Labeled “Physical Kids” for their ability to manipulate their physical surroundings, the group bonds in their second year with some older “physical” kids: Janet, Eliot, and Josh; yet what they mostly do is drink, like many American college kids. Year Three finds them turning into geese and flying to Antarctica, where they are turned back into humans and forced to study silently for three months straight in basically a prison-like cell, with breaks only for food and water. They are let out occasionally and are once turned into foxes, with memorable results.
One unfortunate incident occurs back at Brakebills, when, during one interminable lecture, Quentin decides to play a magical practical joke on the professor which somehow goes awry, as he somehow conjures up a horrible, violent character from another world who stops time and murders a classmate. Labeled “The Beast” by the director of the school, Quentin never owns up to conjuring this spell and is beset by a horrible guilt over the classmate; and yet at the same time he is fascinated at what he had done.
At this point, one of the teachers wisely and poignantly tells them a concept of what magic may be: if the universe was a house that God made for everyone, perhaps magic is the tools he left behind, possibly by accident, in the garage. That perhaps using magic was as dangerous as kids finding these power tools and using them without direction or precaution. This gives Quentin pause — is the ability to use magic all that he had hoped it would be?
Upon graduation, Quentin and Alice move to New York City where Alice continues to bury herself in books and Quentin continues to party and drink, spiraling out of control. They had distanced themselves from Penny, so when he shows up after one particularly nasty argument, in which Quentin has done something unthinkably hurtful to Alice, the group is shocked at what Penny has to say: Fillory really does exist.