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.
This is the second book in the series, click here to read my review of the first book The Magicians
The Good Bits.
I spent the entire first book of this series not liking Julia. In many ways I agreed with Quentin, she hadn’t had much interest in him when they were friends, but once he had access to magic and she didn’t, that was when she wanted to give him special attention. And so when she shows up in the second book I had even less interest in her, but throughout the book she got better and better. What started off as a one-dimensional character sprouted into a rounded, and in-depth character that I came to love. She transformed from a bitter girl with a chip on her shoulder to someone who had worked hard, harder than any of the Brakebills folk, to be connected to magic. By the end of book I truly felt that no other character loves magic as much as Julia loves magic.
“You’re all so obsessed with other worlds, you’re so convinced that this one is crap and everywhere else is great, but you’ve never bothered to figure out what’s going on here!”
This book was also more heavily focused on adventure and questing than the first. Likely because so much more of this novel takes place in Fillory. It gave it more of a high fantasy feel as opposed to the urban fantasy of the first novel. For those of you that wanted to see more of Fillory in the first book, The Magician King will give it to you. But it still keeps a lot of connections to The Magicians that I appreciated. For example, you get to see what’s been going on with characters since the first novel. And there were some new characters as well like Poppy. I love Poppy. Her character was a nice dose of reality in comparison to characters like Quentin that regularly talk reality down. Also she’s a nice preppy break from the doom and gloom that Quentin and Julia bring to the book.
As per the first book, I liked Quentin a lot more at the end of the novel than I did at the beginning. I suspect that whenever Quentin feels good about himself I don’t like him, but once he gets dragged through the mud some he’s finally likeable.
Death didn’t respect you. Death thought you were bullshit, and it wanted to make sure you knew it.
I found that this book wasn’t as new and exciting as the first book was. In many way this is just a usual symptom of reading the second book in a series. But I also think The Magician’s had more of an even balance of reality and magic, while this one is more steeped in fantasy. There’s less about the rules of magic, and more about ‘just believing really hard’ to make things happen. I think a lot of this also has to do with the fact that Julia’s magic isn’t of the same rigid structure as the Brakebills crew. In some ways this is cool because we get to see another way magic is used. But on the flip side, I really like all the structure, that’s what made the magic so appealing to me.
I go back and forth on the theology bits. There’s a lot of talk about higher powers, Gods and Goddesses, and speculation about the origin of magic. This was honestly an interesting component and not one I’ve often seen explored by novels, that is, the speculation of the characters about origins and then for the characters to interact with those higher powers. For some people this may be wonderful, for me, not so much. I actually had to put the book down at one point because it was a bit too much for me. I think involving the Gods just made it a bit too fantastic for my tastes, though I got used to it eventually.
I think #TheMagicianKing is getting too real for me. One second you're doing a fun quest, and the next you're having an existential crisis
— Liselle (@lunchtimelib) February 1, 2016
The Last Bite.
The Magician King is a wonderful second installment of the series exploring more of Fillory and the fantasy aspects of the magical world. I could have done with a touch less fantasy, but that’s personal preference.
PS: Happy Valentine’s Day from Quentin and Alice! Okay, I know this isn’t romantic at all, but the series just started so there’s not a ton to work with…
What did you think about theology in fiction? Yay or nay?
If you’ve read The Magician King let me know what you thought!
Let’s do lunch again next week!