Quentin is a high school senior who has done quite well academically, is a bit of a geek, and a fan of a series of fantasy books set in a place called Fillory. Fillory sounds a bit like Narnia or Oz, a family of children spend several volumes going there via wardrobes and other magic entrances and fulfilling modest quests. Quentin, struggling toward adulthood wishes that Fillory were real. He and his friend James have an appointment to meet with an elderly gent for a Princeton interview. When they arrive he is dead. The EMT at the scene hands Quentin an envelope which leads him to another type of college entirely, Brakebills, a magic college that exists unseen in upstate New York.
A large part of the book is spent on Quentin’s education at Brakebills. Quentin and his friends are not charmingly like Harry Potter and his pals, and Brakebills is rather dull compared to Hogwarts, but hey, it is college, the fun’s over right? A few interesting things happen during his tenure at Brakebills, primarily near the end. The pace is uneven, and I found myself putting the book down numerous times. Quentin is also another hero who isn’t much of a hero. Not an anti-hero, just a self-indulgent whiner, with little interest in anything but himself. At Brakebills he makes a few friends, becomes part of a group called the Physical Kids, bonding with a small group of fellow students. Magical curriculum isn’t all that interesting, until his last year, when all the magic learned is finally put to the test,
Eventually Quentin and his friends graduate, and it looks like they’re going to spend their 20’s drinking and pissing each other off, until they are finally given the opportunity to exercise some magic. A classmate comes back with a magic button that can take them to the Neitherlands, the jumping off point to Fillory. To their surprise Fillory is real. At this point the book picks up and is pretty interesting. Needless to say, the real Fillory is quite a bit different from the one described in the books, and the Physical kids have their hands full when they discover the secret that the books hadn’t revealed.
After I finished reading the book, I read a review of The Magician King, the sequel to The Magicians. According to the reviewer it is better than the first book, and this book left me satisfied enough to consider giving it a try. This book was an uneven read, I wasn’t fully satisfied, but there were enough interesting developments to keep me reading to the end.