• The Magicians

  • A Novel
  • By: Lev Grossman
  • Narrated by: Mark Bramhall
  • Length: 17 hrs and 24 mins
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars (20,575 ratings)

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The Magicians  By  cover art

The Magicians

By: Lev Grossman
Narrated by: Mark Bramhall
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Publisher's Summary

A thrilling and original coming-of- age novel 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.

©2009 Lev Grossman (P)2009 Penguin

Critic Reviews

"This is a book for grown-up fans of children's fantasy and would appeal to those who loved Donna Tartt's The Secret History. Highly recommended." ( Library Journal)
"Provocative, unput-downable....one of the best fantasies I've read in ages." ( Fantasy & Science Fiction)
" The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea." (George R.R. Martin)

What listeners say about The Magicians

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    9,973
  • 4 Stars
    6,079
  • 3 Stars
    2,806
  • 2 Stars
    1,049
  • 1 Stars
    668
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    10,968
  • 4 Stars
    4,919
  • 3 Stars
    1,642
  • 2 Stars
    393
  • 1 Stars
    247
Story
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    8,523
  • 4 Stars
    5,049
  • 3 Stars
    2,737
  • 2 Stars
    1,076
  • 1 Stars
    808

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Not an average book

The thing to know about this book is that it is not a 3.5 star book with a so-so plot and a so-so narrator. It is either a five star book or a two star book, depending on the listener. After reading the reviews, I went into this book with trepidation, but I am so glad that I did! I thought it was a fantastic read. I can't wait for the sequel.

The author does rely heavily on the fact that much of his listening audience will have had exposure to the Chronicles of Narnia as children. I think this is a useful plot device, not stealing nor sneering at Narnia. Without Narnia's influence on the listeners, this book wouldn't work at all. It is because the Chronicles of Narnia are embedded in our psyche that we can understand the main characters and why things go so totally wrong for them.

Fundamentally, this is a dark coming of age story with plenty of humor and a touch of horror. If that does not appeal to you on any level, you will hate this book from start to finish. I think everyone else should give this book a try.

284 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A book more about people than magic

Even though this book has the trappings of fantasy fiction, the best gauge of whether or not you will like it has more to do with whether or not you like writers like Michael Chabon. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this novel is what would have happened if Chabon had written the Harry Potter series. Think of it as The Chronicles of Narnia mashed up with The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. Characters screw up, screw around, and generally flounder through messy, complicated lives. Heroes turn out to be losers; losers turn out to be heroes. The gains and losses of trust, love, and faith between the characters is far more important to this book than the details of a magical world.

Even so, the book does have a magical world, along with fantastic creatures and a well-crafted, driving plot. My only complaint along those lines is that the pace sometimes clipped along rather TOO quickly, especially at the beginning. Quentin's whole five-year academic career passes in under 100 pages; those readers looking for something like Harry Potter's quirkily detailed mundane-but-fantastical school days will be disappointed. This is a book about people, not magic.



This is not a book for children; neither is it for escapists. But that doesn't mean it is a depressing or mean-spirited book: the characters' revelations (like those of David Copperfield, Elizabeth Bennett, or T. S. Garp) are hard-won and compromised by the losses they endured to achieve them, but they are genuine revelations, and the book is overall a hopeful one.

136 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Confused

I admit, I watched the show first (and I loved it), so I figured the book/s would have to be pretty good as well. Well... it just wasn’t. The characters were not nearly as complex, the dialogue wasn’t as clever, the plot seemed to plod instead of unfold. Not to mention, Q is not only a pathetic character — he’s not even nice. At least in the show, he had some redeeming qualities - charm, humor, values, and even valor. In the book, he’s snotty, privileged, and he never stops complaining (in the show, they follow other plot lines to give the viewer a break, at least). Sure, he’s depressed, but whining doesn’t make for literature, especially if you can’t find new ways to complain about the same thing.

On top of all this, the other characters treat each other like crap — not in an interesting and compelling manner. They’re just petty.

And the cherry on top is the “nice guy” motif. This would’ve played a few years ago, but these days, not so much. Just because you’re awkward doesn’t mean you’re nice. Being a coward doesn’t make you a pacifist, either.

It’d be one thing if Grossman used all this as a means of character development, but instead you’re left with the same soppy, wet towel of a protagonist by the end. Maybe soppier.

The book had its parts. I did finish it after all. It’s just disappointing.

The performance itself was great.

94 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Not for those who like fantasy books

So the one highlight of this title was the narrator. I had read some of the reviews and was up for trying something new; a more adult fantasy novel with a more complicated characters and less of the same old cliches. I expected to really delve into complicated characters and explore relationships with the added pressure of magic in the practical world. What I got was the long boring diatribe of a whiny depressed teen. Depression, drinking, sex, and self victimization were the focus of the first half of the book.

I tired to like this book, I really did. I read other reviews about it being the adult version of Harry Potter and references to how Narnia is so much a part of our cultural heritage that it makes the book work that I thought this would be a huge hit with me. I wasn't looking for a children's book or even good escapist literature, I wanted something meaty to sink my teeth into.

There are so many places this book could have turned things around. There were hints of something exciting lurking under the surface that would make plodding through the pages and pages of mind numbing pity party the protagonist puts on worth the effort. Over half way through the book I finally had to give up. I was so sick of listening to this brat whine about how hard his life was and how depressed he was even though he had finally gotten what he wanted, a place to fit in, friends who cared about and liked him, a girl who he loved and who loved him back, a college education in magik of all things, and a chance to be anyone he wanted to be. But while I was wishing I was him, he was busy being depressed about it all. Someone needed to force feed this kid some prozac and quick.

