We’ve done it! My generation has declared themselves to be magical to the literary world. Harry Potter is all grown up now, and so are we. Books, TV shows, and movies about magic are no longer just for kids and basement-dwelling dorks.
My generation, love us or hate us, is changing America in crazy ways. Many of us are parents now, which means that the future is being sculpted by us. Record numbers of us, though, aren’t parents. We, more than ever, are not reproducing. For this reason, instead of getting our fantasy fix from reading our kids bedtime stories, we’re still seeking it out for ourselves.
This phenomenon is the reason we’re flooded with Marvel and DC movies, 50 Shades of Grey, and Game of Thrones, and it’s why extremely grateful readers such as myself now have awesome choices for books that appeal us at our current life stages as the fantasy genre has become acceptable.
I just finished listening to The Magicians and the two subsequent audiobooks, The Magician King and The Magician’s Land, and, in my opinion, these books perfectly illustrate our generation’s love for magic as we progress further into adulthood.
Don’t worry, there will be no spoilers. I highly recommend this book series and it’s TV show.
Quentin Coldwater, our protagonist, grew up, as we did, loving a particular book series based on The Chronicles of Narnia, and is just faced with entering adulthood and leaving such childish things behind when he discovers that magic is real. 18 year old Quentin is as punchable as any other teenager, yet the vibrant cast of characters more than make up for this constant frustration.
This is our first foray into a magic book for adults: realism. Harry Potter is a pretty bland kid, which allows every real kid in the universe to relate to him, but he’s not the one you love. You like Hermione or the Weasley Twins or even Snape. They’re all compelling, while Harry, though likeable, is so amazingly typical of his own age. Quentin has the quintessential characteristics of his age, like Harry does, but he lacks the charm and overall good-heartedness of his pre-pubescent predecessor, which gives the reader the same cringe-worthy feeling they get when they remember how annoying they were at that age.
Somehow, this series also makes magic feel realistic. Thirty-somethings such as myself just can’t buy into the fact that children can make things happen as long as they know a butchered Latin phrase. We’re all inundated daily with the reality that nothing in life is free or easy, so the rigorous magic training at Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy is much more satisfying. The characters reference Harry Potter often in order to remind each other and the reader that this magic isn’t cute; it’s difficult and it has real, deadly, often interdemensional consequences.
The real charm of this series is that it faces life just like an adult does. Throughout the first book, for example, Quentin deals with disillusionment at every turn. Constantly feeling like the world must have more to offer, Quentin attacks each new magical revelation with the fervor any Harry Potter nerd would, thinking that each new situation would be the solution to his angst. Each time, however, he’s faced with the reality that his issues are inside himself, not the world. Magical escapism for adults can’t ignore such truths; if they did, they wouldn’t have the emotional complexity to hold the attention of somebody with bills to pay and paperwork to do.
Quentin starts the series way too immature to function in the world, and though he grows up to be a flawed individual, he becomes incredibly well-rounded, and even becomes likeable, taking the reader through the self-esteem journey that our twenties typified.
There’s no lack of wonder in the magical world(s) that Quentin experiences, though. Fantasy narrated with the aloofness of a college snob is still fantastic, especially when said brat is as in love with magic as the readers are. Ultimately, the series’s lack of innocence makes it better for a more jaded audience. It’s still no Harry Potter, but nothing ever will be.