Like everyone else, precocious high school senior Quentin Coldwater assumes that magic isn't real, until he finds himself admitted to a very secretive and exclusive college of magic in upstate New York. Read more...
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Like everyone else, precocious high school senior Quentin Coldwater assumes that magic isn't real, until he finds himself admitted to a very secretive and exclusive college of magic in upstate New York. There he indulges in joys of college-friendship, love, sex, and booze- and receives a rigorous education in modern sorcery. But magic doesn't bring the happiness and adventure Quentin thought it would. After graduation, he and his friends stumble upon a secret that sets them on a remarkable journey that may just fulfill Quentin's yearning. But their journey turns out to be darker and more dangerous than they'd imagined. Psychologically piercing and dazzlingly inventive, "The Magicians," the prequel to the "New York Times "bestselling book "The Magician King "and the #1 bestseller "The Magician's Land," is an enthralling coming-of-age tale about magic practiced in the real world-where good and evil aren't black and white, and power comes at a terrible price.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 29.
- Review Date: 2009-06-01
- Reviewer: Staff
Harry Potter discovers Narnia is real in this derivative fantasy thriller from Time book critic Grossman (Codex). Quentin Coldwater, a Brooklyn high school student devoted to a children’s series set in the Narnia-like world of Fillory, is leading an aimless existence until he’s tapped to enter a mysterious portal that leads to Brakebills College, an exclusive academy where he’s taught magic. Coldwater, whose special gifts enable him to skip grades, finds his family’s world “mundane and domestic” when he returns home for vacation. He loses his innocence after a prank unintentionally allows a powerful evil force known only as the Beast to enter the college and wreak havoc. Eventually, Coldwater’s powers are put to the test when he learns that Fillory is a real place and how he can journey there. 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. 5-city author tour. (Aug.)
Critic’s novel has a magic touch
In his third novel, Time magazine book critic Lev Grossman deftly and unabashedly walks the line between literary and genre fiction, creating a world of both fantasy and gritty psychological realism. Think J.K. Rowling meets C.S. Lewis meets Donna Tartt.
At the book’s start, high school senior Quentin Coldwater—brilliant, misunderstood and obsessed with a series of children’s books set in a magical land—is trying his hardest to escape his predictable Brooklyn adolescence. That is, until he is unexpectedly admitted to a prestigious college in upstate New York: Brakebills, the pre-eminent American institute for budding magicians. There, students slave away over potions and spells and are occasionally transformed into flocks of geese. For Quentin, this is eye-opening. His talents are nurtured, his limits pushed.
But it’s not all rainbows and broomsticks. There are also the tiny triumphs and trials of any college experience: competition, stress, sex, drugs, heartbreak and the looming uncertainty of graduation and the world beyond. Quentin and his friends move to Manhattan after finishing wizard school, where they live in a cramped apartment, get drunk, sleep with one another and wonder what good their prestigious magic education is actually doing them—and why their childhood fantasies were so off-base.
And it’s here that Grossman’s true cleverness comes into play. For, as much as The Magicians is an allegorical romp about “growing up” in a Harry Potter world (though, admittedly, with a bit more R-rated language), it is also an astute piece of criticism of the way in which literature sets up expectations that no real—or magical—world can ever live up to. Eventually, Quentin learns that the land from his books does, in fact, exist. But, like much in life, it’s not at all as he’d imagined it.
Grossman’s highly acclaimed previous novel, Codex, also asked readers to put aside preconceptions and give themselves over to a fictional world. It’s a testament to the author’s astounding creativity and delicate sensitivity that we are once again so willing to do so.
Jillian Quint is an editor at a publishing house in New York. She lives in Brooklyn.