the appropriate emotions when things happened. Happiness was a real, actual, achievable possibility. It came when you called. Or no, it never left you in the first place.

They stood on the sidewalk in front of the house. The neighborhood was fancier here, with wide sidewalks and overhanging trees. The house was brick, the only unattached residential structure in a neighborhood of row houses and brownstones. It was locally famous for having played a role in the bloody, costly Battle of Brooklyn. It seemed to gently reproach the cars and streetlights around it with memories of its gracious Old Dutch past.

If this were a Fillory novel—Quentin thought, just for the record— the house would contain a secret gateway to another world. The old man who lived there would be kindly and eccentric and drop cryptic remarks, and then when his back was turned Quentin would stumble on a mysterious cabinet or an enchanted dumbwaiter or whatever, through which he would gaze with wild surmise on the clean breast of another world.

But this wasn't a Fillory novel.

"So," Julia said. "Give 'em Hades."

She wore a blue serge coat with a round collar that made her look like a French schoolgirl.

"See you at the library maybe."

"Cheers."

They bumped fists. She dropped her gaze, embarrassed. She knew how he felt, and he knew she knew, and there was nothing more to say about it. He waited, pretending to be fascinated by a parked car, while she kissed James good-bye—she put a hand on his chest and kicked up her heel like an old-timey starlet—then he and James walked slowly up the cement path to the front door.

James put his arm around Quentin's shoulders.

"I know what you think, Quentin," he said gruffly. Quentin was taller, but James was broader, more solidly built, and he pulled Quentin off balance. "You think nobody understands you. But I do." He squeezed Quentin's shoulder in an almost fatherly way. "I'm the only one who does."

Quentin said nothing. You could envy James, but you couldn't hate him, because along with being handsome and smart he was also, at heart, kind and good. More than anybody else Quentin had ever met, James reminded him of Martin Chatwin. But if James was a Chatwin, what did that make Quentin? The real problem with being around James was that he was always the hero. And what did that make you? Either the sidekick or the villain.

Quentin rang the doorbell. A soft, tinny clatter erupted somewhere in the depths of the darkened house. An old-fashioned, analog ring. He rehearsed a mental list of his extracurriculars, personal goals, etc. He was absolutely prepared for this interview in every possible way, except maybe his incompletely dried hair, but now that the ripened fruit of all that preparation was right in front of him he suddenly lost any desire for it. He wasn't surprised. He was used to this anticlimactic feeling, where by the time you've done all the work to get something you don't even want it anymore. He had it all the time. It was one of the few things he could depend on.

The doorway was guarded by a depressingly ordinary suburban screen door. Orange and purple zinnias were still blooming, against all horticultural logic, in a random scatter pattern in black earth beds on either side of the doorstep. How weird, Quentin thought, with no curiosity at all, that they would still be alive in November. He withdrew his ungloved hands into the sleeves of his coat and placed the ends of the sleeves under his arms. Even though it felt cold enough to snow, somehow it began to rain.

It was still raining five minutes later. Quentin knocked on the door again, then pushed lightly. It opened a crack, and a wave of warm air tumbled out. The warm, fruity smell of a stranger's house.

"Hello?" Quentin called. He and James exchanged glances. He pushed the door all the way open.

"Better give him another minute."

"Who even does this in their spare time?" Quentin said. "I bet he's a pedophile."

The foyer was dark and silent and muffled with Oriental rugs. Still outside, James leaned on the doorbell. No one answered.

"I don't think anybody's here," Quentin said. That James wasn't coming inside suddenly made him want to go inside more. If the interviewer actually turned out to be a gatekeeper to the magical land of Fillory, he thought, it was too bad he wasn't wearing more practical shoes.

A staircase went up. On the left was a stiff , unused-looking dining room, on the right a cozy den with leather armchairs and a carved, mansize wooden cabinet standing by itself in a corner. Interesting. An old nautical map taller than he was took up half of one wall, with an ornately barbed compass rose. He massaged the walls in search of a light switch. There was a cane chair in one corner, but he didn't sit.

All the blinds were drawn. The quality of the darkness was less like a house with the curtains drawn than it was like actual night, as if the sun had set or been eclipsed the moment he crossed the threshold. Quentin slow-motion-walked into the den. He'd go back outside and call. In another minute. He had to at least look. The darkness was like a prickling electric cloud around him.

