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The Magicians: Six Short Stories about Magic

“Umber’s ass I’m drunk.”

“Six Short Stories about Magic” is literally that: six short stories about magic. It’s fun to see how all the stories fit together, like a puzzle. How it drives the plot forward, gives us a deeper look at other characters.


Penny’s short story is basically the introduction to the others. He travels to the underworld, exchanges Game of Thrones spoilers for Benedict’s location, and then he’s a total jerk to Benedict (in his Penny way). Benedict tells him the key was taken so he heads into the underworld library with Sylvia (the magic mafia kid), where she introduces him to Cassandra, Alice look-alike who writes everyone’s book using her magic future-seeing powers.


So we start with a sex scene between Quentin and Poppy. Poppy’s trying to short-circuit Quentin’s anxiety and it isn’t going well. Quentin’s worried about the plan, but he’s going to do it anyway because to finish the quest he needs to change, to become a hero. Poppy says that’s stupid, what they need to do is be who they are and accept the consequences. Later, Alice says the plan can’t work. Harriet says she’s looking for a battery. They all go to the underworld; Quentin and Poppy can’t find the key so they leave and see Alice on the way out.

I liked Quentin and Poppy’s conversation. Is it better to be unapologetically yourself, or should we be striving for change? I feel like the answer is a combination of both their perspectives. We probably should try to change, but not to become a hero (or some other vague title) but a better version of our own selves. And, with that, it is important to accept who we are and the consequences that comes with that, but also to work to mitigate those consequences through personal growth. I thought it was interesting to consider.


Alice has a conversation with Harriet, who tells her to help them because the library isn’t what it seems; it only dispenses knowledge to those they deem fit. Alice says that’s the right thing to do because knowledge in the wrong hands is dangerous. Then she has a conversation with Fen, who tells her Alice’s pain isn’t the same as Fen’s because Alice can find what she lost: knowledge. So Alice goes to the library and maybe strikes a sketchy deal with them.

Once again, I liked the opposing perspectives. Both Alice and Harriet have good points. It isn’t right that the library is selectively withholding information. Like, it would have helped a lot if Penny didn’t have to risk his life to find information on god-killing last season. But Alice is right, too. That kind of knowledge in the wrong hands could result in chaos. If god-killing books were available to everyone magicians and hedges might be killing gods left and right, and we all know how well that worked out last time. I think the real question here isn’t should information be available to everyone, but who should get to decide who’s given what information.

I also liked Alice’s conversation with Fen. Alice might’ve been trying to comfort Fen, by saying she’d been through something similar, but Fen was right. What Alice lost wasn’t the same. I think that’s an important thing to keep in mind. It’s good to try to relate to others through your own experiences, but also to recognize that no one’s experience is the same.


Eliot and Margo make it out alive (yay!). Eliot’s grown disillusioned with Fillory, but still wants to fight for it. It saved him, so he wants to save Fillory. They’re appealing in court before a marsupial. The end.


Fen and Julia meet some new fairies. Turns out, they’re slaves to the McAllistairs. Julia convinces Fen to help because no one should be enslaved. They learn the magic cocaine Julia used to reel in Alice was actually fairy cocaine. Like, literally, it comes from their body parts grinded into powder. Which is pretty concerning.

I love the Julia-Fen team up. It’s fun seeing Julia get to play nice with anyone and its nice getting to spend some more time with Fen. I also loved that Julia never chastised Fen for saying the fairies should remain slaves; the way she softly spoke to her made it seem like she was really trying to understand where Fen was coming from, because Fen does have very good reason to be afraid of and even malicious to the fairies. But in the end, Julia was right.


We see a glimpse of Harriet’s past and her relationship with the library. We learn that the head librarian is her very overprotective mother. She wished Harriet would explore the world from the safety of the library, but Harriet wanted real-world experiences. We see the beginnings of Harriet’s fight against the library’s policies. And then we see present day Harriet petitioning her mother for the library’s help with the quest. But the librarian fears this might be what causes the great blank spot, while Harriet says letting others help might be the only way to fight it. Needless to say this reunion doesn’t end well; Harriet and Kady find the battery (a case full of fairy cocaine), Harriet runs off with it, and another librarian breaks the mirror bridge (they’re in-between path to the library), and Harriet and Victoria are stuck or dead, really I don’t know. Oh, and all this is happening in silence; just ASL and captioning.

I think this is the most powerful short story. And I think that’s because this isn’t the story of a girl who’s deaf or even of magic. It’s the story of a girl’s damaged relationship with her mother, damaged by their different worldviews (The librarian apprehensive, Harriet adventurous) and experiences (or lack thereof). And it all comes off as real, like an ongoing relationship we only see a small snippet of it.

They also both have good points. It’s understandable for a mother to want to protect her child. She still has a point regarding access to information; especially because it is possible sharing that information could lead to the blank spot. But Harriet’s right, too. We can’t ever know what’s going to happen, but refusing to leave a library or refusing to share information won’t protect your daughter or keep the world from ending. Sometimes all we can do is trust people and help them to help you. It’s tragic, how their story ended. And it’s sad to see, in that one short glimpse, all the ways it could’ve ended differently if they’d made different choices.

Penny (again)

None of those stories really helped Penny. It turns out he skimmed through the Quentin and Poppy sex scene and the answer was there: basically, don’t be a jerk. Everyone’s lonely and sometimes that makes people do stupid, selfish things. Like pretending you lost the key in order to spend time with someone you thought was a friend. So Penny gets the key back from Benedict and sets him up with a sweet map-making job in the underworld. He ships the key off so Quentin and co get it in time, but Sylvia blocks Penny from leaving the underworld. So now he’s stuck. His life really always sucks.

Bits and Pieces

-- I think having Olivia Taylor Dudley play Cassandra was a great call. There’s intrigue, wondering how and if Alice becomes Cassandra. I felt more interested in Cassandra because she had the face of one of our characters. Olivia Taylor Dudley did a great job and seemed to have fun with the role.

-- Fen’s turned to drinking to distract from her loss. Maybe Eliot’s rubbed off on her.

Eliot: “Yes, I do want to make a final statement. I hate Fillory. It's a backwards, malodorous shit hole full of animals who are smarter than they're supposed to be and humans who are so much dumber. And what you would call indoor plumbing we on earth would call a war crime. But, when I was drowning, Fillory saved me. And now it's my turn to save Fillory. But I can't do that if my head's in a basket, so if it pleases... you guys, I demand that this trial slash peasant uprising be dismissed. Your honorable wombatness.”
Penny: “What the shit is this? Why is he talking to a marsupial? This is not at all relevant!”

Julia: “Look, I have this tiny spark of magic, and it seems like when I use it to do good things, to help people, it-it grows. I didn't ask for it, and I can't get rid of it. If I want it to be anything but a burden, I have to use it.” I love this. She can’t change it so she’s going to make it her own. And make it good. I love how we saw how hard it was for her to get here, because it makes that choice seem so much more powerful.

Four out of four marsupial judges.

1 comment:

  1. The best segment was Harriet's, I agree. I particularly liked the silence so that we could experience it as Harriet did.

    I think Cassandra is future Alice. But then again, we're clearly supposed to think she is, so she probably isn't. :)


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