Modern Magic Casts A Spell

While at a meeting last week a colleague of mine (thanks, Wes!) put me on to Lev Grossman’s The Magicians.   Much more than a Harry Potter redux, Mr. Grossman’s novel smoothly represents the urban fantasy genre with characters who feel very real.

A couple of years ago I did a Potter-centric post on this blog, and also touched on a few other popular urban fantasy writers.  Back in that post I neglected to mention one of my favorite urban magic tales, Clive Barker’s ImajicaLike Grossman, Mr. Barker presents smart characters who retain their verisimilitude even when placed in the most exotic fantasy locales.  While Grossman and Barker do not really fall into the “Young Adult” category of this genre, the Yalsa Hub’s definition of it fits both of them nicely:

Urban fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy. For a novel to be an urban
fantasy, fantastical elements exist in an urban setting. However, this
can be a broad interpretation. Really, an urban fantasy is such where
fantastical elements are in play in a real-world setting and not in a
fantastical world.

You can also find these elements at play in Bill Willingham’s wildly successful graphic novel series, FablesAlthough it clocks in at around 400 pages, The Magicians presents an easy read, and could be an excellent entry point into urban fantasy stories for someone looking for a new genre to explore.



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15 responses to “Modern Magic Casts A Spell

  1. I love that the typical protagonist in a fantasy story knows who s/he is (the hero of a fabled quest, the Chosen One) and what their Purpose is (to complete aforementioned Quest, and usually to save the world), and that Quentin knows absolutely none of that. He’s certain of nothing. And he’s not stalwart and true! (I certainly don’t want him to be my boyfriend). He’s flawed, but not in an adorable, excusable way. It makes his character and his tale unique.

    He finds out that magic exists, that the dreamlike place from his favorite childhood books really exists (and he gets to go to it!) — but life is still life. Real life. It still doesn’t have clear Meaning and Quentin has to struggle to make meaning and to assign value. “The Magicians” is not just fantasy; it’s *postmodern* fantasy and it’s brilliant.

  2. Linda

    On a fun note, relating to The Magicians, there are websites for Christopher Plover, the ‘author’ of the Fillory books:
    and one for Brakebill’s:

  3. carmenaidacreates

    Now, you have to read the next one by L. Grossman, The Magician King. Also, try “Pure,” by Juianna Baggott. I’d be interested to know how you like her. I really enjoyed her use of language and description. / – Great blog! Carmen Aida

  4. Lori

    Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud is awesome and is always at the top of my list.

  5. sureasmel

    My favorite part of this book was that is was an absolute send-up of the fantasy genre as a whole. Grossman mocks Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and everything in between while at the same time paying subtle homage to the fantasy masters that came before him. It made for a fun read.

    • Grossman does possess that ability slyly admonish without full-on attacking. That’s why the stuff reads so well!

      • sureasmel

        His joke about the Quidditch robes had me rolling on the floor. He’s obviously aware of the similarities and not afraid to make fun of himself or anyone else; I appreciate that in a writer.

  6. Pingback: Walking Between Worlds | Eleventh Stack

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