The Magicians

by Lev Grossman

Brief Summary: Quentin is something of a prodigy in his school system. He doesn’t realize QUITE how much until the day he’s supposed to do an interview for college and ends up (under mysterious circumstances, no doubt) in a college for magically-inclined people by accident. But apparently, finding the place is enough to take the entrance test and the next thing he knows, he’s in. What follows is a dark, twisting tale combining any childhood fantasy you can think of, with a dark, sinister underbelly.

Kell’s Chatty Review: So, this book has been reviewed and chatted about by millions of people. It also earned a YALSA Award for (in essence) being an adult books that teens will like. Needless to say, my thoughts are by no means unique, but really, I LOVED this book.

To be honest: I picked it up the minute I read the words “adult version of Harry Potter.” Sold. Then it sat on my shelf for a good, long while and in the meantime I read reviews on it. So, I started to get worried that it wouldn’t live up to the hype.

And it didn’t. And it did: I don’t think I can call it adult Harry Potter. Yes, there is a magic school. But, for the most part, much of the similarity ends there. The fact it wasn’t an adult Harry Potter is probably the reason why I liked it so much. It was dark and twisty and depressing and not perfect. But it also was really, really unique in how it looked at magic schools and magic (at least from what I’ve previously read).

But it’s not just all about school: While the school stuff takes up a good chunk of the book, much of the rest of the book is spent in Fillory, which is Quentin’s version of Narnia. (Or trying to get to Fillory, anyway.) And let’s be honest here, it’s not all candy canes and unicorns. In fact, it’s pretty terrifying. Once again, I really liked how Grossman imagined this trip panning out. Dark and foreboding just begins to explain the trip. And, also, it was a little sad. (For both obvious and not obvious reasons.)

My favorite place, however: was the Neitherlands. (Although the Antartica trip fascinated me as well.) What a brilliant, brilliant idea. A giant chessboard (or, in the world of The Magicians, a welter’s board) that connects all the worlds in the universe. I do NOT understand why no one was as fascinated with this place as they should have been. Yeah, sure, it would be awesome to go to Fillory and hang out. But come back and check out other things, too! I mean, come on!

What I most wanted to do after reading this book: I really, really want to read the Fillory books. Which don’t exist. So that sucks.

Where this book came from: My own collection. Seriously, I bought it the day B&N put it on the floor.

SPOILER Questions: Okay, normally I shy away from spoilers (unless it’s HP, in which, you know, you should just have read it by now). But I have SO many questions and I need to list a few to get them off my chest: What the hell happened to Penny? What was inside those buildings in the Neitherlands besides books? Did Penny become a book? A librarian? Since so much time has passed in the real world, won’t the gang going back to Fillory mean that it’s been like two centuries in Fillory time? Who knows what they’re going to find? What exactly is a niffin? Does it just hang out? So, theoretically, could niffin Alice still be in Ember’s Tomb? When The Beast fell, did everyone just fall in line? I mean, SO many people/animals were on his side. Is there going to be a sequel of this thing?

There’s so many more, but we’re well beyond a large paragraph right now. If anyone has any thoughts on these questions (or questions of your own), please leave them in the comments.

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7 responses to “The Magicians

  1. When we were in Scotland I stood with this book in my hand for a good half hour and then finally opted to put it down due to baggage restrictions numerous other books I had already decided on…I am now kicking myself for it! It sounds great and I need it now!!

  2. I happen to work for B&N, and impulse-bought this book after reading a review of a different book that name-dropped Grossman as a worthy writer. It turned out to be a good pick. His writing style managed to pack in a satisfying amount of depth and detail without bogging down the pacing. The story itself felt a little directionless in the middle, but he pulled it all together in the end.

    But anyway. I think I can answer one or two of your questions.

    ***SPOILER ALERT*** (just in case)

    Regarding the time spent in Fillory: I believe it’s noted by one of the characters (Penny maybe?) that no time passes in their world while they’re away from it. If I’m remembering right, that conversation happens in the Neitherlands, the first time Alice uses the button (bringing Quentin and Penny with her).

    Regarding the Fillory battles: I’m pretty sure the animals they fought were loyal to Ember, and they probably would have been told to repel any and all intruders. Perhaps they even knew about the horn. But when the Beast is killed, the war is over. The animals only fought to protect Ember from the Beast. They would probably assume the victorious humans would take the crown and become kings and queens, which they would welcome. So they might have even gotten a royal escort out of the place.

    As for Penny: no idea. His fate is ambiguous, I think intentionally so.

    Niffin: dunno. There’s a spot in Quentin’s early years where more explanation is given about their nature. I’ll have to reread that bit and see if I get more out of it the second time around.

    Cheers. šŸ™‚

  3. Last night I went to see the movie “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” Although I am not a big C.S. Lewis fan, I thought the visuals of the movie were wonderful. But the overriding effect of the “Dawn Treader” movie, for me, is that it made my heart ache for Fillory. I want to go to Fillory!

    • oooh. I haven’t seen the new Narnia yet, but I want to! (I loved the first two.)

      And I agree wholeheartedly – I want to go to Fillory! And if that can’t happen, I want Fillory books!

      Thanks for stopping by the blog! Come back and visit!
      ~Kell

  4. I wanted to post only because I was not quite so exuberant about the book. I did enjoy reading simply because it was so different than Harry Potter but I was frustrated at the similarities of Fillory and Narnia. I think Grossman found a nice little niche for his magical school that offers different ideas and depressed viewpoints than what I’ve read in Harry Potter, which was refreshing. I think my main frustration was that it seemed as though he stole his ideas from Rowling, Lewis and Tolkein.

    ****Spoiler Alert*****
    I was also disappointed Grossman didn’t continue Alice into the second book. Of all the characters she was the one I thought was most interesting and had the most potential. Having said this, I do think Penny’s fate will be explained in the second book. Don’t count him out yet! I also would have liked more explanation regarding Fillory after the Beast was killed. I would have liked to hear more from Annais and was disappointed she couldn’t tell us anything more especially about the others.

    Overall, it was a good book. It held my attention and made me want to keep reading, even if I was frustrated with it.

    • Hi Sarah!

      I understand your frustration in Grossman’s “borrowing” of ideas from other prominent children fantasy series, but he was very open about the fact The Magicians would be doing that as his way of paying homage to the classics he has loved over the years. I like to think that he was only borrowing the idea of them, not the actual story lines, to show what life would really be like in those worlds.

      I also was heartbroken about Alice! She was one of my favorite characters! Hopefully, the second book will have some stellar bits and revelations to make up for her loss.

      Thank you so much for stopping by the blog! Come back anytime!
      ~kell

  5. Alice dying made me feel horrible. Utterly horrible, it was painful to read the last 50 pages for me. But the book was one of my all time favorites. And believe it or not her dying helped me out in a real life situation.

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