So I read about this in the paper, and decided that it sounded much to fun to miss. And it is fun, I really enjoyed it. It's so clearly and unashamedly influenced and inspired by boarding school books in general and Harry Potter especially, by Narnia, by every fantasy book like ever. It's pretty fantastic that Grossman holds it all together and really modernizes the genre without straying too far into urban fantasy (which he doesn't do, IMO).
The young magicians of the story have been taken from ordinary, mundane lives to go to Brakebills, a college of magic. It's old-fashioned, full of rigid rules, anglomanic. Classic boarding school stuff, complete with blazers and including a special made-up pseudo-British accent full of phrases like "hard cheese, old boy". However, being a magician doesn't not make you an adolescent/young adult. They drink, they have sex, they make stupid mistakes. And in the end, they go to another plane, another magical land, the one they've all read about as children and never imagined might be real, Fillory. It's a coming of age story, and a growing up story. It's honest and brutal and bloody, yet sweet. If it weren't for the fact that the final scenes has one of the women dressed in a leather bustier that she's spilling out of, while floating outside a skyscraper window, I'd be very impressed. Now I'm a little worried that Grossman is a shallow person writing for a dream screenplay. (If it is filmed, please God let it be good. Slow, a bit scruffy, with a lot of quiet. And take infinite care over the scene where the Beast comes from another plane and holds them all hostage, silently, in the classroom for hours. That is some good storytelling there.)
I've put in a reservation for the second book at the library.