Quentin Makepeace Coldwater is a New York Magician who attended Brakebills University. Quentin has always been on the outside looking in. He's awkward, unsure, overthinks everything, He's the sort of guy always pining from afar (especially for his childhood best friend, Julia). It's no wonder the world of magic – especially in his favorite book series, Fillory and Further – has been such an escape. But, as Quentin discovers upon entering Brakebills University, magic is more than the card tricks he's learned over the years. It's very real and he can wield it, with some serious practice and focus. Seemingly for the first time in Quentin's life, the future doesn't look so bleak.
After suffering from the loss of Alice during their confrontation with The Beast, Quentin begins on a quest that even the most powerful of magicians believe to be impossible: restoring his lost love back to life. Throughout his journey, he finds himself making deals with dragons, confronting gods, robbing banks, and saving an entire kingdom from impending doom. However, as all things magic come with a price, Quentin and his friends' actions leave them scrambling to save magic itself, or face the possibility of returning to the bleak life he'd escaped once already. He had a son, in the past, that he named after his father.
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Growing up in New Jersey
Quentin Coldwater was born in Montclair, New Jersey to Ted Coldwater and his mother in 1993. During his childhood, he met Julia Wicker, who introduced him to the Fillory and Further series. One day, the two drew a map of Fillory beneath the table in Quentin's dining room, making plans to explore the land like the Chatwins from the books. Quentin later learned sleight-of-hand magic tricks to impress Julia, and later developed feelings for her.
After high school, the two were accepted to Colombia University, where Quentin graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Literature.
Living in New York
- "On admitting, you reported you couldn't concentrate, eat, get out of bed. You said the feeling of not belonging anywhere was overwhelming. And now, you feel better?"
"I mean, I get it."
"You're a kid, and you're whole life's ahead of you, and you have all these notions about what life is and what it could be. But eventually, you have to let all that go. That's what I'm – that's what I'm doing."
- —Jennifer London and Quentin Coldwater[src]
In 2016, Quentin checked himself into the Midtown Mental Health Clinic for a weekend due to his worsening depression. Doctor Jennifer London called Quentin into her office after he requested his release, despite Doctor London's insistence that he receive further treatment . After his release, he went to a party in his loft with Julia Wicker and their friends, where he tried to explain the complexities of sleight-of-hand magic and talked about the Danish version of the Fillory and Further series. Later, Julia found Quentin in his room, reading The World in the Walls instead of partying with everyone else. He told Julia that he planned to sell his books and leave Fillory behind, which Julia agreed was right.
Interview for Yale
The next day, when Quentin and Julia arrived for an interview for Yale, the two discovered the body of their interviewer and called the police. After the paramedics arrived to take the body, one of the EMTs, Eliza, handed Quentin a package, which he took before leaving with Julia. As Quentin walked Julia to her interview, he opened the package and found that it contained a manuscript of the seemingly-lost additional book in his childhood-favorite series, Fillory and Further. Seeing the excitement Quentin still had for the series, Julia insisted he give up the childhood fantasy of Fillory as she had. Quentin stated that she never hated the series until she began dating James.
Brakebills Entrance Exam
After the two parted ways, Quentin began to read the manuscript. A gust of wind blew one of the pages away, causing him to chase after it. The page brought him to an abandoned lot, where he discovered a hidden portal that brought him to Brakebills University, where Eliot Waugh was waiting for him.
He passes an Entrance Exam, a collection of ingenious mathematical and otherwise mind-bending problems, then discovers his magical prowess when he manipulated a set of cards with his mind. He is later admitted to matriculate there along with the other studying magicians, remains at the school for the short time before the school year starts, spending his days with Eliot and Margo, the former of whom he met when he first arrived on campus.
Early in his time at Brakebills, Quentin sees Jane Chatwin in his dreams. Visits from her act as a catalyst to draw Quentin closer to his allies, especially Alice Quinn. After having nodded off while studying, Quentin wakes up from a dream of Jane with a symbol branded into his palm that he had seen Alice studying previously. It turns out the symbol is part of her research into contacting her mysteriously deceased brother, Charlie Quinn. Upon beginning the spell to summon Charlie's spirit, the symbol disappears. A voice in Penny's head instructs him to help, leading him and Kady to assist in the spell, which at first appears to not have worked.
Their assumption that the spell did not work is proven wrong, however, when The Beast enters Brakebills in the middle of class, killing Van Der Weghe and maiming Dean Fogg. The Beast directly addresses Quentin by name and moves to kill him, but Quentin unpauses time by using an enchanted pocket watch that Dean Fogg offers him, and the rest of his classmates fight back against the Beast.
- "My friend Julia said that I couldn't run away hard enough. She's right. I run and I find secret doors - whether I'm alone or in a group, it doesn't matter. Like I'm here. I'm in this amazing place. I have literal magic in my life and I'm still running. I'm still this person that I fucking hate."
- —Quentin Coldwater[src]
Intelligent, driven, and melancholic. Quentin is an introverted person but fiercely driven to grasp the power that’s been handed to him. He’s always suspected there was something different about him, and now he has the chance to prove it. But his low self-esteem and depression sometimes hold him back.
Quentin is a friendly but shy and awkward individual; he is happy to talk but often stumbles on his own words in a conversation. He has been a fan of the Fillory and Further series since his childhood and yearns to fill his life with the same adventures found in the books.
Quentin, before discovering Brakebills, was suffering from isolation anxiety, stating that the feeling of not belonging anywhere was overwhelming and that he was "the most useless person to ever live". As pointed out by Dean Fogg, however, he was never truly depressed. In reality, Quentin was lonely, and angry at the world, but this soon faded as he adjusted to his new life.
