The world was a desert, but he was a magician, and to be a magician was to be a secret spring – a moving oasis. He wasn’t desolate, and he wasn’t empty. He was full of emotion, full of feelings, bursting with them, and when it came down to it that’s what being a magician was (The Magician’s Land, p 399).
Beginning with The Magicians, Grossman follows Quentin Coldwater and his gifted cohort through their magical education and ensuing adventures, both on Earth and in Fillory, a magical land strongly resembling Narnia.
Quentin is a depressed, brilliant, aimless, horny teenager obsessed with the Fillory novels when he receives a magical invitation to the exclusive Brakebill’s Academy where noetic magic is taught in upstate New York.
Readers follow Quentin as he learns, grows, falters, and struggles, until he finally understands himself. The adventures and disappointments, loves and losses, deaths and rebirths, discoveries and departures are accompanied by a lot of drinking, sex, fighting and reflecting. The shell of a Harry Potter-like structure is populated with gravitas.
Julia, Quentin’s friend since childhood has her own lengthy part to play, a mirror part full of manic energy to Quentin’s ennui.
Secondary characters Alice, Eliot, Janet, and Penny are fully formed and diverse. Their meta cognitive narrative contributions are often little more than posturing. Cynicism gives way to awe and apathy to dedication and sacrifice. Each retains their core essence while maturing alongside Quinten.
Quentin’s mood swings and reasoning will resonate with anyone who has suffered from depression. His final reconciliation leaves him a balanced Magician.
An all around enchanting, gritty, wholly satisfying trilogy.
The television show on the Syfy network is well cast and well acted. Penny has a greatly increased roll, some plot points diverge and Julia’s story line is told chronologically rather than reflectively as it is in the novel… but all those changes have served the adaptation well.
Small changes like the Beast’s face being covered by moths rather than a leaf and branch served only to enhance the mood, making the Beast a more dynamic and threatening character. His debut during class at Brakebills was terrifying. Loved it.
My only disappointment is with the season finale. It diverges greatly from the novel and I don’t see it improving the storyline. Very frustrated with it.
Kirkus reviewed each book: