16 October 2018
Magic and fantasy are popular themes in entertainment right now, because they help an individual escape reality and vicariously live in another world.
“The Magicians” by Lev Grossman as a series is undoubtedly one of the best written fiction works that I have ever read. The series is most distinct in the fact that the excellence of the storyline carries from print to television.
The fantastic trilogy is an eccentric combination of The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter and, uniquely, theoretical math and physics. For the adult that grew up on those fantastical books, The Magicians combines the whimsy of C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling with the crushing realism of adulthood to create a believable escape into a world where magic and mania coexist in evocative discord.
I listened to the series on audiobook while working an assembly line and only needed to keep my mind from wandering. I deeply sympathized with the characters’ desire for something more and magical. Perhaps the fact that I listened to them colors my perception of how rich the writing was, but I digress.
The book follows Quentin Coldwater, high school student from New York whose constant disappointment with the world ensures his misery despite excellence academically. When Quentin discovers that he can do magic – real magic like what exists in his favorite childhood series, “Fillory and Further” – he is ecstatic. Soon however, he learns that magic is not what it seems.
While enrolled in Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy, he learns that magic is fussy. It can have unexpected consequences like a harmless prank resulting in a six fingered beast from another world appearing in his classroom and chomping off the head of his classmate whole. And magic still can’t fix the feelings of aimlessness that plague him and his new friends, Alice, Josh, Elliot, Janet and Penny.
Then one day, Fillory calls.
The Magicians television series is currently in production for season four. The series stays true to the books up until about the third episode, but both the books and the television series are rich in their imagination as well as their realism and poignant storytelling. Moreover, as both a reader of the books and watcher of the series, entertainment is attainable with or without using the other.
There are of course a few marked differences from the books to the television series. Most significantly, in the television series, Quentin and his friends are graduate students. It also has much more emphasis on the events outside of the academic drudgery within the books.
There is, however, a significant benefit to transitioning to television. Those having a difficult time visualizing the complexity of magic that Grossman describes is made tangible, especially the complex hand gestures and finger positions that are required for casting. The amount of work that goes into these movements, called finger tutting is, according to producers, on par with full body choreography and script writing.
While I don’t claim to be an authoritative voice on representation within media, “The Magicians” is well representative of minorities, including LGBTQ, the deaf, blind and many others, whether explicitly or through allusions. Female empowerment and recovery from trauma and mental illness is also strongly featured in series, which as a woman with mental health issues, I deeply appreciate and think others do too.
Whether you want to feel less alone, want to escape or just want a good laugh or cry, The Magicians is sure to satisfy and poses the question of if magic really make life easier.
The Magicians Season Four will premiere on SyFy in early 2019. Reader and viewer discretion advised. “The process of learning is a nonstop orgy of wonderment.”