The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Man… where to begin. So I had heard some buzz about this book online, but didn’t really pay much attention to it. When I was in Borders shopping the going-out-of-business sale, I saw this on the shelf and looked it over. According to the blurb on the back, “No one who has escaped into the worlds of Narnia and Harry Potter should miss this breathtaking return to the landscape of the imagination.” So I figured what the hell and bought it. The story was a lot darker than I was anticipating.

The story is about Quentin Coldwater. Q starts off as a likable character – he’s really smart, but has low self-esteem and he’s kind of angsty. He often daydreams about Fillory, a magical land in his favorite children’s books. (Basically, Fillory = Narnia. The similarities are really, really obvious.) One day Q stumbles through to a secret college for magic, and as he studies to be a magician he thinks all of his prayers have been answered. But it turns out of the world of magic is a lot different than he thought it’d be, and a lot darker. He eventually discovers that Fillory is real and how to get there, and he heads there with a group of his friends to see what adventures they can embark on.

 Q’s time at Brakebills (the magic college) flies by – I’m not sure if I liked this or not. On the one hand, I’m glad that it didn’t drone on and on. But on the other hand, I feel like I never really understood exactly how magic was working, and like I was only getting a tiny glimpse of this secret magical world. About halfway through the book, Q does some really stupid crap and after that I thought he was a douchebag. I’m not going to go into exactly what he was doing to piss me off, but after that point he could have been killed off and I wouldn’t have cared. And overall, I didn’t like most of his friends. They’re all magicians, but they’re all whiny and depressed for no reason.

Anyways, despite all of this the book flew by quickly. I read the it in two days, and there was a major plot twist at the end that I didn’t see coming. That was really exciting. And I enjoyed that for a fantasy novel, this was actually set in the real world – they mention different U.S. states, and pop culture references. And I liked that the young adults in this book weren’t too goody-goody. They cursed, drank, and generally acted like dumb 18-22 year olds do.

So… I’m on the fence. The story was interesting, but I disliked most of the characters. While the story gets some points for originality in the way that magic was performed, it also borrowed HEAVILY from Narnia & Harry Potter, and that made the author just seem lazy. The characters were realistically flawed, but their flaws made me want to smack them.

I may read the sequel, I may not. I haven’t decided yet. The best advice I can give is to get this book from the library and try it out for yourself.

Sarah Says: 1.5 stars



  1. I felt somewhat the same way you did, only I liked it even less. I really disliked most of the characters and I wouldn’t have cared either if Quentin had been killed off, I was almost wishing for it actually…
    I also thought it was lazy writing to borrow from Narnia and HP so much.
    If you do decide to read the sequel (it’s on NetGalley by the way), let me know what you think of it, I’m definitely NOT reading it.


  2. I had pretty much the same feelings. I think the concept of the story was good, and had some original aspects, but at the same time resembled Narnia and HP way too much. I didn’t like the characters either most of the time. Great review!


  3. The more I read about this book the more I want to read it! I’ve read a lot of ‘meh’ type reviews of it, but there’s something about the premise that’s fascinating, and I actually don’t mind reading about characters that I’m meant to dislike – so long as I know that that’s the point/purpose of them. I guess the general consensus seems to be that this is a good idea poorly executed, but I’ve still got this high on my list.


    1. That could be true. I was more annoyed at how much he ripped off of Narnia – he says in that article that he was obsessed with it – which is fine, but dude, come up with your own ideas!

      Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to read the next one. Even with all of the ripping-off of other books, Quentin was just too much of an unlikeable character for me.


      1. I’ve never read Naria, so I wouldn’t be able to compare the similarities, but I definitely agree with you about being able to come up with your own ideas as an author.

        There was actually one quote that I really liked from this book — about seeing your life as perfect the way it is — but that was the antithesis of Quentin.


  4. Got this one for my son’s gf and she loved it. Just got her The Magician King to read and review and she loved it just as much. But, since she hasn’t written a review of either one for me, I don’t know why yet!


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