There is sex, an enormous amount of drinking, and swearing in the book so I guess it qualifies as an adult novel, however the story is like listening to a kid whine about how mean his parents are when they only give him an xbox with 2 controls and 50 games instead of 4 controls and 200 games. If you want to listen to a bunch of adolescents whine about how hard they have it, go to your local middle school and spend an hour asking them about how bad they have it and save your money. Of course if you find yourself extremely happy and euphoric and prefer to be miserable, then spend the money and take a listen. It should fix that joy in no time.

70 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Wow, then meh, then it ends

When I discovered that Lev Grossman is the brother of Austin Grossman (Soon I Will Be Invincible) I was immediately curious to see how their prose compared. It turns out Lev's writing is COMPLETELY different but no less brilliant.
The first half of this book is amazing. Even though you know there will be revelations they are still surprising and they just keep coming.

After graduation though, it just plods for a loooong time. It's also around this time that Quentin does something that completely removes any chance of his remaining a sympathetic character. The whole bit in Narnia...um, I mean "Fillory" is much more tedious than the mundane world but maybe that's intentional. Anyway, the ending ties it all together fairly well.

My biggest complaint involves the drinking. Not the fact that everybody drinks (and believe me they do...HEAVILY...ALL THE TIME), but it's superfluous and pretentious to name all the various drinks as if anybody cares what TYPE of wine they drank way too much of for every single occasion.

63 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Uncaptivating, despite a magical backdrop

I had heard good things about this series so I was eager to give it a read, but the book slogged and seemed to go on far longer than necessary. I don't need to have likable characters to enjoy a book, but this was filled with such drab, familiar characters that it didn't keep my attention.

I thought the world was well-built, but served only as a reminder of the books depressing point: cynical, uninteresting people will be cynical and uninterested wherever they find themselves.

The narration was totally fine, but not memorable. Didn't lose anything by listening to it rather than reading, but didn't gain much either.

62 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing. Wonderfully narrated.

Brahmall's narration is spot-on in this absolute masterpiece of modern, literate fantasy. Comparisons to "Harry Potter for adults" don't begin to capture the depth and reality of this book. It owes more to The Once and Future King and acts more as a discomplement of Narnia than it alludes to Harry Potter, though indeed the book occurs in our present world, a world where all of these books exist. Quentin is an honestly voiced character throughout, growing though a middle class high-performance student upbringing, to bit by bit coming to terms with his adulthood, his powers, his mistakes, and himself. This is a book about finally growing up, about self-realization, about love and loss and longing, and yes, about magic. And Grossman's prose is wonderful, the story true, never saccharine, and, again, Brahmall's appropriately at-times dry, at-times tender, well-characterized narration is a delight, capturing the tone and spirit of the book and its characters. I can't really recommend this book enough; definitely one of the top 10 genre novels of the 2000s, perhaps the very best in its subgenre, facing competition only from Perdido Street Station, Finch, and American Gods. (For more taste comparisons, my other picks from the decade in other subgenres are: R. Scott Bakker's The Darkness That Comes Before, Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl, etc.) If you haven't read the book, or perhaps even if you have, enjoy these 17 and a half hours, and join the wait for the sequel in 2011.

60 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

NOT Harry Potter for grownups

I won't go quite so far as to give this a two-star rating, but it's really not so great. It starts off with some potential, but once it gets moving along it's really more depressing than anything. I don't mind "dark" or more adult fantasy novels, but this is more of a novel about a bunch of boring, alcoholic, screwed up people that just happen to live in a world where magic is real.

54 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Unsympathetic Characters

Although the idea was reasonably good, this book completely failed to win me over. Foolishly, I kept listening on and on, convinced that soon the main character and his friends would give me a reason to care about them, and it just never happened. I also instinctively knew that the story wasn't really about kids attending a college for magicians, and I was curious to figure out what it really was about. How disappointed I was when, 7/8 of the way through the story it finally became clear, and it was even more dull than the story had been up to that point. I have never written such a negative review, but I don't want others to pay for this expensive book and then spend hours listening to such a disappointing story. If the general idea of young adults entering into a fantasy world that turns out not to be the Narnia they, (and mostly, the author), obsessed about as kids, try the Fionavar Tapestry, which is more engaging and gives the reader more reason to care.

49 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Wish fullfillment

The Magicians isn't a bad book, in fact it's got the makings of a pretty good book if it weren't for the fact that this book is boring.

Quinten and his friends aren't the best of people, but they are characters with flaws and that's pretty neat to see. However, I can see why lots of reviews say they're bad characters. Granted I don't think they're bad, but I do think they can only be taken in small doses. Powering through this book isn't the best way to listen. At least for me, I could only take so much wallowing in self-pity before I wanted to throw myself out of the car.

Some people say that this is a Harry Potter for adults, but it's not. There's an aspect of it, but it's not even half the book. I thought there were some interesting things that happened there, but it's not the end all be all. The story draws upon some similarities to some popular childhood fiction. For better or worse, I didn't find an issue with it. It did make me chuckle at times, but again, it's not the big part of the story.

I think the story is about growing up and accepting responsibility for your actions and their consequences. I think it also serves as a way for the author to break down popular fantasy and put his own spin on both popular fantasy fiction and say look at some of the tropes here's my take on them. I won't say they all work, but it's a good attempt and it didn't feel lazy.

As I mentioned, it's a boring book. There are events that happen, but it's so few and far between, that it was hard to hold my interest. We're still trying to figure out if we're going to listen to books 2 and 3 in the series. I think we will, but it's not on the top of the list.



47 people found this helpful