Title: The Magicians (The Magicians #1)
Author: Lev Grossman
Narrator: Mark Bramhall
Publisher: Viking Books (Penguin)
Release Date: August 11, 2009
Acquired Via: Publisher
A thrilling and original coming-of- age novel about a young man practicing magic in the real world.
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.
I was somewhat aware of the existence of The Magicians, but I only decided to read it after a publicist at ALA firmly and fervently pressed a copy of The Magician's Land into my hands. I figured the least I could do for someone who felt so strongly about a particular series is to at least give it a chance.
I am kicking myself for not picking up this series years ago.
I have a great deal in common with Quentin Coldwater. While he grew up obsessed with Fillory and dreaming of finding a way into that magical land, I did the same with Narnia. I would walk through closets and check cabinets for a doorway to that imaginary land until I was much too old, though I knew Lewis made it all up. (You know, just in case.) I experienced the Harry Potter craze, and I am fairly sure that my letter from Hogwarts has only been delayed since my owl has to come across the Atlantic. So I got Quentin - I'm a dreamer, too. The thing is, the book wasn't about Narnia or Hogwarts, it was about a boy growing up with those expectations, getting to live his dreams, but realizing that happiness had to come from within.
A lot of The Magicians does mirror Narnia and Harry Potter. Only after the end can I say that it doesn't really rip off Lewis' or Rowling's ideas because Grossman takes everything so much further. There is a certain darkness in the book that you don't find in the other series, or at least not much. There's not really a Dark Lord to overcome, with Quentin instead having to face Life, magical or not. And we all know what a messy, ugly, painful thing that Life can, and will, be.
Part of why The Magicians was so good because for a good part of the book I didn't like any of the characters, especially Quentin and Alice. They were hurtful and nasty to one another, and I was just so mad at them. But I guess this behavior and my reaction to it made them so seem so real despite the novel being fantasy. And by the end of The Magicians, I was making the same observations about life and love as Quentin did. I might have even learned a little something.
What I've said up to this point was about the darkness and non-children's book aspects of the novel, but there are parts of The Magicians that is absolute perfection for readers like me. The parallels between this book and Narnia and Harry Potter were so much fun to read, and I loved coming across the references to one book or the other. There were also nods at Tolkien and Middle Earth, which I'm hoping for more of in The Magician King.
Yes, I'll be reading the entire series now.
The Magicians is very much an adult book, and it's perfect for those of you who, like me, never got to live at Hogwarts or Narnia. This is the escapist fantasy land for adults, and I loved it, even when I was pissed at the characters. I should have read this book already, and if you're guilty of the same, I hope you get around to reading The Magicians soon.
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