The Magicians is an enchanted coming of age tale. The story begins with Quentin in high school being all emo (in love with a girl who loves his best friend) and feeling generally helpless like most people at 17. He is obsessed with this series of books about Fillory, which are strikingly similar to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe series by C.S. Lewis (the best YA fiction ever).
Quentin is just dying to get out of the real world and into a world of magic and heroism. As he’s contemplating how nerdy he is for hopelessly wanting to live in a fantasy, weird stuff starts happening to him. A professor, who was supposed to interview Quentin, kills over and Quentin finds him dead. A mysterious woman hands him an envelope with his name on it. He walks down the streets of Brooklyn with the envelope in hand and is drawn to this garden that’s a portal to upstate New York.
Before you know it he’s skipping college and going to Brakebills school for magicians. It took forever to get to this point. The book is called The Magicians, ok. I know it’s coming, just do it!
His years at Brakebills go by in an alcohol induced blur, but he learns some key spell casting fundamentals. He actually gets turned into a goose at one point and has to fly to the South Pole to spend a semester getting magically owned by this bitter old professor. Anyway, while in school he falls in love with his best friend, Alice. She’s way smarter than him and more mature (Hermione, anyone??).
When he gets out of school, Quentin still feels lost. He’s not sure what the point of his life is and where he should go from there–a fairly normal reaction to graduation, I think. He and Alice move in together and he falls into a rut, becoming completely apathetic.
Then someone shows up with a way to get to Fillory. This is Quentin’s chance to realize his dream. But, of course, nothing works out the way it should. Alice and Quentin wallow in mutually inflicted pain, people die, dreams are crushed. Basically, Fillory is not the paradise that everyone thought it would be.
Ah the moral of the story. Life is hard and you have to deal with it. Running away from your unhappiness will not make you happy—as poor Quentin discovered–it may make you more unhappy.
In the end, Quentin and his friends go back to Fillory after all the pain it has caused them. I feel like this was a cop out on Grossman’s part. No one deals with reality; they go back to the fantasy world. But I guess they go back knowing it’s not perfect, which has to count for something.
P.S. I thought the magic was kind of lame, maybe because the book was too focused on Quentin’s character development. Come on, Grossman it’s magic (I know I’m not on Twitter but…)#letsgetweird