Teaser Tuesday: “The Magicians”

So this week I was reading The Magicians, by Lev Grossman, AKA This Is Not A Harry Potter Book Even Though It’s About a College of Magic and References Quidditch.

These are not Ents. Or are they?

The premise of The Magicians is, basically, that there’s a parallel world of wizards magicians who live in and among us muggles regular folk, and that these magicians do, of course, require training; and thus the main character, Harry Potter Quentin, who turns out to have some magical ability, stumbles onto the campus of Hogwarts Brakebills, a college of magic somewhere in “upstate” New York (i.e., the Hudson Valley, which any New Yorker who is not from the City or the Island—and if you’re from New York, you know which City and Island I mean—will tell you is downstate, not upstate) while chasing an important scrap of paper that the wind picked up and blew down Diagon Alley just a regular alley. There he takes an exam, gets admitted to the school, gets sorted into a House Discipline, and proceeds to learn how to cast spells.

I’m teasing this book a little by putting in all the struck-out Harry Potter references, not least because the book itself makes references to that universe, e.g., one character derisively refers to a local magical sport as “Quidditch“, asks another character if they can get hold of a time-turner and jokingly asks them to send him an owl if they do, and, eventually, Hermione Granger even gets a specific name-check; but, really, basic premise aside, it’s not anything like Harry Potter. For one thing, people swear. For a second thing, people have sex. For a third thing, there’s not really anything whimsical about it; no wands, no pointy hats, no chosen one (as far as I can tell), no effortless acquisition of power. Also, nobody carries a wand. Well, except for that one guy.

Then the dour facade descended again, and he went back to his silent brooding. He carried a wand, which almost nobody at Brakebills did. It was considered slightly embarrassing, like training wheels, or a marital aid.

Lev Grossman, The Magicians

I’ve had this book on my device waiting to be read for about, oh, three years now, but finally got going on it because I think we’re going to start watching the show on Netflix, and I usually like to read the books before I watch the adaptation, so that I can be properly critical of it (cf. the original The Golden Compass movie, which I hated*, or the Stardust movie, which I thought about as good as the book**, albeit different, or the Watchmen film, which I thought improved on the comic in some ways***). But that was before we started watching Mad Men**** on AMC, which my wife is now hooked on, and keeps watching, despite her being horrified at the casual misogyny and mistreatment of women:

Wife: “This show is really hard to watch. It makes me really uncomfortable.”
Me: “Do you want to find something else?”
Wife: “No, it’s really good. The period clothes and everything are interesting. I was just hoping there would be a character I could like.”

Speaking of things full of unlikeable characters, this week, the Gods of Randomness decreed that the Teaser Tuesday from one of my books should come from A Flock of Crows is Called a Murder, AKA The One With the Really Long Title. And as it happens, the Gods of Randomness chose a scene very close to the one I used for the inside front cover in the revised edition, that being the one I reissued on my own after my original publisher, DarkTales, went belly-up:

The chorus of crows suddenly halted and somehow he knew, without having to look, that they were gone.  An instant later he heard a very loud motor start up somewhere nearby; seconds later it changed pitch and was joined by a persistent beep, like the sound a dump truck made when it backed up.

As Nick tried to figure out where all this noise was coming from, he realized that his hands were doing something.

They were loading the bullets into his gun.

In addition to changing the inside front cover, in this edition, I also put back the epilogue, which had been cut by my editor for the sake of length, although everyone***** agrees that the book is better with the epilogue attached. In fact, now that the one in Crows has been restored, all of my books have one.

After all, you need that last little bit of text that ties everything together, right?

* This is as opposed to the HBO series His Dark Materials, which is fantastic.
** You can’t go too far wrong with Claire Danes as a fallen star and Michelle Pfeiffer as a witch and Robert DeNiro as the cross-dressing captain of a flying pirate ship.
*** Don’t tell Alan Moore. No, seriously. He would hunt me down.
**** I know, I know, late to the party again. At least watching Mad Men 14 years after it premiered allowed me to go, “Hey, isn’t that Alison Brie?”
***** “Everyone” being me and my dad.

5 thoughts on “Teaser Tuesday: “The Magicians”

  1. As one who actually lives in “Upstate New York” it’s irritating how everyone thinks that anything beyond “The City” must be upstate. That book sounds like such a rip off of Harry Potter. It will be interesting to hear what you think of the show.


    1. Oh it gets even worse ― later on they’re apparently in a town near Buffalo, since part of their little band drives to Buffalo for supplies, and later on they watch the sun set over the Adirondack mountains, which (a) can’t possibly be seen from Buffalo and (b) are east of Buffalo, so even if you could see them from there, you wouldn’t see the sun setting over them. 😬 Still, despite irritating me with its geographical inaccuracies, overall I did like the book. And rumor has it that the show is an improvement!


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