By Jeff Giles
Updated August 07, 2009 at 12:00 PM EDT

Lev Grossman’s novel concerns a miserable Brooklyn teen who, without warning, gets deposited at a secret college for wizards. Seriously! That’s what it’s about! If it weren’t so sly and lyrical, the brazen evocation of Harry Potter would seem suicidal, like the casting of a spell the sorcerer can’t handle. But The Magicians is an homage to both J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis, as well as an exploration of what might happen if troubled kids were let loose in the supernatural realms they grew up reading about. Grossman (who is Time’s book critic) captures the magic of childhood and the sobering years beyond. They don’t call it disenchantment for nothing. A?

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