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Introduced in The Magicians
The Physical Kids
Quentin ColdwaterIntelligent, but deeply dissatisfied with reality (and pretty much anywhere else he ends up), Quentin believes that becoming a magician or reaching Fillory will solve all his life's problems and make him happy. It doesn't.
- Acquired Situational Narcissism: It's a mild case, but he tends to think of himself superior to the inhabitants of whatever world he just left behind; when he's accepted into Brakebills, he looks down on Muggles; when he leaves the magical world, he believes himself more sensible and mature than the magicians who fund his new lifestyle; when he returns to Brakebills after a long stay in Fillory, he gets very vocal in the belief that he and Julia are better than any of the faculty there.
- Allergic to Routine: Quentin all but falls in love with Brakebills when he first arrives, and there are enough twists and turns to keep him interested in the first few years; however, by the final year, he's gotten very bored with the place. The same goes for his post-graduate life and his home life with his parents. Eventually, Alice has to call him out on these tendencies when he starts getting irritated with Fillory.
- Ascended Fanboy: He was obsessed with Fillory his entire life, and eventually becomes one of its kings.
- Childhood Friends: With Julia.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: For him it's less about the "helping people" part than it is his fantasy of being The Hero.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life
- I Just Want to Be Normal: The aftermath of his journey to Fillory and Alice's death results in a depressive period in which he adopts this mindset, and goes on to believe himself superior to all magicians because of his ability to live in the real world... even though his new lifestyle is funded by magic. It takes his meeting with Emily Greenstreet to make him pull back from the edge.
- I Just Want to Be Special: At the start of the book, anyway.
- Innocently Insensitive: At times. For instance, at one point in the second book, he tells Julia that she didn't miss a thing by failing the entrance exam to Brakebills... when Julia had been forced to endure several painful months of depression and Sanity Slippage as a result of her failure, and had become so desperate to learn magic that she prostituted herself to Hedge Wizards and ended up having a traumatising encounter with a monstrous demigod who murdered her friends and raped her. True, Quentin didn't know most of this at the time, but it's still a bit presumptuous.
- Jumped at the Call
- Locked into Strangeness: After Alice's Heroic Sacrifice Quentin's hair turns pure white.
- Mad Dreamer
- Man Child: While holding all the intelligence his age and education would suggest, Quentin also has numerous childlike traits, including an aversion to the routine and the mundane, a tendency to act or speak without thinking, and, of course, his obsession with the Fillory book series (which were intended for children).
- Magicians Are Wizards: Quentin's first encounters with magic were in practicing sleight-of-hand, accidentally making a coin disappear for real.
- Squishy Wizard
- Supporting Protagonist: To Alice in first novel, and Julia in the second.
- This Loser Is You
- Took a Level in Badass: When we he walks naked to the South Pole. He levels up again after he studies magic by himself in the Centaur monastery.
- Whatevermancy: When Quentin finds out his Discipline is unclassifiable, he says "I'm a nothingmancer. I'm a squatmancer."
- What the Hell, Hero?: Ends up on the recieving end of one of these from Alice when it looks as though he's going to become dissatisfied with the fantasy world he always wanted.
- Wrong Genre Savvy
- Your Cheating Heart: Late in the first book, while extremely drunk, he ends up cheating on Alice with Janet.
- Alice Allusion: Obviously.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Her father spends most of his time modifying the family home with magic and making it thoroughly uncomfortable in the process, while her mother spends most of her time working on fairy symphonies that probably don't exist. Alice dreads returning home to them, especially when Quentin decides to tag along.
- Bad Ass Bookworm
- Brought Down to Badass: Towards the end of the third and final book, Quentin manages to restore Alice's humanity... and even without the godlike power of a Niffin, Alice is still a better magician than Quentin will ever be—a fact that she proves by turning him into a dragon during the final battle.
- Cynicism Catalyst: It's actually stated that the death of her older brother, Charlie, was what caused her parent's collapse into eccentricity and Alice eventually leaving home. However, what she doesn't know—until Janet tells her the story—is that Charlie died in transforming into a Niffin shortly after trying to heal Emily Greenstreet.
