Book Review: The Magicians
If you know me, then you know I’m a sucker for fantasy novels, and especially urban fantasy novels (urban fantasy is like regular fantasy, except it takes place in modern times. Think Lord of the Rings versus Harry Potter).
So in that vain, I figured that today I would talk about something I’ve been a little obsessed with for the past little while: The Magicians.
Before I go any further, let me just say: this trilogy is a real winner. If you like engaging plot and interesting, well-fleshed-out characters, do yourself a favor and track down a copy of the first book (also titled The Magicians). I sprinted through all three books in about a week, and I’m still starving for more.
For those of you that need a bit more than just a recommendation, The Magicians is a trilogy of urban fantasy books by Lev Grossman about Quentin Coldwater, a young man who learns magic at an upstate New York college, and I love it like a new favorite pair of shoes.
Now I understand that that simple plot summary on its own might be enough to dissuade you from stepping anywhere near the thing. I get that they just sound like yet another mish-mash of cookie-cutter plot devices that just ooze fantasy stereotype, but trust me when I say The Magicians is special. It does something most average fantasy books fail to do and what each and every great fantasy book succeeds to do; it takes the focus off the fantasy.
See, what makes The Magicians so cool isn’t the flashy magic or the wild settings, in fact, there really isn’t much of that in the books. What makes The Magicians so great is its characters.
At its core, the series isn’t really all that dependent on Quentin’s ability to shoot fireballs, or his adventures in the Narnia-esque Fillory; The Magicians is first and foremost a story about a kid and his weirdo friends figuring out who they are. There’s the real kind of character development here that’s pretty rare in most stories. If someone were to take away all the magic and adventure from these books, they’d still have a really solid character study about a group of assholes figuring out how to not be assholes anymore.
Full disclosure, these books aren’t for the faint of heart. They can get pretty dark at times (which, honestly, might be one of the major reasons I like them so much). In the first book alone Quentin sort of goes off the rails, almost ruining his life in the process. But they tend to end on happier notes, all the characters the wiser for their mistakes.
I should also mention that there is a Syfy show based on the books, but I haven’t really delved that deep into it, so I’ll reserve judgement until a later post.
There’s not really much more I can say before I get into Spoiler Territory, but just know that Grossman really did make something (sigh) magical when he wrote these books. They get a solid five stars from me— go check them out.