The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Series: The Magicians #1
Published by Viking on August 11, 2009
Genres: Coming of Age, Contemporary Fantasy, Dark Academia, Fantasy, Magic Realism
Length: 17h 24m
Pages: 402
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Purchase on: Amazon// Barnes & Noble// BookBub
Add to: Goodreads // StoryGraph

A thrilling and original coming-of-age novel for adults 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 first read The Magicians by Lev Grossman ten years ago and really loved it. But, as is the case with many books that are part of a series, I forget about picking up the sequel and so the book fell by the wayside. I always intended to go back and finish the trilogy and finally, I decided to pick up the audiobook and refresh my memory before starting the second in the series. I didn’t think it was possible but I absolutely fell in love with this story and these characters more the second time around.

One of the biggest marketing flaws when The Magicians was first released has to be the comparisons to Harry Potter. This was before dark academia became a popular subgenre and folks just saw young man goes to magic school. That is not what this is. This is first and foremost a coming of age story. Main character Quentin Goldwater isn’t for everyone. He’s horribly depressed and desperate to find his place in this world despite feeling like there is no place for him. Quentin believes learning about magic will fix him. Getting a girlfriend will fix him. Having friends will fix him. And therein lies the tragedy with depression. You could get everything you want and still be miserable and not know how to fix it. That is what we get with Quentin and I love it. I love that he is relatable and imperfect. I love that we see this same desperation of having everything at the tips of your fingers without it meaning a single thing and how different it affects each of Quentin’s friends, especially Eliot, the love of my life whom I would die for.

Plotwise, this is a very interesting book because, while it feels like the major impetus is this coming of age story of Quentin and his friends, it is also very much a book 1 of a trilogy. Everything feels like it is setting something major up for the future with an actual objective or quest coming through toward the very end of the novel. It leaves you desperate to know if we’ll see any of these characters again. What more is there. Where can we possibly go after Quentin’s adventure ends?

The Magicians by Lev Grossman is a book that grows with you. Reading it as the age of the characters, you feel their strife. Reading it as an older person with more experience, you feel the heartbreak that you know is unavoidable because there is nothing to be done to avoid the sorrows that come with growing up. I wholeheartedly recommend this book but please understand, this isn’t a grown up or dark Harry Potter. It’s depression and yearning and growing pains that can’t be avoided with magic thrown in.


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