Quentin Coldwater provides one of the most honest perspectives on what it is like to have depression. For him, it goes beyond sadness. It is a sense of nothingness, emptiness, a disconnection from one’s inner being. His battle is twice as difficult than that of usual fantasy protagonists, who are naturally self assured, brave and optimistic . Instead we have insecure, melancholy Quentin. A soon as he is done battling beasts on the outside, he must go on to fight those residing inside his mind.
In the first book, he goes through a whirlwind of depressive episodes, each one unlocking a new realization. As a high school student, it signals a yearning for something extraordinary. When he graduates, it leads him to seek beyond the hedonistic pleasures. Following the death of Alice, he channels it into mastering spell craft. He discovers being a magician is all about transforming the victim mentality into one of empowerment that allows manipulation of reality.
“But you, my friends, you found another way: a way to use the pain. To burn it as fuel, for light and warmth. You have learned to break the world that has tried to break you.”
The inner pain did not make him unworthy of the Fillorian crown. It did not hinder him from falling in love with Alice, and it did not, in any way reduce his magical abilities. He did not have to go out and cure his mental disease before he could accomplish anything. Instead life naturally did it for him with every heartbreak, tragedy, discovery, epiphany and moments of joy.
His depression acted as the catalyst for deep, soul level changes. With it Quentin graduated from a magic school , was crowned King, and uncovered the true depth of his power even when he lost it all. His choice to switch from a limiting, masochistic perspective to a courageous, expansive one gave him the confidence to go on dangerous high stakes quests and save magic. Thanks to our hero, we learn that the “worst” parts of us serve to guide us through our life journey.