Summary and book reviews of The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians

A Novel

By Lev Grossman

The Magicians
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  • Hardcover: Aug 2009,
    416 pages.
    Paperback: May 2010,
    416 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

Excerpt
The Magicians

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. Quentin trailed after them, feeling and looking 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 wavy dark hair was pulled back in a bunch. Somehow it made it worse that she was always nice to him.

"...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Introduction

Brilliant, restless, and possessed of a GPA "higher than most people even realize it is possible for a GPA to be" (p. 5), Quentin Coldwater is on the fast track to an Ivy League college and a lifetime of enviable if predictable successes—or so he thinks. The seventeen-year-old high school senior also has an obsession with magic and a series of children’s books set in a fantasy land called Fillory that will soon transport him into a hidden world that at once vindicates and challenges his wildest dreams.

It’s a cold, windy afternoon in November when Quentin is en route to his Princeton admissions interview in the company of his best friends, James and Julia. As usual, he is unhappily nursing the resentment ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

I loved every page of The Magicians. For anyone who grew up reading fantasy, who started with E. Nesbit or The Chronicles of Narnia or awaited each Harry Potter release, who openly or secretly continued to read fantasy wondering if it was appropriate to be drawn to tales of magic as an adult, this is a perfect read.   (Reviewed by Judy Krueger).

Full Review Members Only (987 words).

Media Reviews
Author Blurb George R.R. Martin, bestselling author of A Game of Thrones
The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea.

Author Blurb Junot Diaz, Pulitzer-prize winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Stirring, complex, adventurous . . . from the life of Quentin Coldwater, his slacker Park Slope Harry Potter, Lev Grossman delivers superb coming of age fantasy.

The Chicago Tribune

The Magicians... blooms with grace and wit and imaginative brio. Grossman has a sense of humor as well as a sense of wonder.

Publishers Weekly

Genre fans will easily pick up the many nods to J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis, not to mention J.R.R. Tolkien in the climactic battle between the bad guy and a magician.

Library Journal

Starred Review. 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.

Kirkus Reviews

Very dark and very scary, with no simple answers provided - fantasy for grown-ups, in other words, and very satisfying indeed.

Booklist

Starred Review. Deep fantasy fans can’t afford to miss the darkly comic and unforgettably queasy experience of reading this book—and be glad for reality.

Salon

An irresistible storytelling momentum makes The Magicians a great summer book, both thoughtful and enchanting.

Entertainment Weekly

Sly and lyrical, [The Magicians] captures the magic of childhood and the sobering years beyond.

Seattle Times

Grossman skillfully moves us through four years of school and a postgraduate adventure, never letting the pace slacken . . . beguiling.

The Washington Post

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.

Reader Reviews
Mj

The Magicians
I typically love books that offer the excitement and mystery of fantasy adventures. However, I found The Magicians very disappointing. It touched on so many potentially interesting and creative ideas and places like Brakebills and Fillory... but ...   Read More

Katy Lee

Interesting...but, a little disturbing too.
I love the Potter books - and I have done my fair share of LOTR and CON reading as well - I am guilty as are the characters of this book of wanting it all to be more real than fiction. The book draws you in with interesting "new" ways ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Lev Grossman's Worlds
Lev Grossman was born in 1969, the son of two English professors, and grew up in Lexington, MA, a placid little suburb of Boston. After obtaining a literature degree from Harvard and working towards a PhD in comparative literature at Yale, he gradually turned himself into a journalist and after a few years as a free-lancer, was hired by Time and became the magazine's book critic as well as one of its lead technology writers.

In 1997 Grossman published his first novel, Warp. It concerns the lyrical misadventures of a Boston slacker who has trouble distinguishing between reality and Star Trek.

Codex followed in 2004 and became a bestseller. It is a ...

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