- Turn Out Like Her Parents: Alice fears that one day, she'll be reduced to the same level of existence as her parents. Ironically, she ends up turning out like her brother instead.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Combining Deadly Upgrade with Taking You with Me.
- Light 'em Up: Alice's magical discipline is a form of light-manipulation known as Phosphoromancy.
- One-Winged Angel: Alice's transformation into a niffin: "Do you think you're the biggest monster in the room?" A rare example of this trope in that a) it's used by a good guy, and b) it actually wins the fight.
- The Runaway: After Brakebills failed to invite her, Alice ran away from home and travelled all the way to the campus—even going so far as to travel the last five miles on foot when public transport couldn't get her any closer. To the surprise of the faculty, she actually managed to find her way onto the school grounds, where they reluctantly gave her an entrance exam and accepted her.
- Sense Loss Sadness: After being returned to human form, Alice suffers a brief but debilitating depression over the loss of her incredible abilities and senses; with Quentin's help, she manages to recover.
- Shrinking Violet: Initially; studying for her exams alongside Quentin and Penny encourages her to emerge from her shell and gain a little confidence.
- Teen Genius: Out of a whole school full of geniuses, she's quickly judged to be one of the smartest out of all of them—having even mastered several advanced spells before her first term begins.
- Took a Level in Badass: When she fights Martin Chatwin.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: Like all of the Brakebills students, she's learned how to transform into animals, but out of the entire cast, she's the only one who manages to weaponize it.
- Cultured Badass: Manages the "cultured" part quite well throughout the novel, being very well-acquainted with art and fine wines, but he doesn't get to the "badass" part until the journey to Fillory.
- The Cynic
- Deadpan Snarker
- Expy: Word Of God says his character was significantly based on Sebastian Flyte from Brideshead Revisited.
- Farm Boy: Eliot was actually brought up on a farm in Oregon.
- The Gift: Has an intuitive grasp of magic, putting him above most of the Physical Kids except for Alice.
- The Grotesque: Mild example—he's described as having a mouth twisted to the side in a permanent half-grimace, and some disfiguration to his jaw as well.
- He Is The Queen: At the very end of the novel, Eliot jokes that he was considering being one of the two queens of Fillory instead being one of the two kings. However, rules are rules...
- If It's You, It's Okay: Janet
- Mr. Vice Guy: Eliot spends half his time smoking Merits and seeking out fine wines in Brakebills' extensive cellar. After he graduates from Brakebills, though, he becomes a full-blown alcoholic. It takes the journey to Fillory to get him out of this depressive funk.
- Power Gives You Wings: Attains a pair of feathery wings at the conclusion.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Wears expensive shirts with his Brakebills uniform, complete with cuff links, despite the latter being against the rules and getting him routinely punished. Also, apparently as a child he was once thrown into a dumpster by the other kids because his pants were pressed.
- Straight Gay: However, he does make an exception for Janet.
- Ascended Fanboy: During the final chapter of the first book, he's apparently using the Neitherlands to reach Middle-Earth, where he hopes to "bone an Elf."
- Beneath the Mask: His breakdown during the Welters finals reveals that, under his cheerful exterior, Josh is deeply unsure of himself and plagued by low self-esteem—especially at Brakebills, where he often worried that he'd be thrown out for poor grades.
- Big Fancy House: During the second book, it's revealed that he now lives in an extravagant Venetian palazzo.
- Big Fun
- The Big Guy
- Boldly Coming: He wants to find Middle Earth specifically to get in an elf's pants, as stated above. The second book reveals that, amongst other things, he ended up having sex with a Harpy.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Josh has the worst grades of the Physical Kids and barely manages to graduate from Brakebills; for good measure, most of his spells either fail to work at all, or overload to a ridiculous extent. Then, in Fillory, he destroys a massive burning demon that just killed Fen, the badass Kung-Fu Wizard of the group by sucking it into an Unrealistic Black Hole.
- Drunk with Power / Drunk on the Dark Side: Played for laughs. Josh tends to get very excited when his spells actually work, especially in games of Welters.
- Fat Idiot: Though he fears he's turning into one of these, he's ultimately cleverer and more capable than he appears.
