Author Lev Grossman pays homage to great fantasy stories of the past in his 2009 novel The Magicians. Reading like a mash-up between J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter, C. S. Lewis's Narnia, and Bret Easton Ellis's Less Than Zero, The Magicians is both fantasy and literary fiction, with moments of levity, wonder, and extreme darkness.
Quentin Coldwater does not fit in with his modern classmates. A natural outcast, he clings to childhood dreams of the past, most of which are dominated by his obsession with Fillory, an enchanted world featured in a favorite series of books. Quentin believes that, if only Fillory were real, he could escape there and all his troubles would be solved.
When the time comes to prepare for college, Quentin receives a mysterious package in the mail. Rather than go to Princeton as planned, he finds himself studying sorcery at Brakebills, a magic university. But despite the esoteric degree programs, Brakebills is no different than other colleges. Quentin indulges in rampant partying, drugs, and alcohol along with his fellow sorcerers. He is also disillusioned by his studies. While he demonstrates talent in casting spells, he finds the work as tedious as that of an engineering or business student.
After graduating, Quentin moves with a close group of friends to New York City. There, they continue their party lifestyle, now with the almost limitless access to mind-altering substances that magical talent affords. Spiraling out of control, Quentin loses his grip on reality. He is purposeless and lost, wondering if his magical talent is at all useful in modern society, or merely an entertainment.
Then, he discovers that Fillory is a real place. Quentin is thrilled, believing it is his destiny to travel there. Unfortunately, it is no longer the place of dreams he read about in his books. In fact, it has become as scarred and hopeless as the real world. But Quentin is undaunted. He is determined to save his childhood utopia from the darkness that threatens to overtake it. In an ending that references Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Quentin engages in a final battle for Fillory and for his own life.