The cabinet was enormous, so big you could climb into it. He placed his hand on its small, dinged brass knob. It was unlocked. His fingers trembled. Le roi s'amuse. He couldn't help himself. It felt like the world was revolving around him, like his whole life had been leading up to this moment.

It was a liquor cabinet. A big one, there was practically a whole bar in there. Quentin reached back past the ranks of softly jingling bottles and felt the dry, scratchy plywood at the back just to make sure. Solid. Nothing magical about it. He closed the door, breathing hard, his face burning in the darkness. It was when he looked around to make absolutely sure that nobody was watching that he saw the dead body on the floor.

Fifteen minutes later the foyer was full of people and activity. Quentin sat in a corner, in the cane chair, like a pallbearer at the funeral of somebody he'd never met. He kept the back of his skull pressed firmly against the cool solid wall like it was his last point of connection to a same reality. James stood next to him. He didn't seem to know where to put his hands. They didn't look at each other.

The old man lay flat on his back on the floor. His stomach was a sizable round hump, his hair a crazy gray Einstein half–noggin. Three paramedics crouched around him, two men and a woman. The woman was disarmingly, almost inappropriately pretty—she looked out of place in that grim scene, miscast. The paramedics were at work, but it wasn't the high–speed clinical blitz of an emergency life–saving treatment. This was the other kind, the obligatory failed resuscitation. They were murmuring in low voices, packing up, ripping off adhesive patches, discarding contaminated sharps in a special container.

With a practiced, muscular movement one of the men de-intubated the corpse. The old man's mouth was open, and Quentin could see his dead gray tongue. He smelled something that he didn't want to admit was the faint, bitter odor of shit.

"This is bad," James said, not for the first time.

"Yes," Quentin said thickly. "Extremely bad." His lips and teeth felt numb.

If he didn't move, nobody could involve him in this any further. He tried to breathe slowly and keep still. He stared straight ahead, refusing to focus his eyes on what was happening in the den. He knew if he looked at James he would only see his own mental state reflected back at him in an infinite corridor of panic that led nowhere. He wondered when it would be all right for them to leave. He couldn't get rid of a feeling of shame that he was the one who went into the house uninvited, as if that had somehow caused the man's death.

"I shouldn't have called him a pedophile," Quentin said out loud. "That was wrong."

"Extremely wrong," James agreed. They spoke slowly, like they were both trying out language for the very first time.

One of the paramedics, the woman, stood up from where she was squatting by the body. Quentin watched her stretch, heels of her hands pressed to her lumbar region, tipping her head one way, then the other. Then she walked over in their direction, stripping off rubber gloves.

"Well," she announced cheerfully, "he's dead!" By her accent she was English.

Quentin cleared his clotted throat. The woman chucked the gloves neatly into the trash from across the room.

"What happened to him?"

"Cerebral hemorrhage. Nice quick way to go, if you have to go. Which he did. He must have been a drinker."

She made the drinky-drinky gesture.

Her cheeks were flushed from crouching down over the body. She might have been twenty-five at most, and she wore a dark blue short-sleeved button-down shirt, neatly pressed, with one button that didn't match: a stewardess on the connecting flight to hell. Quentin wished she weren't so attractive. Unpretty women were so much easier to deal with in some ways—you didn't have to face the pain of their probable unattainability. But she was not unpretty. She was pale and thin and unreasonably lovely, with a broad, ridiculously sexy mouth.

"Well." Quentin didn't know what to say. "I'm sorry."

"Why are you sorry?" she said. "Did you kill him?"

"I'm just here for an interview. He did alumni interviews for Princeton."

"So why do you care?"

Quentin hesitated. He wondered if he'd misunderstood the premise of this conversation. He stood up, which he should have done when she first came over anyway. He was much taller than her. Even under the circumstances, he thought, this person is carrying around a lot of attitude for a paramedic. It's not like she's a real doctor or anything. He wanted to scan her chest for a name tag but didn't want to get caught looking at her breasts.

"I don't actually care about him, personally," Quentin said carefully, "but I do place a certain value on human life in the abstract. So even though I didn't know him, I think I can say that I'm sorry that he's dead."

"What if he was a monster? Maybe he really was a pedophile."

She'd overheard him.

"Maybe. Maybe he was a nice guy. Maybe he was a saint."

"Maybe."

"You must spend a lot of time around dead people." Out of the corner of his eye he was vaguely aware that James was watching this exchange, baffled.

