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.
Genre: Aduly Fiction / Fantasy
Author: Lev Grossman
Hardcover, 402 pages
Published: August 11th, 2009
Publishing House: Viking
Harry Potter adulterated. Welcome to the magical world at Brakebills. The school that harnesses and transforms the intellect of gifted students into magical powers with a higher purpose. The higher purpose you ask? That is to be discovered in this coming of age story of a group of teens so different from another, it makes for a bag of characters of every stereotype.
Quentin's big day of college interviews starts off completely normal with jitters and hopes for his future but ends up derailed by a case of murder and a secret letter. As he is whisked off and finds himself in the admissions office at Brakebills, a magical school, he goes through a line-up of tests to see if he is a candidate for the school. As many of other students quickly are weeded out, he remains one of the last test subjects and a puzzlement for the admissions team. He has potential, but many shortfalls too. At this point, all he can think of are his parents and Julia, his love interest back at his 'real' school, and what would happen to them if he stayed at this secret school for magicians.
As Quentin is accepted into the program, he is set up with housing, school uniforms, books and access to the buildings. This place is marvelous and the students are stellar. Some of them he will become friends with more closely later on and he realizes, his natural abilities for magic tricks need a lot more work to become actual intrinsic spells.
The hours and requirements are grueling. How is he supposed to stay here for another 5 years? He studies, studies, studies. The methods used to teach the students become complex and physical. At some point, they are muted and sent to Antarctica. They are transformed into geese to navigate long distances and later have to survive ice and snow without clothing or tools. Only spells can save them. Not all of the kids make it through the requirements each year.
Quentin spends his holidays at his parents between the years, but also at his friends sometimes. The seasons at Brakebills don't correlate with the regular seasons. By now he has formed close friendships with the other students in his year. As a reader, we become so familiar with their backgrounds, quirks, talents, and shortcomings, that the characters all become part of the story that turns Quentin into the young man he is meant to be.
But there are moments in between the purpose that are smattered with loneliness, heartbreak, anger, drinking, partying and sex. Up to some point, that was fine with me, but then it got really old. In a sense, it is commendable to the author to write in a way that it turns grueling long and boring for the reader, as it is for the characters in those moments, on the other hand, it was too much of that for me. I enjoy feeling the lows and highs of character-driven novels, but this partying was entirely too much for me (and boring at times).
As the kids try to find their purpose for the future after their 'education' at Brakebills, some of the characters are returning home to their old lives to figure things out. With drama for some, heartbreak for others, the gang ends up meeting again to find their purpose in the world of Fillory. A place Quentin knows like the inside of his pockets, as it has been his favorite book series since childhood. A world with magical creatures and dangers around every corner will be trying the young magician's skills and add that magical flair back into the novel that was lost in the nonsense time of partying.
In a world of opposites, extremes, and magic, Grossman has created a plot that cusps at greatness and despair at the same time. The coming of age story in a magical school that offers no guides through personal lives with a pad on the back or the protection of a caring professor as in the Harry Potter series, these students are experiencing polar-opposites to make it through. As the end of book one offers an entry point to the next adventure, I have to consider if I will be reading it. For me, book one could have been divided into two books. Book one: The Years at Brakebill and book two: The Magical World of Fillory. As it was, it seemed very, very looong.
I know there is a tv show out there, but I have not watched it and don't intend to do so. This book has come across my feed so many times that I had to give it a try. I may give this series another chance, but the low times in this novel were just too long for me. Otherwise, I loved the challenges, the concept, the magical creatures etc. The first half of the book was a five-star read for me. It's controversial, I know. Some love it, some don't. Just try it for yourself. I do hope you enjoy it!