The Magicians (Grossman novel)
Cover of The Magicians
|Genre||High fantasy, Parallel universe|
|Pages||402 pp (first edition)|
|LC Class||PS3557.R6725 M34|
|Followed by||The Magician King|
The Magicians is a fantasy novel by the American author Lev Grossman, published in 2009 by Viking Press. It tells the story of Quentin Coldwater, a young man who discovers and attends a college of magic in New York.
The book follows the adventures of Quentin Coldwater, a high-school graduate from Brooklyn with above-average intelligence and below-average social skills, as he is accepted to Brakebills Academy, an exclusive college for magicians. As he goes through the five years of schooling, he realizes that, just because his fantasy came true, it does not mean that all of his problems are solved. He is forced to deal with his own sullenness and anti-social behavior along with similar issues with the other students. Magic, it turns out, is boring and tedious to learn. During this time, an incident happens where a strange otherworldly horror, in the guise of a six fingered middle aged man with a branch over his face, enters Brakebills and eats a student before being driven back to wherever it came from. The creature becomes known as The Beast. Quentin and Alice are placed in Physical, a sub group of magic involving manipulation of physical forces. There, they become friends with Eliot and Janet who were older students. At one point the students in Quentin's year all travel to Antarctica to Brakebills South, where they are forced to involve themselves in soul-sucking activities such as wearing bland uniforms, living in spartan quarters and not being allowed to talk for weeks on end with the purpose of forcibly engulfing them entirely in magic so that they can instinctively learn all of its seemingly arbitrary rules.
Upon graduation, he groups together with some of his Brakebills friends where they spend the days and nights in hedonistic pursuits, apparently a common theme for magicians who have it very easy in this world. While still looking for a purpose, he discovers that Fillory, a fanciful land that is the setting of his favorite book series, is real.
In the end, the group fights against The Beast, who is revealed to be Martin Chatwin who sacrificed his humanity in order to stay in Fillory forever and destroy its gods. Alice sacrifices herself to kill Martin, Penny loses both of his hands and chooses to remain in the empty city between the worlds and a gravely injured Quentin is left to the care of a group of centaurs when the others fear that he will never awaken from his coma. Upon awakening, Quentin becomes depressed and disillusioned, especially when Jane Chatwin reveals herself to be the Watcherwoman and had been pulling the strings the entire story through the use of a magical time traveling pocket watch, trying different ways to get people to kill Martin and reversing time whenever she was unsuccessful. Quentin leaves Fillory after some time and, via connections in the magical community, takes a high-paying (and free of magic) job in an investment firm where he spends his time playing video games. The book ends with Quentin eternally unsatisfied with his lot, returning to Fillory with Eliot, Janet and Julia (a high school friend who had independently learned magic on her own outside of Brakebills) to become the kings and queens in the hope of finally finding something fulfilling.
- Quentin Coldwater – The novel's protagonist. When the novel begins, he is living in Brooklyn and preparing to enter college. After he passes a test to prove he has the potential to become a magician, he is recruited by Brakebills, an elite college of magic in upstate New York. Quentin has long been a fan of the "Fillory and Further" book series and yearns to fill his life with the same adventures found in those books and the simple happiness it produced. He studies with the Physical Kids (Eliot, Josh, Janet, and Alice) at Brakebills. He never seems to be satisfied with what he has and is often willfully ignorant of others' feelings. This leads him to grow apart from his parents and seek solace in magic, but magic is not as easy as he expected and isolates himself from the school with Alice and the Physicals. His depressed isolation leads to unsocial behavior and eventually drugs.
- Alice Quinn – A talented and natural magician whom Quentin meets while attending Brakebills. They are in the same year, and they study the same discipline once their specialty areas are decided. She lives with Quentin, Eliot, Josh, and Janet while at Brakebills and later in New York, following graduation. She grew up in a family of magicians, and her parents are shown to be flighty nearly to the point of neglect. She is initially extremely reserved, but opens up when she is placed with Quentin in the Physical Magic group. She and Quentin eventually develop a relationship.
- Eliot Waugh – One of the Physical Kids. Another very talented magician, perhaps the most natural at Brakebills. Eliot's sexuality is a minor plot point throughout the novel, as is his dependence on alcohol. He is particularly keen on esoteric wines. He is seen to be the unofficial leader of the group of five (along with Quentin, Alice, Josh, and Janet) throughout the novel. He, Janet, and Josh are a couple years older than Quentin and Alice. He has proven to be serious when something interests him but acts out when he has no skin in the game.
- Josh Hoberman – Another of the Physical Kids. The overweight jokester-slacker of the group, Josh offers much of the novel's comic relief. He is likely the least natural in his skills, but he also flirts with an untapped power throughout. He struggles with his studies but excels at socialization. He grows close to Anaïs during the course of the novel.
- Janet Pluchinsky – The final Physical Kid of the novel. The party animal of the group, Janet seems to be attached at the hip to Eliot. Janet is portrayed as both deeply insecure and surprisingly strong. She is outspoken and sometimes causes controversy, but she is also fiercely loyal.
- Penny – A (male) student who enters Brakebills at the same time as Alice and Quentin. He is shown to be one of the three most adept magicians in that year, and he begins to study archaic and untested magic. He is the one that proves the existence of Fillory and finds a passage. His real name is William. He is rebellious, jealous and has a terrible temper. Although he and Quentin become friends soon after joining, he later grows to prefer the company of himself over others and even spends an entire semester's time in an empty parallel universe.
The review by The A.V. Club gave the novel an "A", calling it "the best urban fantasy in years, a sad dream of what it means to want something badly and never fully reach it." The New York Times review said the book "could crudely be labeled a Harry Potter for adults", injecting "mature themes" into fantasy literature.
In 2011, Fox optioned but eventually declined to order a television adaptation of The Magicians. In July 2014, SyFy greenlit the production of a pilot episode. It is to be written by John McNamara and Sera Gamble, and produced by Michael London and Janice Williams.
- Deahl, Rachel (January 11, 2010). "Viking Re-ups Grossman". Publisher's Weekly.
- The Magician King at Lev Grossman's website
- VanDerWerff, Todd (August 8, 2009). "The Magicians". The A.V. Club. Retrieved May 16, 2009.
- Agger, Michael (September 8, 2009). "Abracadabra Angst". The New York Times. Retrieved May 16, 2010.
- Agard, Chancellor (10 July 2014). "Syfy greenlights pilot based on Lev Grossman's 'The Magicians'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 13 July 2014.