The Magicians (Grossman novel)

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This article is about the 2009 novel by Lev Grossman. For other uses, see The Magicians (disambiguation).
The Magicians
Cover of The Magicians
Author Lev Grossman
Country United States
Language English
Genre Contemporary fantasy/High fantasy/Parallel universe
Publisher Viking/Penguin Books
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 402 pp (first edition)
ISBN 978-0-670-02055-3
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. His novel started as a dream about a beast invading a magical classroom,[1] while Highlander served as inspiration for the world.[2]

The novel received critical acclaim, and was followed by The Magician King (2011)[3][4] and The Magician's Land (2014). It was adapted as a television series that currently airs on Syfy.


Quentin Coldwater is a high school student from Brooklyn who, along with best friends James and Julia, attends an advanced school. He loves a series of books called "Fillory and Further," which involve the children of the Chatwin family discovering a Narnia-esque land called Fillory. On the day of his Princeton interview, he instead is examined for entrance to Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy, the only school for magic in North America. He, along with 19 others, is accepted to the university and he moves there at once.

It soon becomes apparent that magic is incredibly difficult and tedious to learn, as each spell must be varied in dozens of ways, depending on factors such as the phase of the moon and the closest body of water. The curriculum involves learning many old and lost languages, and seemingly endless hand positions. Despite this, Quentin and Alice Quinn are able to move up a year by compressing their first year of studies. One day during class, an otherworldly horror referred to as "the Beast" enters Brakebills and eats a student before the rest of the faculty are able to drive it away.

Third year students are assigned a Discipline. Though Quentin cannot be assigned one, he and Alice are sorted into the Physical magic group. The Physical Kids also include Eliot, Josh, and Janet, who are a year above them. During the spring semester of their fourth year, they are all sent to Brakebills South in Antarctica, where Quentin and Alice begin a relationship.

Upon graduation, Quentin and the other Physical Kids spend their days and nights in hedonistic pursuits. While still looking for a purpose, his erstwhile classmate Penny arrives with news about travel between worlds and Quentin discovers that Fillory is real.

The group finds magical wonders in Fillory, but they eventually discover The Beast, who is revealed to be Martin Chatwin, the eldest child in "Fillory and Further", who has sacrificed his humanity in order to stay in the magical world forever. After a brutal fight, Alice sacrifices herself to kill Martin, Penny loses both of his hands and chooses to remain in an empty city between the worlds, and a gravely injured Quentin is left in the care of a group of centaurs while the others fear that he will never awaken from his coma.

Upon awakening many months later, Quentin becomes depressed and disillusioned, especially when Jane, the youngest Chatwin, reveals herself to have been pulling the strings throughout her siblings' and Quentin's stories. By using a magical time-traveling device, she finally succeeded in killing Martin by leading Quentin and his friends to the confrontation.

Back on Earth, Quentin takes a high-paying non-magical job where he spends his time playing video games. One day, Eliot and Janet show up with Julia, who has learned magic, to return as Kings and Queens to Fillory.

Major characters[edit]

  • Quentin Makepeace Coldwater[5] – The novel's protagonist. He studies magic at Brakebills before travelling to Fillory, the magical land from his favourite childhood books
  • Alice Quinn – A talented and natural magician whom Quentin meets while attending Brakebills. 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 – A talented magician, and close friend of Quentin's. He is two years older than Quentin and Alice, and in the same year as Josh and Janet.
  • Josh Hoberman – The overweight jokester-slacker of the Physical Magic group, Josh offers much of the novel's comic relief.
  • Janet – Another student in the Physical Magic group. Janet is portrayed as both deeply insecure and surprisingly strong. She is called "Janet Way" by another student in the first book, but "Janet Pluchinsky" by Dean Fogg in the second.
  • Penny (William) – A student who enters Brakebills with Alice and Quentin. He proves the existence of Fillory and finds passage to it.


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."[6] The New York Times review said the book "could crudely be labeled a Harry Potter for adults", injecting "mature themes" into fantasy literature.[7]

The Magicians won the 2010 Alex Award, given to ten adult books that are appealing to young adults, and its author won the 2011 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.[8]

TV adaptation[edit]

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,[9] and ordered a 12 episode first season which aired in January 2016.[10] The series was renewed for a second season consisting of 13 episodes, set to air in 2017.[11]

The Syfy series is written by John McNamara and Sera Gamble, and produced by Michael London and Janice Williams.[9] The pilot episode was directed by Mike Cahill, and the cast includes Jason Ralph as Quentin,[12] Olivia Taylor Dudley as Alice, Hale Appleman as Eliot, Summer Bishil as Margo Hanson (renamed from Janet in the novel),[13] Arjun Gupta as Penny, Stella Maeve as Julia, and Rick Worthy as Henry Fogg.[10][14]

The series ages the characters up to graduate school students and compresses the Brakebills degree to three years. Most of the events detailed in the novel, the Antarctic trip for instance, appear to happen in Quentin's first year at Brakebills with years in the novel being roughly condensed into semesters in the TV show. Jane Chatwin is involved earlier and more heavily, and Quentin is more formally diagnosed with depression.[15]


  1. ^ Simons, Seth (January 26, 2016). "Author Lev Grossman on 'Magicians' Trilogy: 'It All Started With a Dream'". Van Winkle's. Retrieved November 20, 2016. 
  2. ^ Stanley, Caroline (August 17, 2009). "Exclusive: Time Magazine's Lev Grossman on His New Book, The Magicians". Flavorwire. Retrieved November 20, 2016. 
  3. ^ Deahl, Rachel (January 11, 2010). "Viking Re-ups Grossman". Publisher's Weekly. 
  4. ^ The Magician King at Lev Grossman's website
  5. ^ Grossman, Lev. The Magician King. Chapter 12. p. 293. 
  6. ^ VanDerWerff, Todd (August 8, 2009). "The Magicians". The A.V. Club. Retrieved May 16, 2009. 
  7. ^ Agger, Michael (September 8, 2009). "Abracadabra Angst". The New York Times. Retrieved May 16, 2010. 
  8. ^ "2011 Hugo Awards". The Hugo Awards. 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Agard, Chancellor (July 10, 2014). "Syfy greenlights pilot based on Lev Grossman's 'The Magicians'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 13, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Bell, Crystal (May 5, 2015). "'The Magicians' Is The Grown-Up 'Harry Potter' You've Always Wanted". MTV. Retrieved May 13, 2015. 
  11. ^ Prudom, Laura (February 8, 2016). "'The Magicians' Renewed for Season 2 on Syfy". Variety. Retrieved February 9, 2016. 
  12. ^ Prudom, Laura (December 3, 2014). "Syfy's 'Magicians' Adaptation Casts Jason Ralph and Sosie Bacon in Lead Roles". Variety. Retrieved November 20, 2016. 
  13. ^ Noonan, Kevin (December 8, 2014). "Syfy's 'The Magicians' adds 'Towelhead' star Summer Bishil". Variety. Retrieved December 8, 2014. 
  14. ^ Zuckerman, Esther (November 6, 2014). "Syfy's 'The Magicians' series casts three roles". Retrieved November 6, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Unauthorized Magic". The Magicians. SyFy. December 16, 2015. 

External links[edit]