Quentin Coldwater is extremely intelligent but alienated and unhappy despite his fortunate circumstances. On the day he and his best friends Julia and James are on their way to an admissions interview for Princeton, he finds a magical doorway to a secret college for magicians. Accepted into the exclusive membership of Brakebill's College he learns not only that magic is real, but that there is a wider world of magicians and fantastical creatures.
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Initially energized and excited, he soon finds the academic and social environment not all that much different from that of the real world and although he continues to excel at his studies he finds himself no happier than before. He falls in with a group of other young magicians studying the same areas of magic as him and starts a romance with a classmate named Alice.
Upon graduation he and his friends find an apartment together and fall into a dissolute and decadent routine that soon strains friendships. He cheats on Alice, and the right between them leads to further tensions among the friends.
Looking for distractions the group jumps on the opportunity when they discover that the magical land of Fillory, known to them from a series of children's books similar to the Chronicles of Narnia, is in fact real. Despite the crumbling of their social group Quentin and his friends devise a way to travel to Fillory and soon succeed.
Once in Fillory things are not as they expected, however. The group discovers that the land is more complex and far more dangerous than what appeared in the simple children's stories they are familiar with. They encounter the gods of Fillory but also the villains and are tasked with confronting the creature known as the Beast, which can rip through dimensions and poses a threat to both worlds.
Best part of story, including ending:
The closer look at what an underground magical society would be like is very interesting, as is the world of Fillory.
Best scene in story:
The first appearance of The Beast is very scary.
Opinion about the main character:
Quentin is frustratingly angsty, he has everything going for him but doesn't know how to be happy, and makes the common mistake of looking for solutions outside himself.