"Well, you're supposed to keep them alive. Or that's what they tell us."

"It must be hard."

"The dead ones are a lot less trouble."

"Quieter."

"Exactly."

The look in her eyes didn't quite match what she was saying. She was studying him.

"Listen," James cut in. "We should probably go."

"What's your hurry?" she said. Her eyes hadn't left Quentin's. Unlike practically everybody, she seemed more interested in him than in James. "Listen, I think this guy might have left something for you."

She picked up two manila envelopes, document–size, off a marbletopped side table. Quentin frowned.

"I don't think so."

"We should probably go," James said.

"You said that already," the paramedic said.

James opened the door. The cold air was a pleasant shock. It felt real. That was what Quentin needed: more reality. Less of this, whatever this was.

"Seriously," the woman said. "I think you should take these. It might be important."

Her eyes wouldn't leave Quentin's face. The day had gone still around them. It was chilly on the stoop, and getting a little damp, and he was roughly ten yards away from a corpse.

"Listen, we're gonna go," James was saying. "Thanks. I'm sure you did everything you could."

The pretty paramedic's dark hair was in two heavy ropes of braid. She wore a shiny yellow enamel ring and some kind of fancy silver antique wristwatch. Her nose and chin were tiny and pointy. She was a pale, skinny, pretty angel of death, and she held two manila envelopes with their names on them in block Magic Marker letters. Probably transcripts, confidential recommendations. For some reason, maybe just because he knew James wouldn't, Quentin took the one with his name on it.

"All right! Good-bye!" the paramedic sang. She twirled back into the house and closed the door. They were alone on the stoop.

"Well," James said. He inhaled through his nose and breathed out firmly.

Quentin nodded, as if he were agreeing with something James had said. Slowly they walked back up the path to the sidewalk. He still felt dazed. He didn't especially want to talk to James.

"Listen," James said. "You probably shouldn't have that."

"I know," Quentin said.

"You could still put it back, you know. I mean, what if they found out?"

"How would they find out?"

"I don't know."

"Who knows what's in here? Could come in useful."

"Yeah, well, lucky thing that guy died then!" James said irritably.

They walked to the end of the block without speaking, annoyed at each other and not wanting to admit it. The slate sidewalk was wet, and the sky was white with rain. Quentin knew he probably shouldn't have taken the envelope. He was pissed at himself for taking it and pissed at James for not taking his.

"Look, I'll see you later," James said. "I gotta go meet Jules at the library."

"Right."

They shook hands formally. It felt strangely final. Quentin walked away slowly down First Street. A man had died in the house he just left. He was still in a dream. He realized—more shame—that underneath it all he was relieved that he didn't have to do his Princeton interview today after all.

The day was darkening. The sun was setting already behind the gray shell of cloud that covered Brooklyn. For the first time in an hour he thought about all the things he had left to do today: physics problem set, history paper, e-mail, dishes, laundry. The weight of them was dragging him back down the gravity well of the ordinary world. He would have to explain to his parents what happened, and they would, in some way he could never grasp, and therefore could never properly rebut, make him feel like it was his fault. It would all go back to normal. He thought of Julia and James meeting at the library. She would be working on her Western Civ paper for Mr. Karras, a six-week project she would complete in two sleepless days and nights. As ardently as he wished that she were his, and not James's, he could never quite imagine how he would win her. In the most plausible of his many fantasies James died, unexpectedly and painlessly, leaving Julia behind to sink softly weeping into his arms.

As he walked Quentin unwound the little red-threaded clasp that held shut the manila envelope. He saw immediately that it wasn't his transcript, or an official document of any kind. The envelope held a notebook. It was old-looking, its corners squashed and rubbed till they were smooth and round, its cover foxed.

The first page, handwritten in ink, read:

The Magicians
Book Six of Fillory and Further

The ink had gone brown with age. The Magicians was not the name of any book by Christopher Plover that Quentin knew of. And any good nerd knew that there were only five books in the Fillory series. When he turned the page a piece of white notepaper, folded over once, flew out and slipped away on the wind. It clung to a wrought–iron area fence for a second before the wind whipped it away again.

