The Magicians: Alice’s Story by Lilah Sturges and Lev Grossman. Review

The Magicians: Alice’s Story by Lilah Sturges, Lev Grossman (Creator) and Pius Bak (Illustrator)

BOOM! – Archaia, ebook, £15.35

Reviewed by Sarah Deeming

Alice Quinn strives hard to be the best. She is magically very powerful, ahead of her age group and capable of adapting to any situation. She attends Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy where she witnesses a terrifying creature from another dimension murder a fellow student in her class. After graduation, Alice wants more from her life than using magic for her own gains, she wants to make a difference. She is soon given the chance when another student who dropped out of school offers her the chance to find the magical world of Fillory, a place she had believed only existed in the pages of her favourite childhood story. But the best stories are based on an element of truth, and Fillory is real, just not as it was in the stories. There is a darkness there and Alice must overcome all of her fears and anxieties to find her true calling and save her friends.

This is the first book of The Magician’s trilogy in graphic novel format and it combines a fresh point of view with the source to give us a new familiar story. This is an interesting perspective to take and Alice is an immediately accessible character, suffering from the need to prove herself after the death of her brother, and social anxiety. She goes through all the highs and lows of being away at college or university including navigating sexual relationships and superior bullies, but with the added threat that if she doesn’t master magic, then it can cost her her life.

Running through is the theme of comparing real life to an imaginary one Fillory. As Alice grows, she realises that Fillory is unsatisfying and so she realises her own life is unsatisfying. She doesn’t want endless empty parties, all her needs catered for by magic. She wants to prove herself. She sees the good in her boyfriend, Quentin, when his actions show him as shallow and self-centred.

There are some changes from the TV series, if that’s the angle bringing you to the graphic novel, physical appearances of the characters for example, but that shouldn’t stop you enjoying the story if you’re a fan. It does start a little slowly, setting the scene and building up to the death of a student which sets the characters on this path to find Fillory. From there, the action is interspersed with developments in the relationship between Alice and Quentin as they self-destruct in such a realistic manner that I’m sure most of us will identify with them.

With so much focus on Alice, some of the other characters, such as Janet, don’t have the same character development as the books and TV series, but then you can’t have everything with such an in-depth study of one character. What we lose in the other characters, we gain in a greater understanding of Alice’s courage.

The artwork is simplistic in a positive way. Because of its heritage, they could have gone overboard in recreating this much-loved fictional world. Instead, we have enough detail for place setting and concentrates on the emotions of the characters. The panels where Alice and Quentin are at odds are charged with their pain and suffering caused by their own actions, or inactions.

An interesting read, definitely worth getting if you’re a fan of the series already, and if not, this is the start you need to get into it.