As I mentioned here shortly after Readercon, Lev is actually an old friend. He and I spent our freshman year of college in the same dorm. We talked about lots of different things that year, but after freshman year we drifted apart. As it so happens, in 1997 I spotted his first novel, Warp, in a bookstore and I picked it up and enjoyed it a lot, even though it wasn't the usual sort of book for me to read. His second novel, Codex, was a lot closer to my kind of fiction.
The Magicians, as it turns out, is a novel written to appeal very strongly to the fantasy reader, especially one who holds tightly onto the nostalgia for the fantasy novels they read as a kid. I'm writing a review of The Magicians (complete with disclaimer) for SF Scope, so I don't want to go into too much detail here, but I do want to give the gist. Expect to see some of the following incorporated into my review.
The premise of the book is that a college-bound student named Quentin discovers that magic exists, and he is recruited to matriculate in a college called Brakebills devoted to magic. Much of the book is set at Brakebills, and the comparisons to Harry Potter are likely to be inevitable. Indeed, Lev knows this; although he originally got the idea for the novel before the Harry Potter series took off, he understands that his characters live in a world in which the Harry Potter series exists, and so it is necessary for the characters to acknowledge it.
That said, this novel is nothing like Harry Potter, although I expect that Lev will quickly become sick of the number of times the book is referred to as "Harry Potter for adults." If anything, the book is more a reaction of Lev's love for the Chronicles of Narnia, as Quentin is constantly reminded of a five-book series called Fillory and Further, about a family of English children who find themselves visiting a magical other world over and over. Amusingly enough, Lev (or someone in the publisher's marketing department) has put together two fan sites for the imaginary Fillory series; one, Welcome to Fillory!, is for fans of the series; the other is the official author site for Christopher Plover, the purported writer of the series.
Again, I should point out that the Fillory books, as far as I know, exist solely in the Borges Library. But Quentin has read them, and when he discovers that magic is real, he can't help but wonder if Fillory is real as well. Needless to say, that becomes much more important as the book goes on...
I'll link to my review when it finally goes up, but I didn't want to delay recommending the book to everyone out there. I wouldn't be surprised to see The Magicians nominated for the Hugo, the Nebula, and the World Fantasy Award next year.