There was a community garden on the block, a triangular snippet of land too narrow and weirdly shaped to be snapped up by developers. With its ownership a black hole of legal ambiguity, it had been taken over years ago by a collective of enterprising neighbors who had trucked out the acid sand native to Brooklyn and replaced it with rich, fertile loam from upstate. For a while they'd raised pumpkins and tomatoes and spring bulbs and raked out little Japanese serenity gardens, but lately they'd neglected it, and hardy urban weeds had taken root instead. They were running riot and strangling their frailer, more exotic competitors. It was into this tangled thicket that the note flew and disappeared.

This late in the year all the plants were dead or dying, even the weeds, and Quentin waded into them hip–deep, dry stems catching on his pants, his leather shoes crunching brown broken glass. It crossed his mind that the note might just possibly contain the hot paramedic's phone number. The garden was narrow, but it went surprisingly far back. There were three or four sizable trees in it, and the farther in he pushed the darker and more overgrown it got.

He caught a glimpse of the note, up high, plastered against a trellis encrusted with dead vines. It could clear the back fence before he caught up with it. His phone rang: his dad. Quentin ignored it. Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw something flit past behind the bracken, large and pale, but when he turned his head it was gone. He pushed past the corpses of gladiolas, petunias, shoulder-high sunflowers, rosebushes—brittle, stiff stems and flowers frozen in death into ornate toile patterns.

He would have thought he'd gone all the way through to Seventh Avenue by now. He shoved his way even deeper in, brushing up against who knew what toxic flora. A case of poison fucking ivy, that's all he needed now. It was odd to see that here and there among the dead plants a few vital green stalks still poked up, drawing sustenance from who knew where. He caught a whiff of something sweet in the air.

He stopped. All of a sudden it was quiet. No car horns, no stereos, no sirens. His phone had stopped ringing. It was bitter cold, and his fingers were numb. Turn back or go on? He squeezed farther in through a hedge, closing his eyes and squinching up his face against the scratchy twigs. He stumbled over something, an old stone. He felt suddenly nauseous. He was sweating.

When he opened his eyes again he was standing on the edge of a huge, wide, perfectly level green lawn surrounded by trees. The smell of ripe grass was overpowering. There was hot sun on his face.

The sun was at the wrong angle. And where the hell were the clouds? The sky was a blinding blue. His inner ear spun sickeningly. He held his breath for a few seconds, then expelled freezing winter air from his lungs and breathed in warm summer air in its place. It was thick with floating pollen. He sneezed.

In the middle distance beyond the wide lawn a large house stood, all honey-colored stone and gray slate, adorned with chimneys and gables and towers and roofs and sub-roofs. In the center, over the main house, was a tall, stately clock tower that struck even Quentin as an odd addition to what otherwise looked like a private residence. The clock was in the Venetian style: a single barbed hand circling a face with twenty-four hours marked on it in Roman numerals. Over one wing rose what looked like the green oxidized-copper dome of an observatory. Between house and lawn was a series of inviting landscaped terraces and spinneys and hedges and fountains.

Quentin was pretty sure that if he stood very still for a few seconds everything would snap back to normal. He wondered if he was undergoing some dire neurological event. He looked cautiously back over his shoulder. There was no sign of the garden behind him, just some big leafy oak trees, the advance guard of what looked like a pretty serious forest. A rill of sweat ran down his rib cage from his left armpit. It was hot.

Quentin dropped his bag on the turf and shrugged out of his overcoat. A bird chirped languidly in the silence. Fifty feet away a tall skinny teenager was leaning against a tree, smoking a cigarette and watching him.

He looked about Quentin's age. He wore a button-down shirt with a sharp collar and very thin, very pale pink stripes. He didn't look at Quentin, just dragged on his cigarette and exhaled into the summer air. The heat didn't seem to bother him.

"Hey," Quentin called.

Now he looked over. He raised his chin at Quentin, once, but didn't answer.

Quentin walked over, as nonchalantly as he could. He really didn't want to look like somebody who had no idea what was going on. Even without his coat on he was sweating like a bastard. He felt like an overdressed English explorer trying to impress a skeptical tropical native. But there was something he had to ask.

"Is this—?" Quentin cleared his throat. "So is this Fillory?" He squinted against the bright sun.

The young man looked at Quentin very seriously. He took another long drag on his cigarette, then he shook his head slowly, blowing out the smoke.

"Nope," he said. "Upstate New York."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 682 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    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 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.

    25 out of 33 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    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 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.

    17 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2010

    DON'T BUY THIS!!!

