The Magicians

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>2/5

Quentin Coldwater, an otherwise normal honors student from Brooklyn, grows up obsessed with a series of C.S. Lewis--esque fantasy novels set in a world called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds out that magic—and Fillory itself—are real. And that he has been invited to attend a secret magical school called Brakebills (sound familiar?), where he will learn the skills necessary to fulfill his destiny and fight an ancient evil.

It would be easy to say that The Magicians simply rehashes tried-and-true tropes from beloved Harry Potter and Narnia books, but his fantasy is actually quite different; for one thing, his teen wizards exist in a world where drugs are ingested and sex is enjoyed. Still, one can’t help but compare, and one aspect of Grossman’s book where you’d like to see more borrowing, rather than less, from books like Harry Potter is in plot development. Whereas the Potter books take time to coalesce, The Magicians often feels rushed, with the kids being pushed through five years of school and more by the book’s halfway point. You never really grow attached to the characters in the way you would, say, with a Rubeus Hagrid or a Prince Caspian.

Grossman, the book critic for Time and the author of Codex, enters his magical realm with confidence, but he also flies through the story with nary a minute to relish and explore the new realm he’s creating. Given time, Grossman’s world of Fillory could indeed become the kind of place to which readers will want to escape. For now, we’ll just hope he conjures up a more spellbinding sequel.—Drew Toal

Grossman reads Tue 11 at 82nd St. Barnes & Noble and Wed 12.

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By Lev Grossman. Viking, $25.95.