As he began his college career at Brakebills, he quickly made friends with Eliot Waugh, whom he met before his Exam, and Margo Hanson, upperclassmen and Physical Kids who held most of the authority in their Discipline House, the Cottage, after the mysterious disappearance of most of the Third-year class.
A neophyte to being a Magician, Quentin initially had very little understanding and control of his magical abilities. As such, he was easily impressed, along with the rest of his classmates, at the advanced capabilities of Alice Quinn, whom he came to admire and respect. He worried about his time at Brakebills, his fear of flunking out pushing him to ask if Alice would mentor him due to her comprehension. After the attack by The Beast, Quentin grew increasingly paranoid, as he and Alice, along with Penny and Kady, two other students in their year, performed the ritual that allowed it to get through Brakebills' wards. His paranoia drove him to steal an Emerson's Alloy Repellant from Penny, in fear of having his knowledge of magic removed and being forced to return to the mundane world he escaped from.
Upon his revelation that Fillory, the setting of the Fillory and Further series, was real, Quentin fantasized about traveling there to live out his childhood fantasy. After arriving, Quentin expresses a desire to be Fillory's hero and savior but decides that Alice, a much more capable magician than him, should be that hero.
Magic and Abilities
- Journeyman Magician: Quentin was considered to be a very gifted magician with great potential. Even without the knowledge of magic's existence, Quentin was an adept practitioner of street magic, excelling in both sleight-of-hand and card tricks, as displayed in Jennifer London's office and during his Entrance Exam, respectively. Quentin was able to perform different kinds of magic and spells to varying degrees of success, though he had been grouped with the Physical Kids for the time being. When The Beast first attacked, Quentin summoned a Jane Chatwin's pocket watch from Dean Fogg's hand into his own, and in Fillory, he materialized a god-slaying sword into his hands to face Ember, whereas the sword was previously across the room. During the Welters competition, Quentin created a miniature vortex that won the game for the team, but he had little control over it and struggled to shut it down. While under the effects of the Scarlotti's Web hex, where he was trapped in a dream world that had no magic, Quentin bypassed the power of the hex, which was performed by two powerful hedge witches, and cast a spell despite his previous attempts failing. After slaying the Fillorian god Ember and thereby upsetting the natural balance, the Old Gods sent their emissary, the Plumber, to cut humanity's connection to magic, rendering Quentin and every other magician powerless, except for Julia Wicker, leading him down the journey to restore magic.
- Telekinesis: As a Physical Kid, Quentin was adept at using telekinesis, which he performed during his Entrance Exam when he telekinetically manipulated a deck of cards to form a replica of Castle Whitespire, complete with its rotating towers.
- Materialization: Quentin showcased this ability multiple times and even used it before he knew that he was a magician, using it to make cards disappear for his tricks.
- Mind Control: Quentin first learned about mind control at Brakebills' the main campus in New York, where they are taught not to use this class of magic on living creatures. However, during their time at Brakebills South, Quentin and his classmates were extensively instructed on mind control by Professor Mayakovsky. At first, Quentin struggled with asserting his will on smaller insects, prompting Mayakovsky to get inventive with his direction. After being attached to a crude disciplinary device that would shock them if they made a mistake, Quentin and Alice, fortunately, navigated a bushel of fireflies through a chain of rings. Later, he's seen single-handedly guiding a mass of bees during a bank heist, having successfully sharpened his mental discipline enough to sufficiently control them to a high degree.
- Battle Magic: Quentin first used battle magic without knowing what he was doing. He used it against Penny after memorizing the spell Kady cast during The Beast's attack. Afterward, the looming threat of The Beast pushed Quentin, Penny, and the rest of the Physical Kids to teach themselves rudimentary battle magic with a little help from Kady. As this field of magic required years to fully master (at least a decade or so of training, according to Kady), the group took a shortcut to quicken the process by suppressing their emotions in magical flasks. After becoming more affiliated with it, Quentin no longer needed to bottle up his emotions, as shown when he used his newfound skills in the Skirmish in Fillory. However, his magic was still relatively weak during the confrontation, as Martin Chatwin was able to easily deflect his attacks. Quentin was also able to successfully employ a shield charm, strengthened by the cooperative effort of Margo and Eliot, intending to use it to trap the Beast in place so Alice could utilize the Rhinemann Ultra.
- Illusion Magic: During a bank heist, Quentin cast an Illusion spell on the bank's security cameras to scrub the group's images from the footage.
- Entropy Reversal: With his Discipline being Repair of Small Objects, Quentin possessed a natural talent for entropy reversal, albeit on a smaller scale; Alice even conceded that he always was good at Minor Mendings. He used this ability to repair one of his father's broken model planes, a shattered coffee cup, and the gateway leading to the Seam.
- Gifted Intellect: Quentin was able to grasp the full comprehension of magical theory as taught at Brakebills University. As is the standard for all Magicians, Quentin possessed at least an Above Average level of intelligence that enables him to utilize the concept of magic and apply it in the physical world. He was slated to go to Princeton before his discovery of Brakebills, and was able to beat the Madness Maker, a rogue trickster magician who went insane, at his own game, a testament to his intellect. After his instruction with Mischa Mayakovsky, his intelligence allowed him to perform the meta-mathematics involved in spellcasting to allow him to innately know the Circumstances surrounding his castings, as well as construct magical formulas and equations for spellcraft. Quentin's understanding of magical theory allowed him to create the ritual used to bring back Alice from her state as a Niffin, a feat no other Magician in history could accomplish.
- Multilingual: Like every other Magician, Quentin could speak and read a multitude of languages, as it was a basic requirement for spellcasting. He was shown to be able to speak Old High German, Arabic, Greek, Romanian, Latin, Russian, Slavic, and Ancient Egyptian, though he claimed that his grasp on Ancient Egyptian was somewhat lacking.