I loved The Magicians book series by Lev Grossman, although the Syfy tv show adaptation let me down. So naturally, I picked up the new graphic novel sequel The Magicians New Class by Lilah Sturges, as soon as I saw it at a comic book store. It drew me in with stunning illustrations by Pius Bak. The Magicians New Class follows as you may guess, a new class of magicians at Brakebills, specifically hedge witches who have been accepted into the elite magic college called Brakebills University. Hedges witches however, are magicians with no formal magic training. Like in the original trilogy, our new group of protagonists has been selected by leaders at Brakebills to defeat a magical villain. I will admit that the overall plot does seem a little basic, we’ve seen before it in a lot of fantasy stories, and we’ve already seen it in The Magicians.
In addition, magic is well hidden from those who have not previously made the cut to get into a magic school, so hedge witches use homemade or experimental spells. Therefore, I did find the premise of accepting hedge witches into Brakebills rather confusing. Don’t many magicians start their education with no former education in magic? Once they’ve graduated from Brakebills wouldn’t that make them no longer hedge witches?
I did appreciate, however, that despite the The Magicians tv show not handling queer characters well, this new group of protagonists included a lot of openly LGBTQ+ characters. Emily is a transgender woman. Andy is attracted to other men. Pat (Patrick) also seems to be attracted to men. Emily and Andy even have a heart-to-heart in which they both mention being queer. The villain, Alex, uses they/them pronouns and seems to be nonbinary. While the queer villain trope can have a lot of issues, since there are a lot of queer heroes in this story, it doesn’t pose a problem.
I also have hopes that this series may end up having a more nuanced take on the magical villains versus group of magical heroes. We did get a moment where Alex says the world is going to end (possibly via climate change) if they don’t save the world. But she has been doing dark magic, and killing people, so they still seem villainous. Still, their motivation of trying to save the world, also helps them not come across as a purely evil queer villain. The Magicians has previously had interesting sympathatic villains, so I have faith that Alex will also become even more fleshed out. All in all, I would reccomend the The Magicians New Class. I thought that it was a promising start to a new chapter in The Magicians universe.