The Magicians TV Series – My Impressions so Far

The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman is in the fortunate and unfortunate situation of being labelled as “Harry Potter” and “The Chronicles of Narnia” for adults. On the one hand, it’s an honor to have one’s works compared to J.K. Rowling’s and C.S. Lewis’s. On the other hand, how dare fans of Lev Grossman say his works even come close to being as good as “Harry Potter” or “The Chronicles of Narnia!”

This is conflict is one of the reasons why I haven’t gotten around to reading “The Magicians,” the first book in Lev Grossman’s trilogy, yet—aside from being a really busy person, and having a never ending  reading list. However, that didn’t stop me from watching the television series by Syfy. Truly, it’s much easier to watch television shows than read books.

“The Magicians” follows the story of Quentin Coldwater, who discovers that magic is real and that he is capable of doing magic. He mysteriously finds himself  at Brakebills University. He aces the university’s entrance exam and is accepted into the university of magic.

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The TV series also follows a young woman named Julia Wickers, who was Quentin’s childhood best friend. She also takes the Brakebills entrance exam at the same time Quentin does. Unfortunately, she fails.

Right before magic was revealed as real, Quentin and Julia were about to embark on different paths in life. Both of  them loved the Fillory books, a fantasy series for children, when they were young. Julia was ready to leave her childhood fantasies behind. She was applying for Harvard, and was ready to take on the real world. Meanwhile, Quentin was stuck in a rut. He couldn’t get over the Fillory novels and was diagnosed clinically depressed as a result of this. It turns out he wasn’t crazy after all.

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Quentin, Julia, and the other examinees nervously submit answers to their Brakebills University written exams. Source: 1

After taking the Brakebills exam, their situations are reversed. Quentin is no longer depressed. He is studying in the university of his dreams. Only now, his dreams are real. After a failed attempt by the Brakebills administration to erase her memory, Julia is distraught. Now that she knows magic is real, she can’t just let it go. Magic is her drug.

Before she completely goes insane from her magic additction, Julia is recruited by a group of hedge witches led by Marina Andrieski. It turns out Julia can do magic and she’s apparently a very powerful magician. That begs the question of why she wasn’t accepted into the Brakebills in the first place? So we have Quentin, learning magic the “traditional” way at university, and Julia self-learning magic along with a group of hedge witches.

And this barely even scratches the surface of everything that happens in Syfy’s adaptation of “The Magicians.”

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From left: Alice Quinn, Quentin Coldwater, and Eliot Waugh. Source: 1

One of the best things about “The Magicians” is its cast of characters. Every person is Quentin’s and Julia’s story seems interesting in his or her own way. Quentin’s friends include Alice Quinn, an intelligent book-sexy magician obsessed with figuring out how her brother died. Penny Adyoni is a badass pantie whisperer who can teleport anywhere, physically or through astral projection.

Eliot Waugh is an openly gay character. He is also a kind of student-mentor to the freshmen and an extremely powerful magician. Eliot’s best friend Margo Hanson is the most delightfully mean girly character ever. And those are just some of Quentin’s closest companions at Brakebills.

Julia’s mentor Marina Andrieski was kicked out of Brakebills months shy of graduating. Her memories were successfully erased. She is an extremely powerful magician with no qualms about killing anyone who gets in her way.

Syfy’s “The Magicians” is definitely for adults. Firstly, it has booze, drugs, sex, and violence aplenty. When things get violent in is show, they get really violent. And it’s these moments of physical and magical bone breaking, eyeball gouging, blood vomiting, and face popping (among other things) violence that are the most shocking and sometimes disturbing moments of the show.

The TV series’s ability to unveil completely surprising yet entirely plausible twists and surprises when you least expect it to is one of the reasons why it’s so exciting to watch. There’s no hand-holding for the characters in and viewers of this show. Brakebills is no safe haven where you can learn magic safely under the tutelage of expert magicians. I mean the Brakebills equivalent of Dumbledore got his wrists snapped broken and eyes magically squished in the shows first episodes. Talk about scary!

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From left: Marina Andrieski and Julia Wickers. Source: 1

So, if others want to say “The Magicians” is “Harry Potter” for adults because of Brakebills being a school of magic. Fine. But there are so many other fantasy books with their own schools of magic. Quentin maybe the chosen one, like Harry Potter was “the boy who lived,” but I wouldn’t be surprised if Quentin just dies at the end of season one.

Yes, Jane Chatwin from the Fillory books enters the world of Fillory through a wardrobe. Oh my gosh! What a “Chronicles of Narnia” rip-off. Unfortunately, the similarities between the two books seems to end there. Fillory isn’t some magical world filled with rainbows and unicorns.

“The Magicians” is for adults. It is serious, dark, and filled with real world magic and the real world consequences of using magic. It’s probably the grittiest and most realistic fantasy series I’ve ever watched, and I’m loving it. If the books are better than the series, I’m moving them to the top of my reading list immediately.

Coffee Bean and Tea Reads Rating:

5 Beans out of 5
5 out of 5 beans
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The Allow of Law by Brandon Sanderson – Book Review

Title: The Alloy of Law
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Release Date: November 8th 2011
Publisher: Tor Books
Series: Mistborn #4

I wanted to move away from static places, where millennia would pass and technology would never change. The plan then was for a second epic trilogy set in an urban era, and a third trilogy set in a futuristic era—with Allomancy, Feruchemy, and Hemalurgy being the common threads that tied them together.

