Ever wonder what it would be like if Holden Caufield attended Hogwarts?
Because that’s The Magicians in a nutshell. Add in a little bit of millennial mindset to update the reference and you’ve got an entertaining, frustrating, exacerbating, thrill ride of a novel.
Quentin Coldwater is my stand-in for Holden. Sporting an equally punch-able name. I swear I was never a bully, but if I came across this kid in real life, I’d give him the biggest wedgie. Quentin is depressed about his life, for some reason. And he channels that energy into school and magic tricks. Amazingly, he is whisked off to Brakebills, the American school for budding magicians and given an education for free. And then he gets to live his life as a magician.
It’s hard to summarize this novel because there are four distinct sections to it. There’s the Brakebills section: which is exciting and full of lore and magic. It’s very much Harry Potter condensed to around 100 pages. Then, he graduates. And unlike most novels about magicians, he and his friends fall into post-school sadness that is very relatable, but extremely sad and boring. Then, a new section where Quentin and his friends somehow discover that a pseudo Narnia children’s book he loved to read actually exists. And finally, more post-magic despair.
What impresses me with this book is it’s humor and no holds barred story telling. It may be a magic school, but these are college aged kids. They like to fuck. And some of them are gay. But also, there’s magic. And people can die in horrible ways.
What slows me down is that this book could easily have been three books. Potter takes 7 years to finish school. Quentin appears to do it in an afternoon. Which is a shame, because there’s some world building and lore that is quite enjoyable but put aside to get the narrative going.
I am, at the very least, intrigued. And I will be picking up the next two books in the series to see where they go. There’s not enough magic in the world. Even if selfish jerks seem to be the only ones that can use it.
2 1/2 out of 4 stars.