    After all of the excitement from Barnes and Noble staff recommendations, this book just frustrates me. It's one of a few books that I wish I had not started to read, because I must finish all books. It has been at least 6 months and I'm still trying to get through it. I'm embarrassed to have suggested this book to my friends without first reading through the book completely.

    Blah Blah Blah, it's a bit Harry Potter, a bit Narnia, a bit Wizard of Oz, Alice In Wonderland... It seems there is not one fresh idea in this entire book! This is basically just a conglomeration of the wizards, and lions and witches and animals talking and being transported to another world. It would serve us better to re-read the originals.

    Kudos to the art department for the book cover. This is probably what got us interested in the book to begin with. Unfortunately, there's nothing more beyond the cover.

    16 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 11, 2010

    I was looking forward to reading this book...sadly disappointed...

    After seeing this book description and the BN review, I was really looking forward to reading this book. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it didn't deliver. I felt it borrowed too much from other fantasy series - especially Harry Potter and Narnia. Yes, there were some variations, but essentially the same concepts, so if felt very unoriginal to me. I also was disappointed in the characters - it's hard to get through a book when you dislike the majority of the characters.

    15 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2009

    The Magicians

    I read a blurb about this book in People Magazine, and it piqued my curiosity. I love Harry Potter books and the Chronicles of Narnia, and other magical books. But this one fell short in my opinion. It closely mirrored the Chronicles of Narnia, just with young adults and more sex and drinking. I found it difficult to make myself sit down and read it, and thought several times about just giving up before I was finished, which is something I don't normally do with any book. The writing wasn't engaging, the plot was absurd, even for a magical theme, the characters were annoying and irritating. I would not recommend this book.

    13 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 20, 2010

    Mish Mash of Great Literature that Doesn't Live Up

    I bought this book thinking that the blurb on the back made it sound intriguing. What I got was a blatant rip-off of Harry Potter's Hogwarts, Narnia, John Bellairs' The House with a Clock in it's Walls, Edward Eager's Tales of Magic, a little bit of Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom and even some Tolkien. There was a very thin plot to string it all together on, lots of gratuitous sex and booze and drugs, lots of angst, lots of unresolved plot points, and read more like a giant piece of bad fan fiction than serious writing. Seriously, how did Grossman get this manuscript by an editor? Unless that editor has been living under a rock. And despite all the things I've mentioned above, the story was just weak. He never *did* anything to redeem himself or earn it or *anything*. The characters were all just so horrible, I didn't really care what happened to them at the end. Except Alice and she turned out to be just as stupid as the rest.

    So my best advice: Save your time and money. This book isn't worth it.

    12 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Not Recommended

    It was like Holden Caulfield goes to Hogwarts than falls into Narnia... and managed to suck all the fun out of it.

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 10, 2010

    I really wanted to like this book...

    Believe me, I did. I REALLY wanted to like it. The concept sounded great; an adult Harry Potter. But when it comes down to it, the book was unoriginal, and it drug on. The book itself is split into 4 "Books", the first of which lasts almost 2/3 of the total story, and details the character's time at Brakebills college of magic. With the exception of a few pages, I felt like really nothing ever happened here. The remaining three "Books" was basically a retelling of the Narnia books, with only slight changes, mostly just in character names.

    Some other's reviews were that this was an easy read, but it really never held my attention. I can usually read a book in just a few days, but everytime I picked this book up, I would have to fight from falling asleep.

    Maybe someone else could appreciate it more, but honestly, the more I read the story, the more I thought how unoriginal is was.

    8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 28, 2010

    Stylish and mystifying

    It's embaressing that J.K. Rowling even be mentioned when talking about this book, The Magicians is at a level her books could never imagine touching. The sheer amount of style in the writing is breathtaking, I caught myself drooling over wording and phrases more than once, the writer in me bowing down to Grossman's genius. The story itself is deep and requires more than just a cursoury reading, people who find the characters disgusing and the story unoriginal are only getting surface value. There is a psychology to everything that happens, one that is deep, dark, and immnsely disturbing. The characters are sickening and so real they break your heart, to book grasps at a reality that will leave you jumping at every alleyway, expecting Brakebills to be around the corner.

    7 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Not Your Average Fantasy Epic

    If you ever anxiously waited for the owl carrying your invitation to Hogwarts to arrive, or checked all the closets in your house for the entrance to Narnia, this book is for you.

