I'm always reading something, usually multiple books at a time.
I watched the show first. My husband checked out the DVDs of season one from the library. I quickly got hooked, and when I noticed that the show was based on a book, I put in a request for the downloadable audiobook, from the library's e-collection. It took a while for the audiobook to become available, and when it did, the library's summer reading program was in full swing. Since the theme for week four (this week) is "award winner or classic," I hoped against hope that this book was award winner... And it is! ALA Alex Award (2010) and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (2011).
While in the show, Brakebills is a graduate school for magicians, in the books, it is an undergraduate program. I initially had a moment of "Aw, boo." But then it occurred to me that this helps explain why, on the show, I thought Brakebills didn't "feel" like grad school. I am guessing that the change was because certain mature situations from the book might seem less objectionable for 22-year-olds than 18-year-olds.
So, The Magician focuses its third-person limited narration on protagonist Quentin Coldwater. It traces his acceptance into the Brakebills program, his completion--in four years--of its five-year program, and his first few post-Brakebills years. I enjoyed this book, though it some ways, the pacing seemed odd. In some respects, the narrative felt rushed--like years at Brakebills would race to their conclusion. But then certain conversations and actions would seem dragged out, bogged down with more detail than needed.
One of the primary differences between the show and the books is that the first season mapped to one year of school. Presumably, each season will be devoted to a year of school (though if they want to go more than three seasons, they'll need a post-school era, since the grad program on the show is three years). One of the things I appreciated about the book is that all of Quentin's friends from Brakebills have read and loved the "Fillory and Beyond" books (a series that, in the book's universe, has the popularity of the "Harry Potter" franchise). On the show, the other characters treat Quentin as if liking the books makes him a bit of a dork. Otherwise, although the way the stories are unspooled differs, the show and book hit many of the same major plot points. But I will say the differences are significant enough that viewers of the show and readers of the books can still enjoy the other medium.