Series: The Magicians #1
Published by Penguin Audio, Viking on August 11, 2009
Genres: Adult SFF, Fantasy
Length: 17 hours, 24 minutes
Narrator: Mark Bramhall
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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 brilliant 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.
I didn’t know whether to expect I would love or dislike The Magicians because I had heard so many conflicting opinions on the book. Essentially all of the readers I knew either loved it or hated it, with a few falling in between. I for one have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it and I think it is the type of book that you’ll either click with or you’ll be endlessly annoyed by the characters.
I found it so much easier to just turn my thoughts into a list:
– A coming of age story not of a young adult but of a new adult. It’s off to dorm life at college for Quentin.
– And who doesn’t love a fantasy novel featuring a magic school? This time tho it’s a magic college called Brakebills.
– It has a realistic portrayal of life away at college, and later a jaded view of new adults after college. So, yes there are cliques, sex, fights, drinking and even some drugs. What do you expect? – that is the sometimes reality of college life and many of the lives of young folks in their early twenties. Every new adult doesn’t dabble in these things but you can be sure that they are exposed to it in some way or another. Heck these days most teens in highschool experience these thing. Hence I didn’t think this should come as a big shocker.
– Quentin is a very self centered character, he’s selfish, a bit closed off, and rather bland in personality. He becomes a self indulgent ass in the second half but that is all an important part of the plot. But these traits might make him hard to attach to. I didn’t have a problem reading from his perspective and quite enjoyed following his progression into the magic world, then into his life afterwards.
– You’ve likely heard this book compared to Harry Potter but with a dark jaded protagonist and lots of sex and booze. There really isn’t that much sex and I didn’t find any of the scenes to be gratuitous, tho one was unexpected. I also have to note here that it’s not Harry Potter whatsoever but that I think the author purposefully put in elements that would remind readers of certain books, like those and Chronicles of Narnia. I think the elements used were a deliberate hat tip to those books, but also a bit of dark satire in a way. Personally I thought this was well done and found it entertaining.
– There were parts that dragged and I felt could have been left out entirely because even by the end of the book I didn’t see a need for a few areas. (particularly the game that reminded me of Quidditch but was more like chess – this whole section could have been left out without it effecting the plot at all.) Audio listening and reading the print in tandem helped speed up those parts for me. Since when I felt myself slowing down I would turn on the audiobook instead and then the excellent narration helped keep me going and get me thru a few of the slower paced parts.
– Somewhat of an overview: The book is broken up into chunks of which make up Quentin’s life once finding magic is real. His college years (Where Quentin commits himself to the cause of learning magic and makes friends – my favorite part), his after college time (where Quentin fully indulges his assholey-ness and self indulgence), and his discovery and journey into Fillory (Where Quenton is still mostly an asshole but realizes he’s being and asshole but can’t seem to pull himself out of his own asshole – magic land complete with talking animals, and quests some might find to be silly and out of sync with the preceding parts of the book). Ultimately all very entertaining and some in a dark – hardy har sort of way. I have no idea how to describe the dark kick I got out of this moody dude.
– Quentin is part of a group of young people who just can’t seem to be satisfied or content in life. Mostly it centers around Quentin and his inability to be happy. There was one point where he seems to have finds it momentarily but he almost seems set to sabotage himself. I’m sure you’ve known someone like that before in your life? I know I certainly have.
– There is definitely a message here, maybe even possible message – at least I took a few from reading it.
This kind of sets the tone for the whole book:
I should be happy, Quentin thought. I’m young and alive and healthy. I have good friends. I have two reasonably intact parents — viz., Dad, an editor of medical textbooks, and Mom, a commercial illustrator with ambitions, thwarted, of being a painter. I am a solid member of the middle-middle class. My GPA is a number higher than most people even realize it is possible for a GPA to be.
But walking along Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, in his black overcoat and his gray interview suit, Quentin knew he wasn’t happy. Why not? He had painstakingly assembled all the ingredients of happiness. He had performed all the necessary rituals, spoken the words, lit the candles, made the sacrifices. But happiness, like a disobedient spirit, refused to come. He couldn’t think what else to do. – pg 5
This one was another part that I felt made a good point of what the book was ultimately about:
We human beings are unhappy all the time. We hate ourselves and we hate each other and sometimes we wish You or Whoever had never created us or this shit-ass world or any other shit-ass world. Do You realize that? So next time You might think about not doing such a half-assed job. – pg 349
While The Magicians wasn’t a sunshine happy fantasy book it was so worth the read that if you’re hesitating I think you should just take the plunge and give it a try. Ultimately ignore what everyone else says about it because it’s the type of book that is either going to push your good or bad buttons, and for a read like this I don’t think anyone would really be able to know unless they read it themselves. Enjoy, I did, and will definitely be continuing to finish the trilogy.