The Magicians, by Lev Grossman
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What happens when you get what you want, and you discover you still aren’t happy? Quentin is a brilliant and privileged kid preparing for the end of high school and the foregone conclusion of an Ivy League education. But he’s depressed and suffering from an unrequited love for his best friends girlfriend. One of his few pleasures is in a series of children’s books he knows he should have outgrown. The Fillory series of books feature a family of children who find their way into a magical land of talking animals and thinly disguised religious allegory (sound familiar)?
When Quentin is offered the chance to forego his standard education to go to a school for wizards, it’s a wish come true. Be careful what you wish for, as they say.
This book has been misleadingly called “Harry Potter for adults.” The “for adults” part is very true though: the language and sexual situations are definitely not for the younger set.
There’s magic and other fantasy trappings, but at its heart this book is about how unhappy people learn that there aren’t any easy answers or easy fixes for their unhappiness. Quite a bit like college for normal kids, really. And the characters’ response to some of the elements bring a more realistic take to some fantasy tropes, including Harry Potter.
Taken beyond just college, it also shows the sadness of a group who can get what they want easily and then try to figure out what to do with themselves.
If you come in looking for high fantasy and a heroic battle between good and evil and every little loose end tied up neatly, you’re going to be disappointed. Open your mind to something different and more emotionally complex and you may just find yourself unable to stop reading. If you’re ready for something different to the Tolkien and Rowling clones banging about out there, grab a copy of this one.