These were the words of Brandon Sanderson in his acknowledgements to The Allow of Law, a prequel to his steampunk-era trilogy of Mistborn novels. If this novel is a taste of what’s to come in the next Mistborn trilogy, I am confident in Sanderson’s ability to set his fantasy novels in steampunk, urban, and futuristic times.

Perhaps we’ll see Mistborn robots and cyborgs, or maybe a Magneto-like character with control over metals. But how will that affect the line between fantasy and science-fiction?

But, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

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The Alloy of Law is lighthearted, action-packed addition to the Mistborn series. I recommend that you read the first Mistborn trilogy before reading this novel, as the latter glosses over much of the exposition on the workings of Allomancy, Feruchemy, and Hemalurgy. There are also references to past books that may confuse new readers.

What works best in this novel is the comedic banter between lead characters Wax and Wayne (even their names sound funny when said together). Their friendship reminds me a lot of the camaraderie between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Also welcome is the star-crossed attraction between Wax and Lady Marasi.

“That hat looks ridiculous.”
“Fortunately, I can change hats,” Wayne said, “while you, sir, are stuck with that face.” – Brandon Sanderson, The Alloy of Law

The huge dose of humor in this novel is a welcome break from the doom and gloom seriousness of the last one. But I can already see undertones of a much deeper story that will surely develop in the upcoming trilogy.

The Alloy of Law features a different kind of action compared to the first trilogy. At first, I found myself nostalgic for the swords, knives, staves, shields, and horseshoes. But I found myself getting used to all the guns and brawling after a couple of battle scenes.

I think Brandon Sanderson has much room to explore regarding how his magic system can work with gunpowder weapons—perhaps including the ability to influence the movement of bullets mid-flight—and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with in future novels.

The mark of a great man is one who knows when to set aside the important things in order to accomplish the vital ones. – Brandon Sanderson, The Alloy of Law

Miles is a very powerful antagonist, but I would have preferred an opponent who isn’t invulnerable. His healing powers reminded me too much of Wolverine, who I think is one of the most overrated and overpowered X-Men. I would have preferred a battle among equals rather than an underdog outsmarting his opponent and winning in the end.

Nevertheless, I think this novel is a fine addition to the Mistborn series, and I’m very much looking forward to reading the next one.

Coffee Bean and Tea Reads Rating:

4 out of 5 beans

4 Beans

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen – Book Review

Title: The Queen of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Release Date: July 8th 2014
Publisher: Harper
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #1

Here’s an strong recommendation, from one reader to another, read completely the lengthy Goodreads synopsis of The Queen of The Tearling by Erika Johansen before you begin reading the book itself.

It explains a lot about the story’s setting and core elements, which I had only the vaguest understanding of throughout reading the novel. Some early reviewers who didn’t have the benefit of this synopsis complained about the book’s unclear setting and abundance of superfluous details. With the synopsis, the setting is clear enough, the details welcome additions (instead of failures to clarify the setting).

Even a book can be dangerous in the wrong hands, and when that happens, you blame the hands, but you also read the book. – Erika Johansen – Queen of the Tearling

Early on, the book was promoted as the next The Hunger Games or The Game of Thrones. Though The Queen of the Tearling is vastly different from either fiction series, I enjoyed reading it. I read an e-book version. Later on, I was surprised to discover the novel’s print version was over 700 pages long.

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The Queen of the Tearling is not your typical fantasy novel. It does not have as much political intrigue as The Game of Thrones, as much action as The Hunger Games, nor as much romance or magic as The Throne of Glass—though it does have a sprinkle of everything. What it does have is a solid coming of age story.

Kelsea Raleigh must quickly learn how to become queen despite knowing so little of her past, her kingdom, and the magical powers of the Sapphire that is her birthright. Kelsea is a pillar of righteousness, representative of an ideal queen. She immediately asserts herself as an enemy of corrupt nobles and a champion of the poor. But is this really a good thing?

The mark of the true hero is that the most heroic of his deeds is done in secret. We never hear of it. And yet somehow, my friends, we know. —Father Tyler’s Collected Sermons, FROM THE ARVATH ARCHIVE Erika Johansen, Queen of the Tearling

By openly challenging her uncle, she risks assassination. By stopping the shipment of human slaves to the Red Queen of Mortmesne, Kelsea puts her whole kingdom in peril. She keeps making all these righteous yet rash decisions seemingly without considering the dire consequences of her actions. I look forward to reading how she will deal with the insurmountable challenges that she will soon face in the novel’s sequel.

Kelsea may seem annoyingly naïve at first, but I am quite fond of her being a genuinely good person. She is also very normal—not an extremely beautiful lady, shrewd politician, skilled warrior, or powerful mage. In fact, it is her being genuine and ordinary that make such an interesting character.

We don’t always choose, Majesty. We simply make the best choices we can once the deed is done. – Erika Johansen, Queen of the Tearling

My biggest issue with The Queen of the Tearling is how I still ended up lost and confused after reading the novel, despite the aid of the long synopsis. There are just too many mysteries and secrets that remain after the first book in this trilogy. However, I do look forward to reading the remaining two books, partly because Emma Watson has signed-on to play Kelsea in an upcoming movie adaptation of the trilogy.

Coffee Bean and Tea Reads Rating:

4 out of 5 beans

4 Beans