    Quentin is a somewhat nerdy teenager who has always been obsessed with a series of books about very British children who are transported to a magical land called Fillory to have wonderful adventures. One day, while Quentin is busy hating his life (in which his best friend dates the girl he loves and he has to go on pointless college interviews), he finds himself suddenly transported from downtown Brooklyn to an actual school of magic in upstate New York called Brakebills. He has to pass an exam to get in, but Quentin makes it, and he thinks his dreams have finally come true.

    However, Brakebills doesn't solve Quentin's problems, and he ends up just as unhappy as ever. It turns out magic makes life easier for people, but it doesn't make it any more meaningful. Magicians don't have to work, so they can do whatever they want, which usually ends up being academic work or drinking themselves silly. Quentin ends up facing the same questions most young adults do: who am I, who do I want to be, what do I want to do with my life? Even when faced with the idea that the world of Fillory might be real, and that one of his classmates can take him there, Quentin is not fulfilled, and he can't figure out why.

    The Magicians is definitely a unique play on the fantasy genre: it blatantly pokes fun at books like The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings, while still paying some homage to them. Quentin doesn't experience the traditional hero's journey, but this actually works to the book's advantage, because I found myself continually surprised. It's a unique twist to the genre, and the mythology of Fillory ends up being more intertwined in the story than one would suppose, and I loved every minute of it.

    A warning, though: this is NOT a book for children. I would recommend it for some teens, but there is a lot of sex, swearing, drinking, and drug use. It's definitely R-rated!

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 10, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Misunderstood Masterpiece

    June 30th, 1997 the end of accurate fantasy reviews. Why? Two words: Harry Potter. The sad truth is that with the release of the mega series Harry Potter, 90% of people became blinded. Books, movies, and T.V. show have all suffered because of Harry Potter because it seems that no one seems to realize that, while Harry Potter was an extraordinary series, it was a CHILDRENS series.

    What does this mean? It means that you cannot hope to accurately compare a book written specifically for children to that of a book written specifically for adults. No one in their right mind would compare The Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter, why? Because Tolkien came before Rowling and thus he seems to be immune to this foolish craze.

    The Magicians was written for ADULTS and while there are similarities they are so blatant that it is obvious that Lev Grossman wrote his novel as a work of satire. He has seen through all the high fantasy silliness and, quite accurately, exposed a major flaw in fantasy. Fantasy has always been an escapist genre, but he realized that many authors were, and still are, turning fantasy into a happy-go-lucky place where elves frolic in the forests and the hero always wins. He saw it when he read Lewis Carrols Chronicles of Narnia and he saw it again in the Harry Potter franchise. In The Magicians, Grossman shows us that those stories are great when you're a kid, but when you grow up you realize how foolish it all is. He takes us all back to some of our most treasured worlds and rips them apart with sheer honesty.

    The characters in the novel are true to life, if somewhat exaggerated, in their nihilistic, selfish, and desperate search for meaning. Lev Grossman shows us that as much fun as it is to read about worlds where all human flaws are vanquished leaving only the noble characteristics, it is not real. No matter how much magic we have, no matter what world we're on, we will find a way to be unhappy; to question who we are, and why we're here. As brutal as it sounds, Lev Grossman once again proves just how much of a master he is at his craft. The world he creates_and the worlds he borrows from_are more than realistic, the characters are heartbreaking in their reflection of each of us, and the plot makes The Magicians not only fun to read, but page turner that will keep you guessing.

    Many of the reviewers are right, if you are looking for Harry Potter do not pick up this book. It is for adults and furthermore it is a brutally honest account of the downside to 'Happily Ever After". If you're looking for a fantastic dark fantasy, laced with acid humor, and a more than vivid world, The Magicians is a must read. But please, stop this obsession with comparing everything written or filmed to Harry Potter; unless it's a children's fantasy they are not comparable.

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 1, 2011

    Don't buy it. I am donating my copy to the public library and I never give away my books.

    I too was sadly disappointed. After having just read Rothfuss's Wise Man's Fear and Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, I picked up this book on the recommendation of someone on a fantasy blog. Although the story idea is interesting, the fact of the matter is that Grossman is not a good writer when is comes to fiction. He is a smart guy and I 'm sure his reviews are insightful, but he just doesn't cut it as a fantasy writer. Simply put, the language was boring. My son's middle school English teacher always says, "Show, don't tell." Grossman is always so literal and never describes anything. He leaves nothing to the imagination and his descriptions fall flat. I could barely get through the book and I wasn't at all invested in the characters. Skip this book and, instead, read and reread Gaiman or Rothfuss. They write in beautiful and original ways and sweep you up into their narratives. I feel badly writing this customer review because I thought Grossman was clever and humble when interviewing Gaiman at a reading a couple of weeks ago at the 92nd Street Y, but I just had to put this out there.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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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 it...so 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 May 12, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Wow this is a bad book!!

