Book Review: “The Magicians”

Cover of "The Magicians: A Novel"

Cover of The Magicians: A Novel

“The Magicians (The Magicians #1)” by Lev Grossman

Genre: Adult Fiction, Fantasy

Other Magicians books

Source: Library

Summary from Goodreads:

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.


This book screams ‘Alison’ in every way possible. Some people have likened the book as Harry Potter for adults or Harry Potter, the college years (which is totally misleading, by the way). That caught my interest obviously. I was immediately attracted to the idea of wandering into a romanticized fictional land. As someone who read quite a bit as a child and for many, many years wondered what it would be like to attend Hogwarts, this was a  very interesting idea.

Grossman handles the situation in a very ‘real’ way. He illustrates the fact that fiction and reality are completely different. Sure, it might seem fun to go on quests, hunt for treasure, or whatever you’re called to do but the fact of the matter is what fictional characters go through is very dangerous and not fun at all. You would think that as someone who has read fantasy for years that idea would have crossed my mind at some point. In all honesty? Not really. Like Quentin I have this idealized notion stuck in my head of what things would be like so seeing how things ‘really’ are was eye opening for me as well. The book is fairly realistic or as realistic as you can be when discussing magic. You don’t wave a wand shout funny words. You concentrate on what you want to happen and practice it over and over and over again. It’s hard work and not fun. You would think I’d like Quentin because we have a good deal in common. I really didn’t like him though.

Actually, I didn’t like any of the characters. They all seemed so miserable. Not to mention they were friends but it really seemed like they wanted to destroy each other. If you haven’t read this book, please be warned that it’s not lighthearted or fun. Labeling this as Harry Potter for adults does the book a huge disservice. Yes, it gets the general point across but it also misleads the reader. Not to mention it will confuse the reader and might turn them off of the book because it’s not what they’re expecting. Teenagers behave badly, swear, and drink and Grossman captures this. The book’s pacing is completely weird. The first half of the book is Quentin’s ~5 years of schooling. Just when you think the book would draw to a close there is a whole other section of the book: the journey to Fillory. It really feels like it’s 2 books squished together.

The bottom line? It’s a really interesting read for fantasy fans.



10 thoughts on “Book Review: “The Magicians”

  1. Are you planning on reading “The Magician King,” too? I actually liked it better than the first book… and reading both books cemented my love for the series/author.

    And you are so right about the misleading-ness of calling it Harry Potter-like. I mean, the premise sounds like Harry Potter, but that’s about it.

    And the pacing is totally bizarre, but I think that Grossman is trying to echo the Narnia books. I am currently reading “The Magician King” and while stuff happens in the beginning, the quest doesn’t really begin until over halfway through. Then again, I haven’t read any of the other Narnia books, so I may be wrong.

  2. I started this, got a good ways into it, and then quit reading. I think it was due back at the library… I agree with you that it is most definitely NOT Harry Potter. Which, for a HP nerd like me, was mildly disappointing to say the least. I think one day I’d like to try reading it again, but don’t see that happening in the near future. There was just too much… I dunno… weirdness about it. The whole Fillory thing didn’t sit well with me. Can’t really explain why I felt like that, just did.

    • I agree. It’s weird. It really helped that I was forewarned about the book. I know I would have been freaked out it I didn’t know what was to come. I’d really advise you to try it again if you have the chance. It is a good story and now you know what to expect.

  3. I completely absolutely agree with the weird pacing issue. BUT, the sequel is a significantly better book and is better paced and addresses a lot of the unresolved issues that existed with the first book (for me). I hope you like the second one too!

  4. I didn’t love this one but really wanted to. I agree, the pacing is weird and the comparisons to Harry Potter don’t help anyone. I read the second one too but liked that one even less although I think I’m in the minority on that so forget I said it.

    Overall, it wasn’t bad but I think I got caught up in everyone being so unhappy that I felt unhappy about the book. At this point, I’m glad I read them but I won’t go back for a second read.

  5. Pingback: Listed: Get Lost In A Book | The Cheap Reader

What are your thoughts? (Comments are moderated. Yours will be up as soon as I read it!)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s