Plenty of grownups like to read youth-oriented fantasy and sci-fi. Plenty of grownups like to read, ahem, <i>adult</i> fantasy and sci-fi. But The Magicians, by Lev Grossman, is a different sort of beast. It’s a novel about a young man who’s a fan of a children’s fantasy book. He’s always suspected there’s something special and different about him.
And of course, there is, and magic is real, etc. etc.
So, the first thing he does is throw over all his old non-magical-world friends, go off to special magic college, hang out with a really pretentious clique, and try to impress chicks with magic.
Grossman brings a metafictional flair and a wry humor to the treatment of how actual people would handle magic if it were real, and how the worlds we imagine to be fictional would behave if they weren’t novels, but actual worlds. Oh, you think you’re a hero? Everyone wants to be the hero in their own story. You might not be. Oh, you’ve found your one true love? You’re still an idiot twentysomething and you’re going to wreck that relationship by hooking up with a girl who’s just toying with you out of boredom.
There’s a reason George R. R. Martin blurbs this book – like Game of Thrones, it subverts the conventions of the genre, and creates something entirely different. It’s not as violent or explicit as Martin’s work, but it’s very much a novel for adults who were raised on children’s fantasies and want a grownup, more nuanced tale with deeper themes than “heroism = awesome.”