The Magicians (The Magicians #1)

The Magicians


Quentin Coldwater is brillant 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. (Summary and book cover courtesy of


This was a book I had to step back from and stew on a bit before trying to write my review.  For starters, Lev Grossman uses heavy-handed allusions to the “Harry Potter” and “Chronicles of Narnia” series nonstop in the book supposedly as tribute.  Instead, these “allusions” made the book feel extremely unoriginal to me - granted there were a few unique aspects.  Additionally, rather than “tribute”, reading the book felt like reading the mockery of a middle school child making fun something they secretly love to seem “cool”.  As another reviewer put it:

It puts me in mind of kids who attempt to “ironically enjoy” things - actually sneering at them all the while. The sad part is that thinking themselves to be “above it all” they actually miss the joy and...yes the magic of the things at which they sneer and look down.
— Mike (the Paladin)

The prevailing themes of this book are nihilism, ennui and self-absorption.  When it comes down to it, Quentin sucks as a person.  He refuses to believe in his own happiness even as he claims to pursue happiness around every corner (and ample opportunity is constantly dropped in his lap).  I could put up with this, but for the fact that there was very little plot.  The book consisted of rambling story-telling with no major purpose to the telling until the very last chapters.  I will grant Mr. Grossman points for finding a way to finish the book which almost has me interested to continuing the series.  I think Grossman is a fantastic writer, but unfortunately missed the target on a story to go along with his skill.

Rating: 2 stars!

Who should read it? People curious about the hype or for reading just for the pleasure of reading.

Want to read the whole series?

  • The Magician King (The Magicians #2)
  • The Magician’s Land (The Magicians #3)