Review: The Magicians is Harry Potter and Narnia rolled into one. But it’s more than a children’s book; it’s like Harry Potter for adults. It’s Narnia; but it’s a Narnia where the creatures are ruled by an evil force so much worse than a witch, where things don’t always work out, and there is no overwhelming good to work towards. Depression, violence, drugs, and alcohol are common
elements, and death is an all too common tragedy. Lev Grossman is audacious; I can think of very few authors who are willing to take an overwhelmingly popular idea (wizard school) and make a darker, deeper, more intense, genuine version that rings true for people everywhere. In The Magicians, magic is hard. And dangerous; make a wrong move, use magic too advanced for you, ask too much of yourself, or not enough, and you will fail, or become a creature you never imagined in your worst nightmares. Lev Grossman has created a world that very few people would choose. It’s a difficult life. It’s not a choice, and failure is inevitable. What you want to happen doesn’t happen. Lev Grossman is brave. He follows his instincts, and he writes what he wants to write, not what people want to hear.
I would give this book to a teenager, to my aunt, my parents. I wouldn’t give this book to a younger child. My grandma could handle it, but I doubt that she would like it. However, my young, hip aunt is the one who recommended it to me!
The Magicians is comprised of three books.
In book one, Quentin finds out that he has magical powers. He arrives at a interview with a Princeton alumni to find him dead. The pretty young nurse gives him an envelope that leads him into a small, undeveloped garden in New York. As he walks further, he realizes that it’s not possible for him to have walked this far in the middle of New York. He notices that the sun has changed, that it’s in the wrong position in the sky. And he walks into Brakebills. He is the last of his future classmates to arrive, the last to take the exam.
Quentin passes the exam, and enters his first year at Brakebills. It’s difficult. Magic involves the movement of one’s hands in specific positions. One wrong move, and you can become a creature of dark magic. You can separate yourself from you, become a niffin.
Not too long after the first year starts, Quentin, along with two other students, Alice and Penny, are invited to move up to second year. They start spending time together, studying, and Quentin becomes close friends with Alice. Penny, however, pulls farther and farther away.
Alice and Quentin pass. Penny doesn’t.
Alice and Quentin test again to discover what their specialty is. Alice comes up with Physical Magic. Quentin’s results are inconclusive, and the professors decide to put him in with the Physical Kids.
Alice and Quentin get along well with the other Physical Kids; Elliot, Janet and Josh.
In their fourth year, the students are brought up to the roof and transformed into geese. They fly for months, until they reach Brakebills South, another Brakebills, but set this time at the South Pole. Once at Brakebills South, an intensely difficult study program begins. They are not allowed to speak, to interact with others.
At the end of the program, they are offered an opportunity: to make a journey to the middle of the South Pole. To go five hundred miles, using only magic to feed and keep themselves warm. Quentin takes it, making it all the way to the South Pole.
By the time they graduate, Alice and Quentin have fallen deeply in love.
In the second book, life gets rough. The non-magical world is difficult to live in, and relationships become more difficult too, though the Physical Kids have managed to continue to live together, even after leaving Brakebills.
One night, they throw a party. Alice comes late, and by the time she leaves, Quentin, Janet, and Elliot are all very drunk. Quentin and Janet have sex, and when they wake up the next morning, Penny, from school, has arrived in their living room, talking about magic buttons he has discovered that take him to another world. No one believes him, of course, but once Quentin tries it, he figures out where they are: Fillory, (the Brakebills version of the Harry Potter wizard world) and decides that it is their destiny to go to Fillory.
Upon arriving there, however, they discover that the Fillory of the books they all loved so much as a child is nonexistent, and Fillory is now ruled by an unnamed and evil “Beast”.
In the final battle against the beast, Quentin gets left behind in Fillory.
Can he escape Fillory and make it back to the world that is filled with memories of the girl he loves, or will he flounder in Fillory for the rest of his days?