Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. He’s a senior in high school, and a certifiable genius, but he’s still secretly obsessed with a series of fantasy novels he read as a kid, about the adventures of five children in a magical land called Fillory. Compared to that, anything in his real life just seems gray and colorless.
Everything changes when Quentin 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 practice of modern sorcery. He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. But something is still missing. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he thought it would.
Then after graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Hardback : 402 pages
Publisher: Viking (August 11, 2009)
Series: The Magicians #1
The Magicians has been referred to as a darker, more adult version of Harry Potter; a more realistic version of what it would be like for the world of magic and wizards to exist in the real world.
Quentin Coldwater is the ‘realistic’ version of Harry Potter. His education at Brakebills Academy, the college of magic, is a more grounded version of Hogwarts – without the added drama of a shadowy Snape or fatherly Dumbledore.
After college, Quentin and his friends wade through a fog of alcohol and drugs; each one a powerful wizard with no apparent direction, no heroic quests or invading armies of darkness to give them purpose or direction.
This lifestyle is interrupted when a discovery is made. The land of Fillory that existed within the book series that Quentin loved/loves is a real place, and the magicians decide to journey there just to have something to do. Once there, the magicians discover the purpose they lacked – an adventure filled with danger that finally puts their powers and skills to use.
Fillory is a magical land; a land of talking animals where humans don’t exist…unless summoned to act as champions when danger threatens. In short, Fillory is Narnia…with enough changes to avoid any problems with copyrights.
I had high hopes for The Magicians, but finished the story with an undefined sense of incompleteness. I think it’s because I was expecting more fantasy in a fantasy story. The college years were a bit on the boring side and the aimless lifestyle immediately after graduation didn’t exactly pack any thrills or chills.
The story does pick up the pace once Quentin and his friends enter Fillory, but I would have personally preferred a magical land that was more than just a cheap knock-off of Narnia.
The one redeeming quality of this book is an interesting plot twist that occurs towards the end of the book. Part of the twist was expected, but the other part caught me off guard. It was an interesting and refreshing angle on two of the characters that almost made bearable the tedious nature of the rest of the book.
All I can say is that if this is the realistic version of Harry Potter then I’ll pass. I prefer drama, adventure, and fantasy in my fantasy reading.