August 1, 2016

Book Review: The Magician King by Lev Grossman

The Magician King is the sequel to The Magicians and picks up the story two years later. Quentin and his friends are the kings and queens of Fillory, but their life of luxury isn’t the paradise it appears to be. The days and nights of royal leisure are starting to pall, and after a morning hunt takes a sinister turn, Quentin and his old friend Julia charter a magical sailing ship and set out on an errand to the wild outer reaches of their kingdom.

Hot off concluding The Magicians, I barely paused to take a breath before plunging into The Magician King.  I found it to be even better than the first. Quentin is at last growing up. In this book he’s less irritating, having grown wiser through the great loss in the first book. However, where he’s more likeable here, the alternate chapters from Julia’s point of view is much darker and more uncomfortable.  These chapters are actually happening in the past, more the alternate timeline of the first book – what happened to Julia while Quentin was in Brakebills and having magical adventures.  Reflective of her state of mind, Julia’s narrative is excoriating as she sinks into desperation, then deep depression, trying to find her magical fix after she fails the Brakebills test. The need to do magic is like a drug addiction for her and she does almost everything to become a magician in her own right.  Whereas Brakebills is the proper channel, Julia travels the black market/underground scene of hedge witches.

“It was all real - it wasn’t a dream or a psychotic hallucination –but they weren’t going to let her have it.  There was a place out there that was so perfect and magical that it had made even Quentin happy.  There wasn’t just magic, there was love too.  Quentin was in love.  But Julia wasn’t.  She was out in the cold.  Hogwarts was fully subscribed, and her eligibility had lapsed.  Hagrid’s motorcycle would never rumble outside her front door.  No creamy-enveloped letters would  ever come flooding down her chimney.”

Contrasting the past are the chapters in the present where now Quentin and his friends are kings and queens of Fillory. The Narnian influence is at its highest in this volume, with Quentin restless to go on a quest. He goes on several but soon an even more dire scenario unfolds in which all of magic is in danger of disappearing from Fillory. 

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