Fillory and Further- why you should read "The Magicians"
The Magicians- is awesome:
This book trilogy by Lev Grossman has often been called “Harry Potter for adults” but it also borrows from and tributes other fantasy media including Narnia and various mythological traditions. The epic tale spans three novels which include “The Magicians”, “The Magician King”, and “The Magician’s Land.”- each book contains a unique and gripping narrative. Now for me, the Magicians trilogy has a number of selling points. These merits include the setting, the characters and their development, and a pervasive sense of self awareness that makes it all absolutely perfect.
“Harry Potter for cynical adults”
The story follows the adventures of child prodigy Quentin Coldwater, who in a very Potterish way is accepted to Brakebills college of Magic upon graduating from high school. Quintin is brilliant, talented, and… kind of a dick. This is where the Magicians begins to defy expectations set by the traditional fantasy genre. Quintin, Alice, Elliot, Janet, and Julia are all extraordinary magicians, but they are all also extremely flawed individuals. Quintin is neurotic and self absorbed. Elliot hides from his own pain through gratuitous sex and substance abuse. These are just a couple of examples, but what makes these characters truly amazing is this: Despite their flaws they are all incredibly likable and feel like real people.
Like real people, the Characters of Grossman’s story go through extensive character development throughout the course of the three novels. We follow Quintin throughout his “fool’s journey”- he goes from self obsessed, peevish, and whiney to well... -I’ll not spoil this one for you, but suffice to say Quintin’s character arc is hands down my favorite in ANY fiction I’ve read thus far. What could be considered even more unusual for the fantasy genre, is that Quentin's friends go through changes of their own that may be even more dynamic than the protagonist’s.
Now, on to my next point-
The Magicians is META af:
The series is pointedly aware of itself and of existing fantasy tropes to the point of even referencing other works directly. Characters naming their spells after D&D spellcraft, and quotes like “wands out harry” gave me ALL of the life. The series also plays with the reality of being in a magical world vs merely reading about one.
The world of Fillory:
The Trilogy is primarily split between two worlds- The Earth and Fillory (a direct Narnia analog complete with stories of orphaned children, and snarky animal gods). The first thing you’ll learn is that Quintin is a lifetime fanboy of the Fillory and Further children's books, and considers himself an authority on all things Fillorian. However, the world of the books and the actual reality of interdimensional travel are vastly different.
The characters of Grossman’s novels are nerds and therefore have had exposure to the ideas and concepts of fantasy before being thrust into a world where magic is real. This dynamic added a layer of thought provoking relativity for my own point of view. Can you imagine being thrust into the world of your favorite video game or anime, or book series? How do you think your pre existing assumptions and human condition would contrast with the new world unfolding around you…?
Of course my absolute favorite thing happens to be:
So other than having an engaging story, with great characters, and hilarious dialogue and banter- my favorite thing about “The Magicians” is the lore and the systems of magick. I’m a writer and long time avid reader of Fantasy, and one thing that can seriously be hit or miss in Fantasy literature, is how the Magick is portrayed (spoiler alert for my next article :3). Grossman does an excellent job of conveying laws of magic that are believable while still being grand in scope. What’s more is that the lessons our Characters learn in their classrooms feel real, and applicable similar to Patrick Rothfuss’s Kvothe Chronicles.
Grossman seems to borrow from Alchemical, Western Ceremonial magick, and laws of physics to create spells and rituals that seem plausible enough that any of us could grab the proper spell ingredients, do some tuts, and utter an incantation in sumerian- and BAM! instant levitation! The vivid imagination behind the spellwork also makes for some pretty intense battle magic scenes.
The TV series and final thoughts:
In 2015 SYFY launched a television series based on the books called- you guessed it: The Magicians. The series just started it’s 3rd season and is one of my favorite things to watch. While both versions of the story share elements from one another, the show is a different beast and deserves it’s own article (which i’ll probably write sometime soon) In the meantime if you want to check it out- the first two seasons are available in their entirety on Netflix. As for the Books- if you’re a fan of Fantasy, dark humor, Esoteric studies, or just a good story- I wholeheartedly recommend picking up these amazing books.