The Magician King – Lev Grossman

About the Book

Return to Fillory in the riveting sequel to The New York Times bestseller and literary phenomenon of 2009–The Magicians.

The Magicians was praised as a triumph by readers and critics of both mainstream and fantasy literature. Now Grossman takes us back to Fillory, where the Brakebills graduates have fled the sorrows of the mundane world, only to face terrifying new challenges.

Quentin and his friends are now the kings and queens of Fillory, but the days and nights of royal luxury are starting to pall. 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. Their pleasure cruise becomes an adventure when the two are unceremoniously dumped back into the last place Quentin ever wants to see: his parent’s house in Chesterton, Massachusetts. And only the black, twisted magic that Julia learned on the streets can save them.

The Magician King is a grand voyage into the dark, glittering heart of magic, an epic quest for the Harry Potter generation. It also introduces a powerful new voice, that of Julia, whose angry genius is thrilling. Once again Grossman proves that he is the cutting edge of literary fantasy.

400 pages (paperback)
Published on August 9, 2011
Published by Viking
Author’s webpage
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It’s hard for me to believe that it took two tries for me to decide to give The Magicians a go. The first two times I, faded out for various reasons. The third time was the charm. I devoured that book, and learned that Lev Grossman has some incredible talent for writing. His books are just as exciting to read due to the prose as they are exciting due to the plot.

I just finished the audiobook version of The Magician King today, and I’m wondering why I put off reading (or listening) to it for so long.

The Magician King takes off about a few years after The Magicians end. Quentin and company are kings and queens of Fillory, but not all is bliss. Quentin is bored, and in search of a quest and some heroism to spice things up. That’s really the crux of the whole book, and the drive that really keeps things going.

In a lot of ways, this is a Quentin and Julia book. The book flips between Julia’s story of how she became who she’s becoming, and Quentin’s current adventure. They juxtapose each other quite well, and it’s interesting to see how the two storylines impact each other in some quite profound, and sometimes rather subtle (and not so subtle) ways. It also adds some nice context to their relationship, and their experiences in Fillory.

The Magician King is, at its heart, the traditional epic fantasy quest novel. There’s the hero, and his band of buddies, and they are all going off into the unknown to find the golden keys that will save the world(s). It’s all very fantastic, and works well to remind me of the things that attracted me to fantasy in the first place. Quests aren’t really done so much in our genre anymore, but it’s nice to see occasionally, especially when it is well done. Grossman does it really, really well.

The quest is compelling, and the relationship and background aspects I mentioned above really propel it into another realm of interesting. However, it’s the world building that really shines. The world of Fillory expands by orders of magnitude, and it’s full of lands and people that, if readers only learn about them in passing, are no less interesting for it. It’s quite amazing the kind of thought and effort Grossman put into creating a compelling, dynamic, and interesting secondary world.

As always, Lev Grossman could probably write a grocery list and I’d love to read it. He has a way with words, and world and character building that just does it for me. Plus, his plot is relentless, not just moving forward, but the past aspects as well. It’s compelling in just about every respect.

So what’s going to keep this from being a five-star read?

The ending didn’t really work for me, and I’m afraid to say more due to spoilers. Suffice it to say, I’m not exactly sure how they saved the world. That part of the ending felt more like a means to an end rather than something that actually made any logical sense to me. It was disappointing to get that far, and not be able to understand what exactly the keys were for, and how (insert spoilers here) worked. It felt more like a show that got characters to go from point A to point B.

The character evolution in that ending is absolutely fantastic. The group splits up. There’s a twist I didn’t expect (that confused me, but I’m pretty sure that’s where I’m supposed to be right now), and Quentin ends up, well, different than I expected him to end up. Grossman threw all the pieces in the air, and I honestly have no idea how they will land.

But that’s the thrill with this series. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I didn’t really expect anything that happened in The Magician King, and that’s what I loved. It’s rare that I find a book that endlessly surprises me these days. I just read too much, and I couldn’t really anticipate anything in this book. It was gripping, absorbing, relentless, and full of twists and intricacies that really impressed me.

Lev Grossman is a hell of an author, and this series is quite incredible.


4/5 stars


P.S. This audiobook is absolutely wonderful to listen to, probably one of the best that I’ve listened to.

One Responses

  • I listened to the first two on audio and I agree they are some of the best. Somehow Mark Bramhall nails these characters even though he’s obviously much older than them.

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