The Magicians by Lev Grossman

October 6, 2014 Audio Books, Coming of Age, Fantasy 25

Pick a card, any card, Bookworms!

Actually, don’t. I would be a hot steaming pile of horrible if I tried to do card tricks. Depressing though it is that I lack actual magical powers as well as the manual dexterity to perform sleight of hand, I still dig books about magic. If it happens to be October, all the better! I listened to the audio version of The Magicians by Lev Grossman to help get me in the spirit of the Halloween season.

The MagiciansQuentin Coldwater is a genius, but at 17, he’s got a serious case of the mopies (I can relate, yo!) He’s obsessed with a series of novels about children who visit a magical land (think Narnia), but he tries to play it off as nostalgia. Quentin is minding his own teen angst business when he finds himself being tested for admittance into a legit, elite, magical college. That’s right. It’s sort of like Hogwarts for the older set. A little less whimsy, a lot more booze, sex, and apathy.

The Magicians had the same darkly mystical tone as The Night Circus (review) which was a delightful surprise. The book was darker than I had anticipated, and it dabbled in some heavy philosophy. When you have immense magical power, the fulfilling stuff of life no longer presents a challenge. Grossman’s magical world doesn’t have the structure that Rowling’s does- magicians are left to their own devices wandering the ordinary world. A few magicians will go in for charitable endeavors or research, but mostly they wander aimlessly searching for meaning, as they have no need for careers to provide them with money or purpose. It was this thoughtful analysis of the human condition that had me loving the first 2/3 of this book.

Then? Grossman went full Narnia on me. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the book now. I’m a little less excited to finish the series, but that doesn’t mean I won’t do it. There are a lot of loose ends I would like to have wrapped up, so I’ll probably get to it eventually. It was a mixed bag for me, but if you liked The Chronicles of Narnia, The Night Circus, and His Dark Materials , it’s definitely worth sampling.

One of the major reasons I related to Quentin and his longing for a fictional world is my own (perhaps unhealthy) obsession with Harry Potter. Is there another literary world you desperately wish you could escape into?

*If You make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Like magic. Only not.*

25 Responses to “The Magicians by Lev Grossman”

  1. Joules (from Pocketful of Joules)

    Oooh, you totally had me writing a note to myself to buy this… but now I’m not so sure. I’m going to go ahead and have to ask you to read the rest of the series and let me know if it’s worth it. 😉 I love the idea of magic and I would LOVE to live in Harry Potter’s world.

    • Words For Worms

      Completely 100% NOT religious. I probably should have mentioned that when I dropped the whole Narnia comparison. Yes for Brian. Maybe for you. It’ll depend on your mood.

  2. Megan M.

    I think I tried to read this and just couldn’t get into it. It gets so many rave reviews though, so I feel a little better knowing that you didn’t 100% love it.

    I don’t know who wouldn’t want to live in Harry Potter world. If my kids don’t lose their minds over HP when they get old enough to appreciate it, I might disown them. 😉

  3. AMB

    This sounds interesting! I was one of the few readers who despised The Night Circus, but its tone was tolerable for me (it’s the plot that wasn’t). So, this one might work, particularly because I love the Chronicles of Narnia!

  4. Kristen M.

    I’ll admit that I read this one right when it came out and then never picked up the sequels. I just didn’t love it enough, I guess. I don’t know if I’ll ever move on. I think there are enough other books out there that I’ll just read other stuff instead. 🙂

  5. Becca Lostinbooks

    I haven’t had luck with books/movies about magicians. I am not sure why since magic with witches or other magical creatures and such I love. But with it going all full Narnia and being darkly, maybe it will be a good one for me to try out.

  6. Jennine G.

    I like the Narnia books, but I don’t like when books spend most of their time on reality and then suddenly switch it up on you.

  7. Jenny @ Reading the End

    For what it’s worth, I was not at all wild about this book, and the second book sorted out A LOT of the problems I had with the first one. I think it’s a much better book, and I have heard from several people whose opinions I trust that the third is even better. In case you want to factor that into your decision to read or not read the sequels.

  8. Tanya @ Mom's Small Victories

    I bought an autographed copy of this book and I hope I like it. Glad Jenny said the sequels are better, good to keep in mind when I get to reading it. The salesguy at the indie bookstore said the author is a really nice guy so at least I helped out a nice guy with my purchase 🙂 thanks for sharing.

  9. Laurie C

    I loved The Magicians and the other two books in the trilogy. Comparing it to The Night Circus is probably better than calling it an “adult Harry Potter” which it was publicized as, at first. Very dark and adult, and gets more so as it goes on.

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