Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy: The Magicians (2009), The Magician King (2011), and The Magician’s Land (2014) has been described as ‘Harry Potter’ for adults, which is in some ways accurate. Grossman takes a lot of the standard children’s fantasy tropes – the boarding school for magicians, the ‘chosen and special outsider’, the magical kingdom, flashy magic, the band of adventurers and others – and deals with issues ignored in standard fantasy.

The ethics of power deal largely here, the violence that a magic user can inflict with impunity, the sexual current running underneath, the simple and corrosive boredom of being able to get whatever you want with the wave of your hand.

His central characters are not necessarily nice people and magic does not make them better. The relationships between them are realistic and complex. The gods and spirits are selfish and often crude because power alone is not ethical. The magical kingdom is a feudal and exploitative mess, allowing Grossman’s work to explore ethics and power, sexuality, sexism, and class – a great read, and highly recommended.  

~review by Samuel Wagar

Author: Lev Grossman
Penguin Books, 2009, 2011, 2014
Paperback boxed set £41 / $69 Can / $ US 51