We meet the main character, Quentin Coldwater, in Brooklyn on a bleak fall day as he heads off to a college interview for Princeton University. The interview doesn’t go quite as planned, the interviewer is dead when he shows up and one of the EMTs hands him a folder that contains a previously unknown novel by Chistopher Plover. In the “Magicians” Plover has written a beloved series of children’s books that take place in a mythical land called Fillory. But as Quentin is leaving a page from the folder gets caught in the wind and blown into an overgrown garden. As he searches the garden he emerges from the other side in garden that is warmed by a summer sun. He is lead to a building where he is told that he will be given an entrance exam to a Brakebills a college for magicians. Quentin passes the first exam and then is given a series of test by various professors at the college. In the final test Quentin manages to perform real magic, so he is accepted in to this very exclusive and elite college.
The first part of this book then follows Quentin and his friends at Brakebills. And this seems very much like a typical college experience where there is drinking, smoking and sex, except they are also learning magic. They are constantly told how very special they are and many of them become elitist snobs, especially Quentin. But reality sinks in after the friends graduate and they are reintroduced to the real world. While they have the ability to perform magic there is no real use for magic in the real world, especially in Manhattan. The group of friends is all just a bunch of aimless young adults, who drink too much, smoke too much and have sex with each other. This all changes when another graduate from Brakebills shows up with a button that will allow them to actually visit the magical land of Fiilory. Of course this trip to Fillory doesn’t go quite how they expect.
I will be the first to say that many of the characters in this book are quite self absorbed and not really likeable and are your quintessential anti-heroes. But I think that Lev Grossman in much of this book is trying to set up the characters and the world that they inhabit. I do say that I enjoyed the sequel, The Magician King, more. The Magician king explores differ themes, such as what does it meant to be a hero, and is a conventional education such as Brakebills any better than a hard fought independent one. I really enjoyed the discussion that we had about this book at the meeting and how a few things about the book were put in to perspective for me.
~SarahRequest The Magicians from the Bangor Public Library