The Magicians: Book vs. Show

It’s rare that I say this, but it does happen occasionally. I liked the adaptation of the novel more than the actual novel. Yep, I said it.

Sometimes an author has a great idea, but it just wasn’t executed right and it took a different medium to get the story across in the right way. I think Syfy’s television adaptation of The Magicians, though carrying its own set of flaws, condenses the novel by Lev Grossman in all the right ways.

My issues with The Magicians novel can be placed into a few categories: pacing, word usage, and action.

The novel takes places over a span of four to five years, in which not much happens. This is changed drastically in the show’s first season, which takes place over the course of one year. The show consolidates the exciting elements of the first novel, as well as some from the sequel, to fill out an otherwise somewhat lacking storyline.

magiciansWhile I found the story intriguing, reminding me of the days in which I would pour over the Harry Potter series, it always felt as though something were missing from this plot. Grossman presents a magical world finally attainable for those who never received their Hogwarts acceptance letters on their eleventh birthdays as long as you’re under the age of eighteen. This magical college seems to promise adventure and the learning of witchcraft, but never quite feels all that magical.

The lack of magic and seeming lack of action in this novel seems to be one of the morals or takeaways though. That the world, even with magic, isn’t so magical. It’s a thought-provoking takeaway, but one that may be disappointing to those reading this book because it’s been labeled “an adult Harry Potter.” Grossman intends to leave readers with this existential dread that is commonly felt after, and often during, those precious college years. He applies it smartly to this story, which kind of makes up for the my feeling that nothing much happened in the book. Because nothing much was supposed to happen.

That thought-provoking existentiality seems mostly lost within the television adaptation though. But it was more entertaining. A little bit more of the gritty, adult Harry Potter and Narnia I had been craving even if that wasn’t the original intention of the author. It brings both of these to the forefront and truly enraptures you in the story, using stunning visual effects that I don’t always expect from Syfy TV shows. But alas, it’s a Syfy TV show and it feels like one. Maybe it’s the acting or writing, but it all just feels like a Syfy TV show if you know what I mean. Like when a good show on the CW network just can’t escape the fact that it just feels like a CW show. 

I can’t be sure how much of the series was incorporated in this first season after only having read the first book, but I like the story enough to want to read more. I just might stick with the show and cast the novels aside.