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Book Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Updated on January 11, 2020

I haven’t made a post in a while (shocking, I know,) so I thought I’d write a quick book review to try to get back into the swing of things.

Just to be clear, I actually read the first book in The Magicians series a little over a year ago. Reading the first installment was just as magical the second time around, and the rest of the series was even better. Lev Grossman has written a series of books about magic where the magic is a metaphor for reading and books are a metaphor for life and living is writing your own story. It’s truly a book written for book worms.

Quentin Coldwater, the protagonist, lives inside his head. He’s obsessed with a fictional series reminiscent of The Chronicles of Narnia, where some young British children become kings and queens of a secret magical world after they stumble through an old grandfather clock. It’s pegged as a little odd that’s he’s still so obsessed with these books later into his teens. Rather than taking control of his life, he never let go of that childish dream of falling into another reality.

But Quentin does end up finding many of his dreams come true. He does fall into a secret magical world–more than once–but he learns that even in the magical world there is darkness and that conquering darkness isn’t quite so glamorous and valiant as it is in the books. And no matter what reality you find yourself in, it is still up to you how you perceive it. Quentin Coldwater is a depressed, chronically unhappy person in every situation he ends up in, even when he has everything he has ever hoped for. He’s easily bored, and he starts out with a very idealistic view of quests and adventures but learns that death and destruction are very real and very scary, no matter what universe you’re in.

I originally picked up these books because I heard they were a great read for any adult who grew up obsessed with Harry Potter (hi,) but they’re much more than a “grown-up Harry Potter.” These books may be fiction, but they are incredibly real. Every character is deeply flawed, and the mistakes they make often have terrible consequences. Each page is filled with magical imagery beyond your wildest dreams, and every quest the group goes on is packed with gut-wrenching letdowns and terrifying truths. Some characters grow and thrive while others stagnate. They struggle with depression and addiction, long-term grudges, heartbreaking betrayals, loss, and guilt. You’ll hate them and love them all. And as for badass female characters, these books are certainly not short on them. They’re smart, extremely powerful, and they put Quentin in his place when he’s being an asshole (which is often.)

After I finished reading the last book, I decided to check out the television series adaptation on Syfy. I watched the first episode and could barely keep myself from throwing my laptop across the room. I discussed this with a friend of mine who also read the series, and she felt the same way, but it turns out we might be the minority here. Apparently a ton of people who read the books loved the show. Like, significantly better? Just curious, has anyone out there read the books and enjoyed the show? Why?

The Magicians Trilogy Boxed Set: The Magicians; The Magician King; The Magician's Land


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