I love magic. Be it imagining myself wandering the hills of Narnia or riding a rickety boat on Earthsea’s fog ridden waters—I just want it so bad. I want to be in the club, know the secret, feel sorry for all the clueless muggles, but not really, because I’d be magical and therefore have magical business to attend to. There’s just something about having the power to transform a muffin into goldfish that I don’t think I’ll ever stop yearning for.
In The Magicians, Lev Grossman places magic in the real world—not Narnia or Hogwarts or Earthsea, but a world where fantasy books about magic exist and depression isn’t cured by an owl dropping a letter in your lap. The novel follows Quentin Coldwater, a high school senior from Brooklyn who becomes enrolled in Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy. Eventually, Quentin graduates, and we read of his aimless life as a magician in Manhattan and his adventures beyond the world itself.
Grossman portrays magic not as something that simply springs from a chosen few’s fingertips, but as a mysterious craft that’s difficult to summon, master, and control. It’s not about the perfect flourish of a wand; it’s about being studious and serious about school itself.
What made me so giddy about the book was this feeling that Grossman was breaking the rules. The magicians were getting drunk and sleeping with each other and questioning what magic even was. He continually pondered the question: if there is no true evil to squander and vanquish, what’s a magician supposed to do on a Tuesday? And while these questions are being posed and mused upon, magic is happening. Whimsical, glorious, magic.