I noticed the Magicians back when I worked in the book store (I did do a review for the first book if you were curious about that before getting into this review), but the covers were bland and what everyone told me about just made it sound like Harry Potter version 2.0. So, I passed on it. Next came the show, and any new TV show that is moderately supernatural, I will try once. I watched the first episode and it was Harry Potter 2.0 but with sex. Months later when I gave the show a second try, I realized several episodes in that it was NOT Harry Potter.
Yes, they are both about magical schools that are hidden in the real world with cool ways to disguise themselves and work the system. They have “houses” the students are separated into. The houses in Harry Potter are based on personality traits, the houses in The Magicians are based on magic type. And they have their own cabins and rooms with other kids of their discipline. So in this aspect they are very similar. Even the schools are similar; Brakebills vs Hogwarts. Magical teachers, dangerous subjects, and magic based sports.
That’s about where the similarities end. Harry Potter was aimed at younger readers, and the characters -while wonderfully flawed, were still aimed at that young audience and reflected that. The Magicians, not so much. It’s characters are much darker (and I do believe a fair bit older, like late-teens), a little bit more relatable, and stuff happens with and to them that would have had Hogwarts shut down and under some kind of investigation. Like, Malfoy being turned into a ferret was a horrible thing, Quinn and company being turned into geese and foxes was just part of the curriculum.
Speaking of that curriculum, the magic systems in the two shows are wildly different. I compared Harry Potter to Harry Dresden, and their magic systems were dramatically different …The Magicians magic is closer to Harry Dresden magic, but also kind of it’s own thing. Instead of wands and pseudo-latin, it’s incantations and complicated hand movements. Plus, magic has “types” unlike either of the Harry’s where magic is magic. For example, Hermione can do any spell you throw at her, but her Magicians counterpart, Alice, specializes in a type of magic that bends light. She can go invisible and burn things down just by bending the light around her. Things like that.
When I started the first book of The Magicians, I could see character correlations, Quinn is Harry, Alice is Hermione …etcetera, etcetera. But, they basically take those characters and push them to the extreme. Harry is the chosen one, pretty good at what he does, not popular but no UNpopular …Quinn on the other hand: depressed, suicidal, in and out of mental institutions, no friends, makes no friends (even when he does make friends he feels more like he’s on the fringe of them), subpar at magic, and has no specialty in magic (in the show his specialty was “fixing small objects”, but as far as I’ve read in the series he doesn’t have a specialty). Hermione, super smart, gifted, kind, great family, kind of a dork …Alice, dear Alice, comes from a dysfunctional family, brother went insane on magic and died, she’s a bit stuck up because she knows she’s smarter and better than everyone, mousey, angry, kind of a dick. So in a way, the characters in Magicians felt more …real. I could relate to Quinn SO HARD to the point I cried a lot, hell, I cried in the TV show! I enjoyed Harry Potter, but I didn’t relate to anyone.
Both series are amazing, and on one hand I’m sad I didn’t read The Magicians earlier, but at the same time, I think I can appreciate it more now. Both series are amazing, but The Magicians is a little more heavy handed and weird …really weird. I would not recommend The Magicians for young readers, but I would recommend Harry Potter for all ages. Harry Potter seems to create an understanding of the world, media, external things like that, whereas The Magicians seems to focus on the internals like grief, depression, loneliness, so they are both important for different reasons. For a well rounded view, I recommend reading both series!