- Gravity Master
- Inept Mage: As mentioned, he's not the most capable spellcaster out of all the Physical Kids—in fact, his spells have a nasty habit of not working at all. However, when they do work, they're ridiculously overpowered.
- Stepford Smiler: Type A—at least during the first book.
- Stout Strength
- Squishy Wizard: Subverted; while not exactly a combat specialist, Josh is strong enough to break up the fist-fight between Quentin and Penny.
- Took a Level in Badass: In the sequel, he spent lot of his time between the novels on an adventure through the Neitherlands, exploring, falling in love, and even becoming a hero of sorts; upon his return to earth, he takes this even further by setting himself up as the Fixer, helping to bridge the "official" practitioners of magic with the underground groups. Finally, the ending sees him becoming one of the Kings of Fillory after Quentin is booted out of the country.
Other Student Wizards
- Ancient Tradition: Has joined the Order, the group that built and maintains the Neitherlands, when Quentin meets him in Book 2.
- An Arm and a Leg: during the climax, Martin Chatwin bites Penny's hands off.
- Brought Down to Normal: Without his hands, Penny loses the capacity for spellcasting. The Order teaches him how to cast spells using the muscles of his body instead.
- Gender-Blender Name
- Ineffectual Loner: All in all, Penny's attempts at keeping himself to himself for the majority of his post-graduate life went somewhat awry.
- Insufferable Genius
- Put on a Bus: On the way back through the Neitherlands, he leaves the party for another world. In the second book, The Bus Came Back
- The Quincy Punk: Right down to the Mohawk and the nasty attitude, though it's more out of an attempt to annoy people than a genuine lifestyle choice.
- Blood Knight: After the first fight, she starts to enjoy killing things with magic a little too much.
- Hot Witch
- Everyone Looks Sexier If French: From one of the European schools, she's first introduced as the captain of another team during the welters tournament. Her accent is described as Pan-European, and all of the boys of the welters teams and some of the girls are immediately smitten with her.
- The Comically Serious
- No Such Thing as Wizard Jesus: Subverted—Richard believes that magic is "The Tools of God." True to the trope, though, nobody takes this very seriously, partly because Christianity isn't very popular among most magicians, but mostly because of the logical problems of the argument. He's actually more or less right though, it's just that there are more gods than he counted on.
- Straight Man: Appropriately enough, he acts as this to Eliot during one notable argument.
- The Stoic: During arguments, anyway.
The Brakebills Faculty
- Brutal Honesty: One of his specialties. In fact, almost immediately after Quentin awakes from passing the entrance exam, Fogg barely gives him a minute to rub the sleep out of his eyes before dropping bombshells on him. Then, after Quentin and Penny have just recovered from beating the crap out of each other, he shows up to provide a lecture on what would happen if they'd been stupid enough to use combat magic thoughtlessly.
- Chekhov's Classroom: He introduces the concept of Niffins, which comes in handy later in the book.
- Chekhov's Gift: The Cacodemons he gives to graduating students as a defense mechanism.
- Cynical Mentor
- Dean Bitterman: He's not necessarily mean per se, but he's definitely blunt and obstinate.
- Fat Bastard
- Gentleman Wizard
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: Fogg is considered a bit of a joke by the students, who don't get to see him perform much magic over the course of an average day; as such, they're rather startled when he leads the rescue attempt, organising the teachers with great efficiency. The ceremony in which he summons a bevvy of Cacodemons into the graduating students just about seals the deal.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: To Quentin in the second book, anyway.
- Break the Haughty: What Quentin tries to do to him by sabotaging one of his spells. Instead, the spell gets the Beast's attention, resulting in the entire class being frozen in time, and one of the students being eaten alive. Smooth move, Quentin.
- Fat Bastard
- Fiery Red Head
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The Beast's attack on his class shook him up so badly that he eventually resigned and fled Brakebills altogether.
- Stern Teacher
- Extra Ore Dinary: Apparently, her magical discipline is concerned with metalurgy.
