Being a fan of books that can meld reality with the supernatural, I of course picked up The Magicians by Lev Grossman in a heartbeat when I saw it at the bookstore. I really had no idea that I would be in for a such a wild ride.
Grossman is a talented writer and this is a beautifully well-written book, achingly so at times, violent at others. I felt I was in good hands with the main character, Quentin Coldwater, as Grossman carried me through this journey, for that’s what it really was: how magic made Quentin’s journey evolve from selfish boy to jaded man — something like an anti-hero.
Grossman quickly involved me in the story of one Quentin Coldwater (love the symbolism of that name) an outsider, a brilliant nerd and amateur magician dissatisfied with the lot in his young life. Disappointed that the world is not like the enchanted land of Fillory, akin to that found in a series of books much like The Chronicles of Narnia, in which the Chatwin children went back and forth between this secret land of bunnies and other creatures, Quentin finds real life wanting. After going to an interview for Harvard in which he find the interviewer dead, a mysterious paramedic gives Quentin a clue to help him find a way into a passageway that leads to a secret magical college (a la Harry Potter) called Brakebills, where he is accepted after an arduous interview process, one in which he realizes he truly does possess real magical talents. Maybe something like Fillory existed after all.
Quentin spends the next portion of the book detailing Quentin’s college years, learning what he thought would be the excitement of learning magic, yet is disappointingly the tedious rote studying and memorization of spells. In his boredom, Quentin bonds with the studious Alice, a tiny, shy sprite of a girl, with whom he falls quickly in love. Quentin also meets Penny, the completely unlikable mohawked boy he encountered during his interviews for Brakebills. Along with Penny, Quentin and Alice advance quickly through the school’s archaic learning processes, as they are all found to have extraordinary magical abilities.