Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

November 14, 2014 2.5 stars, Book Review 10 ★★½

Review: The Magicians by Lev GrossmanThe Magicians by Lev Grossman
Series: The Magicians
Published by Viking on August 11, 2011
Genres: Adult SFF, Fantasy
Pages: 402
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
My Reviews in this series: The Magicians

*This book was provided by the Publisher for review. No compensation was provided and all opinions are strictly my own.

Quentin Coldwater is brillant but miserable. He's a senior in high school, and a certifiable genius, but he's still secretly obsessed with a series of fantasy novels he read as a kid, about the adventures of five children in a magical land called Fillory. Compared to that, anything in his real life just seems gray and colorless.

Everything changes when Quentin 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 practice of modern sorcery. He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. But something is still missing. Magic doesn't bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he though it would.

Then, after graduation, he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real.


Imagine that magic is real, a la Harry Potter and you have a world in The Magicians. There is a magical community just beyond the reach of ordinary people, that you can reach with the right invitation. Our main character (whose name I now have to look up. That’s how much I am trying to forget him) Quentin Coldwater receives a place at a magical academy on the Hudson River called Brakebills. Like many of us, Quentin has a passionate love for a fantasy world from a specific book series he read as a child. For Quentin, that world is called Fillory. For me, it’s called Fintha (The Deed of Paksenarrion, Elizabeth Moon). Anyhow, Quentin is given this priceless gift, magic is real and he gets to be a part of it. The fact that he is a genius math student is mentioned many times, but it really has no bearing on anything. Quentin just says how smart he is and how much better he is than other people.

The “hedonism” referred to on the back cover isn’t the good kind. It’s just angsty, angry, depressed people trying to make themselves feel better. I expected more of the ummmm…. physical stuff…. and that was skimped on for sure. The school part is skimped on, it’s mostly just Quentin worrying about being happy and feeling superior to everyone else. He is given everything he asks for, more than once… and still he is not content.

Basically, in the entire book he is never happy. Except for this one part about a goose.

His friends are equally shallow, vain and self-destructive. This book reads like a high school novel, not a college novel. Alcohol is the main drug, but others are involved as well. These people are just trying to kill ennui and themselves if possible. There is no real development or insight in them. I kept hoping for a change, but it never came. They were still looking for happiness and failing at the end. A tiresome read.

Overall, The Magicians was barely okay. I didn’t mind the world idea, I appreciated the writing… I simply hated the characters. They were all simply too flawed to love. If you continued with this series, and the ennui goes away… let me know and I may try the second novel! The world building was good. The writing is fine… I just can’t handle the characters. It took me 7 days to read this book. If I had liked it, I would have finished in 2.



A blog we at Not Yet Read adore actually did read and enjoy the entire trilogy with a similar sort of ‘eh’ jumping off point with the first book but says it is well worth finishing the trilogy. For a different perspective please have a visit and read Mogsy’s reviews on the entire trilogy. Tabitha still plans to try to read this series so hopefully we’ll get her perspective as well.

Mogsy’s Reviews from The Bibliosanctum:

The Magicians (bk #1), The Magician King (bk #2), The Magician’s Land (Bk #3 – final book)


When not taking care of my two children, husband and mini doxy, rushing here and there on the go, I can always be found reading. Fantasy of course being my favorite genre, but not the only I'll read. Oh yes, and I throw bad books.

Latest posts by Maggie (see all)

10 Responses to “Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman”

  1. Nathan (@reviewbarn)

    Too emo, to angst, so much weird fox sex just to have it. I liked some of the ideas, especially the fact that magic is a large pain that doesn’t really provide as many benefits as the characters wanted. But I not only couldn’t stand the characters, I also wasn’t interested in them.
    Nathan (@reviewbarn) recently posted…Tough Travels- Named WeaponsMy Profile

  2. Kirsty-Marie

    Wow, that sounds like it sucks bad. And the characters, ugh, okay, I don’t mind flawed characters, but whoa they sound just non-salvageable really. And I hate when the characters sound and at younger than they should, don’t know why, it just seems to get under my skin. 🙁
    Kirsty-Marie recently posted…Review: SpidersMy Profile

  3. Sara L.

    Eeeeek. I know a few people who loved this series, as well as a few others who didn’t. The book is still on my TBR list, but I definitely won’t rush out for the rest of the series until I’ve read this first one and know whether I want to continue it… or not. Thanks for your honest review.
    Sara L. recently posted…Chronicling The Craft: 95,000 WordsMy Profile

  4. Molly Mortensen

    This has been on my list for quite a while. I’m not sure if Quentin sounds like a good protagonist though. Maybe he grows as the novels progress? I’m not sure about this one, but I still plan to read it eventually. It’s good to know they do get better.
    Molly Mortensen recently posted…Top Ten Sequels I Can’t Wait To GetMy Profile