- Hot Teacher
- Hot Witch
- Intangible Woman: When the Faculty was attempting to break the Beast's hold on Professor March's classroom, Sunderland apparently tied to phase herself through the wall to reach the students. It didn't work, which was probably for the best, considering that none of the Faculty would have been able to do much against the Beast had they managed to get into the building.
- Cover-Blowing Superpower: Both his wings and his arcane Pixie magic.
- The Exile: Implies that he is a political refugee, ousted from power by a conspiracy in his home country.
- Our Fairies Are Different: Short, generally human in appearance, capable of powerful magic, and with a large set of concealable wings.
- Pintsized Powerhouse
- Winged Humanoid: Though when not in use, Bigby's four dragonfly wings stay invisible.
- The Aloner: What he apparently spends his spare time as.
- The Archmage: One of the most powerful magicians in the entire story.
- Cynical Mentor
- Dare to Be Badass: Delivers at least two of these kind of speeches to his students.
- The Exile: His reassignment is treated more like exile given that he's essentially banished to a remote outpost, alone except for the fourth-year students that are sent to learn from him, and unable to leave—or at the very least, unable to return to Brakebills' main campus except to make sure that the portal returning the fourth-year students has worked properly.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold
- Mother Russia Makes You Strong
- Pet the Dog: A very odd sort; during a particularly grueling stage of Quentin's exercises, Mayakovsky appears with a tray of food and drink and allows him time to recover. Then, just before Quentin digs in, he slaps him across the face and says, "That was for doubting yourself."
- Another, more straightforward variety appears at the end of Quentin's final exam, when Mayakovsky actually hugs him.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Literally, in this case. Despite being the most powerful magician on the entire faculty, Professor Myakovsky gets reassigned to "Brakebills South" in Antarctica after the debacle with Emily Greenstreet.
- Sadist Teacher: Having the entire attending class muted so as to stop them from being distracted was just one of his ways of tormenting students. True, he does have sympathetic moments, but still...
- So Proud of You: To Quentin at the end of the final exam.
- Training from Hell: The official provider of said training.
- Teacher/Student Romance: With Emily Greenstreet.
- Wax On, Wax Off: The first training exercises that Mayakovsky gives his students involve repeating a spell to hammer a nail into a piece of wood, eventually moving on to the next permutation of the spell once the first has been well and truly memorised. Quentin even references the Trope by name.
Denizens of Fillory
The Beast AKA Martin Chatwin)
- Big Bad
- The Caligula: Having declared himself the unofficial ruler of Fillory, he's this from beginning to end.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Very dark example, needless to say; he spends most of his first appearance acting on every single random impulse that crosses his mind, paring his fingernails with a knife, testing magic spells, pausing to devour Amanda Orloff alive and leaving whilst singing a nursery rhyme.
- Deal with the Devil: The Magician's Land reveals that his monstrous aspect is actually due to him making a deal with Umber, exchanging his humanity for a permanent stay in Fillory.
- Eldritch Abomination: It's believed that the Beast is just a protrusion of something much worse inspecting our world. This is eventually proven wrong, but to be honest, the reality isn't much better.
- Evil Brit
- The Faceless: The Beast always appears with a leafy branch hovering just in front of his face, and only removes it during the final battle.
- Freudian Excuse: Close to the end of the novel, Jane Chatwin tells us that Martin Chatwin was molested as a child—by the future author of the Fillory series—and only entered Fillory in an attempt to escape.
- From Nobody to Nightmare
- Full-Frontal Assault: Though his body itself isn't so easily destroyed, his clothes are burned away during the magical barrage of the final battle, leaving the Beast to continue his attack stark naked.
- Humanoid Abomination
- I'm a Humanitarian
- Man Bites Man: What he does to Penny's hands.
- Nigh Invulnerable
- Psychopathic Manchild: Notable for his exceptionally childlike behaviour; fitting, considering that Martin Chatwin was—at the most—an adolescent when he ran away from home.
- Red Right Hand: The Beast appears completely human except for three or four extra fingers on each hand.
- Sorcerous Overlord: One of the most powerful hedge-wizards in the entire series.
- Time Stands Still: Makes his entrance by stopping time for everyone in a lecture hall of Brakebills.
- Was Once a Man
The Watcherwoman AKA "the paramedic" AKA Jane Chatwin.
