When The Magicians — a new television series based on Lev Grossman’s popular trilogy of novels — premieres on Syfy tonight, audiences will be forgiven if they are strongly reminded of another well-known book series: Harry Potter. Already, fans and reviewers are seeing strong parallels between the two properties, with a few key differences.
1. The universe of The Magicians includes people who possess magical abilities — and people who do not
This is a universe of muggles and wizards — though they may not call themselves by those terms. Magical abilities aren’t always obvious to the people who possess them and education can help to hone such skills, but The Magicians is a universe where magic is innate, not acquired.
2. Brakebills is the new Hogwarts
Though the magicians-in-training are students, Brakebills isn’t an elementary or high school — it’s a university. The full name is Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy, and it’s basically what Hogwarts would have been if Harry and the gang had discovered their abilities a bit later in life.
3. Quentin Coldwater is Harry minus the glasses
Don’t worry, Quentin’s as brainy as Harry was — but he’s got a much more sophisticated look. He’s mature, though a bit sullen, and he’s got a dark past. As the protagonist of the show, he’s likely to have some of Harry’s kindness and commitment to doing the right thing, but the extra life experience has given him a bit of an edge that comes through in his appearance and in his personality. Oh, and he’s got a prophetic destiny — though he doesn’t quite understand that at first.
4. It’s an ensemble effort
There are not likely to be direct stand-ins for Ron, Hermione and the others, but this isn’t just Quentin’s show. When he arrives at Brakebills, he meets a whole group of fellow students who are also learning to hone their magic skills. There’s also Julia, the friend he’s left behind who failed the Brakesbills entrance exam, whose journey will also be critical to the progression of the series.
5. There’s some evil that accompanies the good in the world of magic
Certainly, Harry Potter‘s universe got much darker as he and his peers (and the readers!) aged and acquired more life experience and perspective. But since the students in The Magicians are already grownups, expect the darkness and fear to set in pretty early in the game.
6. Not all of the magical beings are human
You might not find it in a copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but early on, the Brakebills students do encounter a creature named The Beast. Chances are, he won’t be the last mystical being that they come across in their studies and in the real world.
7. There’s a deeper mystery at play
We didn’t know Harry’s full story from day one, and clearly, there’s a lot more to Quentin’s story than we’ll get right away. But there is a deeper mystery involved in understanding Quentin’s history (and future), as well as his role at Brakebills, more of which will gradually be revealed over time.
8. Not everyone is supportive of the work of Brakebills
Julia may have been rejected by Brakebills, but there is a different group that has an eye on her for membership. Is this secret society another educational institution like Brakebills? Or is there something a bit more sinister going on with them?