The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Posted April 11, 2018 by Amber in Reviews / 4 Comments

The Magicians

The Magicians

by Lev Grossman

Series: The Magicians #1
Publisher: Penguin Books on August 11, 2009
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Target Age Group: New Adult
Rating: ★★★★½

Check out this book on Goodreads

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.


Imagine a world where anyone can perform magic, if they work hard enough and are smart enough.  Magic is one of the world’s best kept secrets, but it runs in the veins of every influential organization worldwide.  This is the world of The Magicians, where only the best of the best are recruited to Breakbills.  But what to do after that?

The Magicians is a great adventure in fantasy and magical realism.  Most people are familiar with the popular Syfy show, but the book is deep and deliberate and fantastic.  There are similarities, and there are changes, but I don’t want to talk about the show.  Just the book.

Lev Grossman’s writing style is incredible.  His writing is very deep and detailed.  Most books I find I can read quickly, lightly – I had to absorb every syllable of The Magicians.  The carefully crafted world is a mix of imagination and science.  It’s so close, I almost feel like I could touch it.  That is the most incredible type of world-building – the sort where you feel like you can reach out and move aside an invisible curtain and behind it is magic.  I am hooked.

That said, The Magicians is never a story about a handful of kids saving the world.  Quentin, Josh, Janet, Eliot, and Alice are not shiny people.  They are selfish and manipulative and pretty much just a holy mess.  I liked that the characters were not entirely likable.  I latched right on to Eliot – he seems like the character with the most room to grow.  It’s easy to like the characters but not approve of them.

The books is broken into two halves – Breakbills and Filory.  They’re both interesting in their own way.  I’ve heard people compare The Magicians to the Harry Potter series, but I think that Filory has definite edges of Narnia.  It’s refreshing to have a new adult story with the same magical feel as the middle grade novels I loved growing up.

And yes.  The Magicians advertises as an adult novel, but the characters are college students and it feels more new adult to me.

I wasn’t a fan of the show and had no intention to read the book before it was given to me as a gift.  I’m glad I did read it – I absolutely enjoyed it.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★ 1/2
Characters: ★★★★ 1/2
Writing: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★★

4.5 stars overall rating


The Magicians Stays On The Shelf

It’s an incredible story, with so many sparks of magic.  I loved the characters even though I don’t really like them as people.  I adored Eliot especially, and I am dying to see how thing go as kings and queens of Filory.  The one thing I may eventually do is trade in my damaged paperback for a nice hardcover copy.  Curses to Amazon and their sloppy packaging – that’s two damaged books in three months.


Have you read this book or anything by this author?  If so, did you enjoy it?  Tell me all about your experience in the comments!

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4 responses to “The Magicians by Lev Grossman

    • Amber

      I think it depends what you’re looking for in the story? For me, I lose patience with High Drama, and the book has a lot less of that and is more introspective on Q. But a lot of people do prefer the show to the book, so to each her own. 🙂

    • Amber

      I really really liked it but almost all my friends on Goodreads said they liked the show better! I’d say if you try one and don’t like it, give the other a go. 🙂 But I like the book a lot better. 😀