You've read Game of Thrones and Harry Potter, so you understand why one of the best feelings in the world is falling in love with a book and finding out that there are even more adventures to be had with the characters. It's like the stars are perfectly aligned and the library gods are smiling on you when you find a book that you're so completely obsessed with — and what?! There are sequels! It's almost overwhelming.
You exclaim, "I’M NOT A GOOD ENOUGH PERSON TO DESERVE SO MANY BOOKS." Or maybe that's just me. Anyway. I digress.
Lev Grossman’s Magicians Trilogy is this kind of series. From the moment a friend recommended it to me, I was a believer, a fanatic, a bang-on-your-door-and-rave-until-you-read-it-to-shut-me-up zealot. If you ever ask me for a book recommendation, The Magicians, the first novel in the series, is immediately what I suggest.
And apparently I’m not the only one. The third and final book in the trilogy just came out, and already The Magician’s Land is No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. So, now that you're intrigued, here are five very good — and kind of unexpected — reasons why the Magicians Trilogy are the fantasy books need in your life... circa now.
1. The series acknowledges its debt to Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia in the cheekiest possible ways
The Magicians series doesn’t just have similarities to Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia — it oh-so-lovingly rips them off at every opportunity. The Magicians introduces readers to an underdog male protagonist whose acceptance to the magical school of his dreams is one-upped only by becoming the king of Fillory, the enchanted world of his favorite childhood stories.
Are either of these things sounding familiar? It’s probably a pretty safe bet to assume that fans of The Magicians have read both Harry Potter and Narnia, and many would pick up on these allusions even if Lev Grossman didn’t make them as obvious as he does. But their obviousness is half of the book’s charm. Julia refers to her initial breakdown as “some kind of Harry Potter-induced hallucination” and Josh compares a popular Brakebills game to quidditch. This cheeky homage to the story’s inspiration is fun for readers, and it feels as though Grossman is letting us in on the joke.
2. It shows us what was really going down in the Hogwarts common rooms
Let’s get weird for a minute.
I was only 9 when the first Harry Potter book came out, so it’s safe to say that I didn’t pick up on any of the less child-friendly elephants in the common room until around the third or fourth book — as ma have been the case for you, too. But as Harry and I both started going through puberty, I began to wonder: Why in the world would any school think it was a good idea to have a bunch of wizards and witches living together during some of their most hormonal years? What kind of freaky magic sex stuff was happening behind closed doors?
J.K. Rowling refused to tell me. Luckily, Lev Grossman has no such qualms. His characters drink, swear like sailors, and sleep with anything that moves. A particularly memorable scene involves the students being turned into foxes before finding themselves in the middle of an orgy. Think Harry Potter if it was rated R instead of PG.
3. The characters are so unlikable that they’re lovable
There is not a single character in The Magicians series that is entirely likable. In fact, you could argue that the entire series is filled with terrible characters with very few redeeming qualities. Elliot’s a drunk, Janet’s annoying, and God only knows the right word to describe Julia. Even Quentin, our protagonist and supposedly our hero, is incredibly whiny and kind of a dick. But go with me here.
This actually works in the novel's favor. Fantasy novels can sometimes seem too black-and-white, and the good-vs.-evil plot can get old, quick. In The Magicians, however, moral ambiguity is taken to such an extreme that even considering issues of morality seems passé and unnecessary. Calling the main characters “good guys” might stretch our concept of what “good” and “heroic” means, but it also challenges our preconceived notions of what good and bad really are. In a novel full of boarder line anti-heroes, it’s hard to tell sometimes who we should and shouldn’t be rooting for.
4. SHIT. GETS. REAL.
It’s not all sex and magic in The Magicians. There are moments of incredible violence that are all the more shocking when juxtaposed with the joking tone of much of the novel. These horrifying moments aren’t reserved for minor characters, leaving our leads intact. Penny suffers a brutal injury in the first book, Benedict is left behind to die, and Julia’s rape continued to disturb me well after I put the book down. The Magicians aims to be a gritty version of our favorite YA fantasy novels, and it never once shies away from making us confront its dark underbelly. We are forced to acknowledge that magic and adventure in the novel come at a steep price, and if we want to experience it we have to be willing to pay.
5. Lev Grossman doesn’t care about your feelings
You know how Game of Thrones fans live in constant fear of finding out that their favorite character has ended up on the chopping block? And how George R.R. Martin seems to almost take vindictive pleasure out of making it clear that happy endings aren’t on his agenda? Well, Lev Grossman seems to be taking a page out of his book.
The ending of the first left me upset, but the ending of the second devastated me. And with multiple years between the second and the third, I had almost come to accept that Grossman was just going to refuse to give Quentin a happy ending. Add a couple of fan favorites who are gleefully slaughtered throughout the series, and reading The Magicians sometimes seems to appeal to the masochist inside me.
Images: Viking; Giphy (5)