The Magicians by Lev Grossman
A Novel

68%

34 Critic Reviews

Perhaps a fantasy novel meant for adults can’t help being a strange mess of effects. It’s similar to inviting everyone to a rave for your 40th-birthday party. Sounds like fun, but aren’t we a little old for this?
-NY Times

Synopsis

The New York Times bestselling novel about a young man practicing magic in the real world, now an original series on Syfy

The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea. . . . Hogwarts was never like this.”
—George R.R. Martin
 
“Sad, hilarious, beautiful, and essential to anyone who cares about modern fantasy.”
—Joe Hill
 
“A very knowing and wonderful take on the wizard school genre.”
—John Green
 
The Magicians may just be the most subversive, gripping and enchanting fantasy novel I’ve read this century.”
—Cory Doctorow

“This gripping novel draws on the conventions of contemporary and classic fantasy novels in order to upend them . . . an unexpectedly moving coming-of-age story.”
—The New Yorker

“The best urban fantasy in years.”
—A.V. Club

Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A high school math genius, he’s secretly fascinated with a series of children’s fantasy novels set in a magical land called Fillory, and real life is disappointing by comparison. When Quentin is unexpectedly admitted to an elite, secret college of magic, it looks like his wildest dreams have come true. But his newfound powers lead him down a rabbit hole of hedonism and disillusionment, and ultimately to the dark secret behind the story of Fillory. The land of his childhood fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he ever could have imagined. . . .

The prequel to the New York Times bestselling book The Magician King and the #1 bestseller The Magician's Land, The Magicians is one of the most daring and inventive works of literary fantasy in years. No one who has escaped into the worlds of Narnia and Harry Potter should miss this breathtaking return to the landscape of the imagination.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
 

About Lev Grossman

See more books from this Author
LEV GROSSMAN is the book critic for Time magazine and author of the international bestseller, Codex. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
 
Published May 22, 2009 by Penguin Books. 428 pages
Genres: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Romance, Action & Adventure, Education & Reference. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Magicians
All: 34 | Positive: 22 | Negative: 12

Kirkus

Good
on May 20 2010

Very dark and very scary, with no simple answers provided—fantasy for grown-ups, in other words, and very satisfying indeed.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Jan 07 2017

Harry Potter discovers Narnia is real in this derivative fantasy thriller from Time book critic Grossman...Genre fans will easily pick up the many nods to J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis, not to mention J.R.R. Tolkien in the climactic battle between the bad guy and a magician.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Michael Agger on Sep 08 2009

Perhaps a fantasy novel meant for adults can’t help being a strange mess of effects. It’s similar to inviting everyone to a rave for your 40th-birthday party. Sounds like fun, but aren’t we a little old for this?

Read Full Review of The Magicians: A Novel | See more reviews from NY Times

AV Club

Good
Reviewed by Todd VanDerWerff on Aug 13 2009

Though the ending calls out too readily for a sequel, The Magicians is the best urban fantasy in years, a sad dream of what it means to want something badly and never fully reach it.

Read Full Review of The Magicians: A Novel | See more reviews from AV Club

AV Club

Good
Reviewed by Todd VanDerWerff on Aug 13 2009

The Magicians is the best urban fantasy in years, a sad dream of what it means to want something badly and never fully reach it.

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Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Jeff Giles on Aug 07 2009

...The Magicians is an homage to both J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis, as well as an exploration of what might happen if troubled kids were let loose in the supernatural realms they grew up reading about. Grossman (who is Time’s book critic) captures the magic of childhood and the sobering years beyond. They don’t call it disenchantment for nothing.

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The Washington Post

Good
Reviewed by Keith Donohue on Aug 01 2009

Vladimir Nabokov once observed, "The truth is that great novels are great fairy tales." "The Magicians" is a great fairy tale, written for grown-ups but appealing to our most basic desires for stories to bring about some re-enchantment with the world...

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Tor

Above average
Reviewed by Stefan Raets on Aug 03 2011

The various levels of cynicism in this novel may be hard to cope with for readers expecting a more traditionally escapist fantasy, but if you don’t mind having your expectations challenged, The Magicians delivers a very rewarding reading experience that will remain with you for a long time to come.

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The Seattle Times

Above average
Reviewed by Moira Macdonald on Aug 02 2009

This familiar material might all too easily feel like a retread; a less-vivid return to lands well known. But Grossman skillfully moves us through four years of school and a postgraduate adventure, never letting the pace slacken.

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SF Site

Below average
Reviewed by Nicki Gerlach on Jan 06 2017

Overall, I think this book would be best suited for readers who normally dislike fantasy novels, but are willing to deal with the genre's trappings. For fantasy fans, however… those whose tastes run towards the more serious or bleak might have a better time with it than I did...

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Seattle PI

Good
Reviewed by Christy Corp-Minamiji on Apr 26 2011

Be careful what you wish for; Lev Grossman will make you grow up. Here, have a nice glass of wine with your fantasy; it's full-bodied with a bit of a bite.

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Lincoln Journal Star

Good
Reviewed by Micah Mertes on Sep 20 2009

Our characters are bored twentysomethings, mind you. They experiment with drugs, have ravenous sex. They plod through the wine-induced stupor of empty days. All the while working up the will to do a little magic. The notion that even magic can't cure the malaise of a generation is wryly funny.

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Oprah.com

Good
Reviewed by Elaina Richardson on Jan 06 2017

Lev Grossman's playful fantasy novel, The Magicians , pays homage to a variety of sources ( Harry Potter, Narnia, Fortress of Solitude ), but with such verve and ease that you quickly forget the references and lose yourself in the story.

