Written by: Lev Grossman
The Magicians is about high school student Quentin Coldwater. Quentin is a smart kid that feels like he’s missing something in his life. He doesn’t really feel like he fits in his world and with his friends. But suddenly he discovers that magic is real and he is being tested for admittance to a magic boarding school where he will learn to truly become “a magician”. The Magicians takes us all through Quentin’s schooling and coming of age and beyond into an even more special adventure that even he could not have imagined.
The first thing I want to say about The Magicians is that this is pretty much the anti-”Young Adult” book. This is a book that takes place in some familiar territory, such as Narnia-esque worlds, and Harry Potter like schools, but this is neither of those things. This is those sort of mystical, magical, stories bathed in real world grit and booze, drugs, and plenty of sex. And it’s brilliant.
A certain darkness permeates this book. There’s violence and death and all the above mentioned vices that real college students could find themselves falling into. But it’s ultimately all scenery around the story of a boy becoming a man and finding out who he is in the world. There’s also a love story that is incredibly bitter sweet and though surrounded by magic, rings incredibly true to a first love.
The Magicians while telling the story of Quentin and his friends (all of whom are deeply flawed, like Quentin himself) also manages to tell the story of a whole series of fictional Narnia-like books. You see Quentin has been obsessed with these books about a land called Fillory for his whole life and he frequently thinks about them. Through these thoughts author Lev Grossman manages to tell us 6 books worth of the Fillory series story within this book and in a manner where it truly feels like he could be writing about real books.
The Magicians presents these sort of magical tropes we’re used to and makes them incredibly gritty and puts a magnifying glass up to the flaws of them. No one is perfect or even particularly “special”. Any fans of fantasy books will really love what Grossman does in this book. I also really enjoyed the fact that in this universe “magic” isn’t so magical, it’s more like very complex math or science requiring countless hours of study and then absolute perfect followthrough.
I also have to mention that The Magicians covers a ton of story in its 416 pages but nothing really feels lost. A lot happens and this one book could have easily been expanded into many but it moves at a good clip and you get all the story and real fleshed out characters and situations without reading several 700 page books. And the writing is exceptional as well. Grossman being a book reviewer clearly proves he’s worthy of that title by creating such an incredible read.
My only complaint about the book is about the very end where the book does end rather abruptly (there’s a second in the series already out which I have yet to read) but before that it also feels like it makes a really sudden turn in its final pages that just felt very odd.
I cannot recommend this book more strongly to those who enjoyed books like Harry Potter or any fantasy series like the Narnia books or the His Dark Materials series but who is an adult and also enjoys adult literature and subject matter.