Review: The Magician King

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Magician KingThe Magician King by Lev Grossman
Series: The Magicians #1
Published by Viking Adult on August 9, 2011
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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Return to Fillory in the riveting sequel to the New York Timesbestseller and literary phenomenon, The Magicians

Quentin Coldwater should be happy. He escaped a miserable Brooklyn childhood, matriculated at a secret college for magic, and graduated to discover that Fillory—a fictional utopia—was actually real. But even as a Fillorian king, Quentin finds little peace. His old restlessness returns, and he longs for the thrills a heroic quest can bring.
Accompanied by his oldest friend, Julia, Quentin sets off—only to somehow wind up back in the real world and not in Fillory, as they'd hoped. As the pair struggle to find their way back to their lost kingdom, Quentin is forced to rely on Julia's illicitly-learned sorcery as they face a sinister threat in a world very far from the beloved fantasy novels of their youth.

Warning: Spoilers for The Magicians pretty much inevitable.

If The Magicians was Harry Potter meets The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Magician King is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Much of the book is spent aboard a vessel, the Muntjac, in pursuit of one quest or another. This book is rather meandering, drifting from one port to another, finding new purpose seemingly at random. They quest for the hare, receive a terrifying prophecy, go to collect back taxes from a meaningless island, and, eventually, end up needing to prevent magic from disappearing. The connections between a lot of this were tenuous at best.

This book was much tougher to get through than the first one, because Quentin spends the whole book in that self-indulgent, whiny, poor little rich boy phase that only dominated a quarter of the previous novel. That Quentin is pretty much impossible for me to like. He is, frankly, quite irritating. Terrible things have happened to him, no doubt, but he just whines about how he wants to be a hero rather than stepping up.

What saved this was the addition of Julia’s narrative, which was strange and depressing, but at least broke the flow of Quentin’s despondence. Julia has a unique story, one that opens some interesting theoretical and philosophical doors into the world Grossman has created in this series.

This series actually reminds me of Joss Whedon somewhat. Lev Grossman has a similar love for making his characters suffer, never wanting anyone to find long-lasting fulfillment, romantic or otherwise. He also likes to kill off characters to make things feel real. Plus, everything is so incredibly improbable, even through the lens of the universe that he has created. I feel like they might get along. If they collaborated, they would make the most fantastical and depressing story ever.

I infinitely preferred the first book, but am still definitely eager to discover where the story’s going to go in the next installment. I sincerely hope that it will find Quentin a more grown up man.


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