LEV GROSSMAN'S THE MAGICIANS asks a few simple questions: What if butterbeer got you drunk? What if Lavender Brown actually put out? What if the world in which Harry Potter discovered his wizarding skills looked a little more like the world in which we actually live? Riffing on the works of JK Rowling and CS Lewis (to whom Grossman freely tips his hat), The Magicians splices together the mythology of both Hogwarts and Narnia, retaining the magic but rejecting those series' quaint, otherworldly patina in favor of a grittier, sexier, boozier approach.

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Boy genius Quentin is on his way to an interview for Princeton when he is abruptly recruited by a mysterious college called Brakebills, which proves to be a trade school for young magicians. As Quentin spends four years honing his magic skills, The Magicians ponders a problem the Harry Potter books never did: What gives a magician's life meaning when there are no enemies to defeat?

The Magicians covers too much ground, cramming four years of school plus post-grad adventuring into one volume—it could have been comfortably unpacked in a few more books. But Quentin and his friends are sound characters, and The Magicians appealingly toggles between genres in a manner that will please fans of YA, fantasy, and gay English boarding school novels. Check blogtown.portlandmercury.com on Friday, June 11, for our interview with Grossman, who is currently touring in support of The Magicians' paperback release.

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