    It had been a while since I just stopped reading a book. I just simply couldn't make it to the end! The author is zero creative, he just combined Hogwarts with Narnia and added tons of sex, booze and infidelity, and expected to have a great book. Who ever said that Harry Potter or Narnia would have been better with a bunch of drunken teenagers with no morals, who have constant sex? I am sorry I spent money on this book, but I am even more sorry to have wasted time on it. In case I haven't been clear enough, do not read this!!! Trust me!

    4 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Great book, if you don't mind rushed anti-climaxes

    The book is split up into 4 seperate books, each with a focus.

    The first book is about introducing us to the characters, and learning how each one is related. While reading this, it is almost impossible to not compare his magic school to Hogwarts. The only problem is that Q (the depressed main character) never has to fight any evil wizards, and before you realize it, you are 1/3 of the way through the book and nothing has happened.

    Part two and three blur together, but it is, for the most part, more of the same. Q is miserable, and discovers that drinking only makes things worse.

    Part four is where the story really picks up, and even with a depressive main character, I could have read 3x as much as was written about the fantisy world. Unfortunately, the best parts tend to go too fast, and feel hurried, as though Grossman had a deadline to meet.

    Although this review sounds harsh, there was a lot that I did enjoy. The way that magic was described was superb, the mixing of contemporary and old magical lands was done very well, and the imagry was superb. Although the plot felt rushed in places and toooo sloooow in others, I enjoyed the style itself of writing. I would recomend this book to other people, once it is bargin priced @ $5.99. Until then, I'll shamelessly promote 'Sasbriel' by garth Nix as a more enjoyable alternative.

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 13, 2011

    A review compared this to Harry Potter? FALSE

    this book was full of spoiled, depressed, and entitled characters..it was aggravating to read. There was very little plot to the book until the last few chapters, the rest of it was basically skimming over their lives and listening to them lament over how boring and pointless those lives are. Had high expectations based on reviews, but was very disapointed I spent money on this rather than borrowing from the library, at least if I had borrowed it, I would have only been out of my time, not the money.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 20, 2011

    Horrible

    I didn't think it could be possible to combine the Harry Potter and Narnia series and then somehow make the most boring drawn out story ever but this author managed to do just that. I couldn't even finish it because I had paint drying in the living room which was far more entertaiming. How can anyone say this is for people looking to read something after finishing Harry Potter??? Did you even read Harry Potter??

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 5, 2010

    A magical rollercoaster ride

    There's lots to like here, although I suspect that for everyone like me who LOVES this book there will be someone else who hates it, especially hardened Harry Potter fans who will almost certainly think Grossman borrowed too liberally from J.K. Rowling's popular, history-making fantasy series.

    Yes, OK, there's a school for magicians and a Quidditch-like tournament, but the story is so cleverly dissimilar from 'Potter' in so many other ways it's not a problem.

    In fact, it felt very much like an homage to both Rowling and C.S. Lewis in the way it explores the interesting, entertaining notion of what can happen if troubled kids use their new wizard-like skills exploring a supernatural Narnia-like realm they grew up reading about.

    And, personally, I loved that it took one instead of seven books for the main characters to graduate from their school of magic, and that the main characters are older than the Harry Potter kids (and that they're not always likeable), and that the main character is prone to making occasionally horrific, consequence-suffering decisions, and that the magic isn't easy to master, and that magic can be used in the real world.

    And, sacriligious gasp!, I prefer Lev's style over J.K.'s style anyway. He's a more sophisticated writer with a more cautionary, adult tale to tell ... and he's particularly masterful at using analogies and pithy phrases for context. I found myself constanting thinking after reading one point-on analogy after another, 'Oh, yeah. I totally get what you're saying!'

    I fall solidly in the camp of people who love this book. You may or may not.

    One thing is for sure, though ... this isn't for your kids.

    3 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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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2011

    Incredibly boring

    Characters are flat. Lacks any of the magic of the Harry Potter series. Just a tale of some once bright teenagers basically dropping out of society and becoming alcoholics.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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