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Boing Boing

Good
Reviewed by Cory Doctorow on Oct 20 2009

Grossman is a hell of a pacer, and the book rips along, whole seasons tossed out in a single sentence, all the boring mortar ground off the bricks, so that the book comes across as a sheer, seamless face that you can't stop yourself from tumbling down once you launch yourself off the first page.

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The Ranting Dragon

Excellent
Reviewed by James Starke on Apr 18 2011

I really cannot recommend this book enough as both an urban and epic fantasy, the first half being urban and the second being a mix of the two. Normally I wouldn’t think that this would work very well, but in this case it’s pulled off excellently. The Magicians is full of magical wit and wonder.

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Book Forum

Below average
Reviewed by Matthew Shaer on Aug 14 2009

And yet The Magicians never quite reaches that level of transcendence. Much of the problem is tonal...

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Persephone Magazine

Below average
Reviewed by Slay Belle on Jan 20 2012

So where does this ultimately fall on the “Good,” “Bad” or “Meh” scale? I’d definitely sort it into the meh category. I’m not angry I read the book. But it seems like something I had to slog through to get to the sequel...

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Fiction Writers Review

Good
Reviewed by LESLIE CLEMENTS on Sep 09 2010

The result is as surprising as it is enchanting. Like Kazuo Ishiguro and Justin Cronin, Grossman is a writer who transforms the shape and expectations of genre fiction for readers on both sides of the genre divide.

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The Pacific Northwest Inlander

Good
Reviewed by Dan Herman on Jul 07 2010

The genius of the novel, however, comes not from the story itself but when viewed as a deconstruction of the fantasy novel.

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Fantasy Book Review

Good
Reviewed by Floresiensis on Jan 07 2015

The Magicians is a book that will likely divide opinions leaving very few sitting on the fence. The majority will love it but there will be some that will detest it (ardent Potter and Narnia fans possibly). The fantasy genre always needs an author to come along a show it in a different light and this is exactly what has Grossman has done.

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Vampire Book Club

Above average
Reviewed by Amy on Jul 10 2014

I did like the idea of the story though. Flipping what we commonly think we believe (or wish were true) about fantasy. Lev Grossman’s writing flows quite nicely. Though there are times where the narrative becomes monotonous, it’s about the time you realize this that Grossman throws something interesting into the pot to perk up your ears.

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The Book Smugglers

Below average
on Jan 07 2017

The good writing is not enough to make me like a book that comes with such a blatant, bleak message. The Fantasy world is unoriginal and the main character is unappealing...Bad but not without some merit

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Fantasy Faction

Good
Reviewed by Claire Lines on Aug 01 2014

The characters live in a world where their expectations of magic have been shaped by Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia. When they are exposed to the “reality” of magic, they compare it to these standards – just like the reader. It may not be a happy read, granted, but this book will shift your expectations of genre fiction – recommended.

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My Bookish Ways

Good
Reviewed by Kristin on Aug 01 2011

I was helplessly engrossed and loathe to put it down. Lev Grossman has created a world full of wonder, enchantment, and dark fascination. There were moments when I was reminded of what it was like to be young, right on the cusp of some new and exciting adventure, the whole world open before me.

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Booking in Heels

Below average
Reviewed by Hanna W on Dec 13 2011

I didn't hate this book, although I realise I sound like I did. Hell, I didn't even dislike it. The majority of it is a well-written, unique, fantasy story with likeable characters. But I loathed the ending, and for me, the book is the ending.

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Between The Covers

Below average
Reviewed by Heather on Jul 12 2012

Overall, I am not impressed by this book. It’s a bad mash-up of Harry Potter and Narnia. It is neither “psychologically piercing” nor “dazzlingly inventive,” and I didn’t find it “enthralling.”

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Bite the Book

Above average
on Jun 28 2014

While this does make everything sound dark and broody everything is tempered with an epic, adventurous narrative that moves along at an addictive pace.

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So Many Books

Below average
Reviewed by Stefanie on Jan 12 2015

I am far from loving the book and being excited enough about it to tell everyone I know to read it. However, I liked it enough to be willing to give the next book, The Magician King, a go. I won’t be doing this any time soon...

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Charlotte's Library

Below average
on Jan 20 2013

Did I like it? Well, I read it with absorption and found it a pleasingly immersive experience, but I don't think I'll ever re-read it. I will, however, add the sequel, The Magician King, to my list.

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Her Life With Books

Good
on Dec 24 2014

What’s left is a very realistic coming of age novel about fantastic events. As a girl who loves realism and is dipping her toes into fantasy, this combination basically flipped my lid.

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Yet There Are Statues

Above average
on Sep 05 2014

Hopefully I’ve made it clear that there’s a lot here to like. The Magicians is a well-written if bleak fantasy that’s worth reading by anyone with a moderate tolerance for bleakness in their reading.

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Far Beyond Reality

Good
on Feb 13 2012

I approached The Magicians expecting a gimmicky “adult Harry Potter” story, and was very pleasantly surprised. Yes, it’s a novel about teenagers in a magical college, but it also has some very complex characters, genuinely surprising twists, and a level of depth I didn’t expect in the least.

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Cheryl's Mewsings

Below average
on Sep 20 2009

I wasn’t going to write a review of this book because I didn’t think it was very good (or sufficiently bad to warrant excoriating).

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http://thealternativeone.blogspot.com

Good
on Feb 10 2012

This is a gripping, entertaining read that should appeal to all fantasy fans (urban or otherwise), magic lovers, and those who might learn from the trials suffered by most young adults.

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Reader Rating for The Magicians
66%

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