Pros: Fresh, original, dark, and very surprising.
Cons: One maudlin part comes perilously close to extending too long
Rating: 5 out of 5
Review copy courtesy of Penguin Group.
Lev Grossman’s The Magicians is a gritty coming of age story for grown-ups and all-too-adult teens. It’s Harry Potter meets The Chronicles of Narnia, seen through a mirror darkly.
Brooklyn teen Quentin is wickedly smart, and terribly unhappy. He has an unrequited crush on his best friend’s girlfriend, and while he should be worried about getting into the college of his choice, instead all he wishes is that magic were real. In particular, that the Narnia-like world of Fillory, from a series of books he read in his childhood, was real, and he could slip away there and become a hero. Instead, an odd series of circumstances beginning with the death of his college interviewer leads him to Brakebills, a college for magicians hidden away in upstate New York. There he discovers that magic is real, he has a talent for it, and that magic takes a LOT of intense study and work.
When Quentin graduates, he moves in with his girlfriend and spends his time seeking pleasure with several other recent graduates—visiting clubs, taking drugs, drinking, and having sex. Until one day a nearly-forgotten member of his Brakebills class turns up with the key to entering the world of Fillory.