- Big Bad: Of the original Fillory novel, but during the time of the Beast, she appears to have gone into decline.
- Calling Card: The Clock Trees.
- Chekhov's Gunman
- The Chessmaster
- Ensemble Darkhorse: In-universe example. Out of all the Chatwin children, Jane is a fan-favourite, mainly because her thoughtful attitude sets her apart from the others.
- Evil Sorcerer: Technically, she's a hedge-witch, and not exactly evil, anyway.
- The Faceless: Always wears a veil.
- Harmless Villain: Adult readers of the Fillory books see her as a bit of a joke, with no real villainous actions to her name apart from her goal of freezing time in Fillory. In fact, the only reason why she's seen as a villain in the first place is because her experiments in time travel were ultimately misinterpreted by the Chatwin children.
- Hidden Agenda Villain: Well, if you can call her a villain at all...
- Hot Witch
- Not Evil, Just Misunderstood
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Her initial goal, which failed when it came to saving Martin from becoming the Beast.
- Time Master
- The Watchmaker
The Real World
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing
- Defector from Decadence: Subverted—she only thinks she's one of these.
- Hypocrite: Seems quite content to go through life believing that Magic and its practitioners are the source of all the world's ills while at the same time working a job provided for her by Dean Fogg and enchanted to disguise the fact that she does absolutely nothing.
- Never My Fault: Emily blames the death of her boyfriend on Magic, claiming that it would have happened regardless of what she did; however, it's made clear that her boyfriend's death was due to her a) dumping her boyfriend for Mayakovsky, b) accidentally disfiguring herself while trying to make herself more attractive to her new lover, and c) her ex-boyfriend trying to heal her but being too upset to work magic calmly and transforming into a Niffin.
- Vain Sorceress: A failed version.
Introduced in The Magician King
JuliaOne of Quentin's oldest friends. Originally introduced in the first book as a tertiary character, she becomes a protagonist in the second.
- Amnesia Missed a Spot
- Ascended Extra: In the first book she was a background character, and something of a mystery. In The Magician King the narrative is split between Quentin in the present day and what happened to her during the first book.
- Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence: Already having become a demi-goddess, she eventually goes on to travel to the other side of Fillory, a world yet to be created that is to Fillory as Fillory is to Earth.
- Black Eyes of Evil: At one point in the second book, she ends up casting a spell with the side-effect of turning her eyes black—permanently. When she returns to the real world, she has to cover them with a pair of sunglasses.
- Broken Bird
- The Call Put Me On Hold
- Childhood Friends: With Quentin.
- Dark and Troubled Past: We can tell almost from her re-introduction in the first book that she is pretty badly traumatized, but the full cause is not revealed until close to the end of the second.
- Dark Magical Girl
- The Determinator: She is going to learn magic, dammit.
- Goth: After she's rejected from Brakebills and still remembers, she dyes her hair and starts wearing black.
- Rape as Backstory
- Refused by the Call
- The Resenter
- Sanity Slippage: Given that the memory wipe only partially worked, Julia is lumbered with an entire memory running contrary to both reality and what had supposedly happened on the day of her exam; as a result, she ends up becoming depressive, paranoid, and so fixated on the magical world that she disregards almost all of her college offers. Then, after a brief return to normality, she dives headlong into the deep end of Hedge-Wizardry and joining the Free Trade Beowulf group, which opens her up to further sanity slippage.
- Sex for Services: At her lowest point in the first book, she offered to sleep with Quentin in exchange for magical secrets. He refuses, but we find out in the second book that she later successfully made similar deals with several men in the safehouse scene.
- Spock Speak: In Quentin's parts of the novel, Julia tends to speak in short, clipped sentences, often without contractions. It's eventually revealed that this is one of the side effects of her continuing transformation into a demigod.
- Took a Level in Badass: Made clear when she shows up at the end of the first book as a Hedge-Witch powerful enough to join Eliot and Janet in flying off to retrieve Quentin. The extent of her power and its origins aren't made clear up until the second book, though.
Poppy - an Australian magician
The Free Trader Beowulf group
Denizens of Fillory