The Magicians (The Magicians, #1)

Grossman, L. (2009). The Magicians. New York: Viking. Print.

This book is part of a series, both titles are included in the collection.

Reader’s Annotation

Quentin Clearwater has been smarter than everyone, and desperately bored by life, for as long as he can remember. Life starts to look up for Quentin when he discovers that magic is real and is admitted into a super exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, but even magic gets boring eventually. Will Quentin be able to find the adventure he’s looking for? At what price?

Plot Summary

Quentin Clearwater is a genius, but he’s not very happy. To distract himself from his own plight he obsesses over a series of Narnia-esque children’s books that take place in the magical land of Fillory. Things change for Quentin when he ends up accepted into a school of magic, like Hogwarts for college kids. As Quentin discovers the extent of his magical powers he expects to find fulfillment in his own ability, but somehow always ends up looking for more. After graduation Quentin and his friends embark on a path of hedonistic pleasures, striving to fight off the ennui of regular human existence. Quentin remains disconsolate until he and his friends discover that not only is Fillory real, but that they’ve found a way in. Will access to this magical wonderland be everything that Quentin had hoped for? Will his impossible quest give his life the meaning he’s always sought after? Follow Quentin and his friends as the venture into magical lands and discover the depth of their own being.

Critical Evaluation

This book, and its followup The Magician King also included in the collection, is excellent. Even though the main character, Quentin, is totally whiney and insecure, you can tell by Grossman’s writing that he’s like that on purpose. Indeed, even Quentin’s girlfriend Alice remarks on the idiocy of Quentin’s self-obsession. I can get behind a character who is written to be purposefully selfish, it’s the ones that come off that way unintentionally that rub me the wrong way. This book explores the question that every scifi and fantasy nerd ever have been wondering about since they picked up their first copy of the Hobbit: what if? What if those impossible lands we’ve been reading about since we were kids are real? We learn quickly that our imaginings come with a price, but Grossman’s characters are so good and the book so well written you’ll want to read it again and again.

Author Information

Lev Grossman lives in Brooklyn, New York and studied comparative literature at Harvard and Yale. He also the author of the bestseller The Codex and is a writer and book critic for Time magazine.


Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Magic

Curriculum Ties

Literary response and analysis grades 11 and 12:

3.3 Analyze interactions between main and subordinate characters in a literary text (e.g., internal and external conflicts, motivations, relationships, influences) and explain the way those interactions affect the plot.

3.4 Determine characters’ traits by what the characters say about themselves in narration, dialogue, dramatic monologue, and soliloquy.

3.8 Interpret and evaluate the impact of ambiguities, subtleties, contradictions, ironies, and incongruities in a text.

3.9 Explain how voice, persona, and the choice of a narrator affect characterization and the tone, plot, and credibility of a text.

Booktalk Ideas

How does the Fillory than Quentin and his friends find compare to the Fillory that they had hoped for?

How does Fillory compare to Narnia?

Why does Quentin sleep with Janet?

Is Quentin a reliable narrator? What personal flaws does Quentin have that make him reliable or unreliable?

Reading Level/Interest Age 


Challenge Issues

This book is intended for older readers. The library does not keep a circulation history for each user, but trusts that parents and their children have established guidelines for what is appropriate reading within their own households. The library supports the ALA Library Bill of Rights and defends each patron’s right to read. This book is not intended for educational purposes, though it does support several curriculum points of the CA Dept of Education for literary analysis. Patron’s are welcome to challenge materials and requests for reconsideration are reviewed by the board. Final decisions will be made by the director.

Reason for inclusion

One of the best books on magic and young people published, a real winner.

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