Picks and Pans Review: The Magicians

UPDATED 08/31/2009 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/31/2009 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Lev Grossman |

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Quentin Coldwater, the "nerdiest of the nerds" at his Brooklyn high school, is tapped to enroll at Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy, an exclusive, secret academy in upstate New York. There he befriends studious Alice, who shares his devotion to a series of fantasy novels they both read as kids, set in an alternate world called Fillory. Quentin and Alice eventually discover that Fillory is a real place, ruled by evil—and the rest of this somewhat familiar, albeit entertaining, story (Harry Potter, anyone?) involves their magical efforts to tame this malevolent force. Grossman's writing is intelligent, but don't give this one to the kids—it's a dark tale that suggests our childhood fantasies are no fun after all.

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