Quentin is a highly intelligent teen who arrives for his first college interview only to find the old man who was to interview him has died. He has a strange interaction with one of the EMTs and soon finds himself transported from the cold Brooklyn streets to the warm, sunny campus of Brakebills, a college for magicians. After a strange exam, Quentin is taken to a room where a seemingly never-ending stream of people come to interview him. Quentin knows something is very different about this school, but is not quite sure what it is. All he knows is that it is more exciting than the alternative and he desperately wants to pass.
It doesn't take long for Quentin to decide to stay at Brakebills rather than going back to Brooklyn to finish his senior year of high school. The existence of a college for magicians allows Quentin to hope that his obsession with Fillory, the magical world from a series of children's books, might actually exist too.