“Endgame” — Lev Grossman

Lev Grossman is the author of three novels: Warp, Codex, and The Magicians. He is also a world-renowned critic and technology writer, having been published in such venues as The New York Times, Salon.com, Entertainment Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, and The Village Voice. He is also the long-time book reviewer for Time Magazine. He is currently working on a sequel to The Magicians, which is due out in 2011. Learn more at levgrossman.com.

Grossman’s recent novel The Magicians takes a jaded look at magical tales in the Harry Potter/Narnia mode. Grossman’s protagonist Quentin Coldwater is a shy, bright high school senior with an interest in fantasy novels and stage magic who one day finds himself transported to a secretive magical academy called Brakebills. But this is no delightful voyage of wonder and discovery. Magic, it turns out, is mind-numbingly tedious to learn, and what do you do with your life after you graduate? The instructors at Brakebills are unhinged and often callous, and getting along with the other students is as painful and complicated as in the real world. Finally Quentin begins to believe that he can find a way into a real fantasy world—one full of quests and talking animals—but that doesn’t exactly go according to plan either.

George R.R. Martin says, “The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea.” Our next tale is set in the same universe as The Magicians, and shows what some young wizards get up to when they’re done with studying.