Dan Schwent 's Reviews > The Magician King

The Magician King by Lev Grossman
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Aug 14, 11

bookshelves: 2011
Read from August 08 to 14, 2011

Quentin and friends are the kings and queens of Fillory and everything is marvelous. Or it is, until it becomes apparent that something is wrong. King Quentin takes it upon himself to fix things. With Julia in tow, he sails to the ends of Fillory to fix the world. Can he succeed in the quest of a lifetime and save Fillory?

If The Magicians was Lev Grossman's Harry Potter with a healthy slice of Narnia, The Magician King is Lev Grossman's Lord of the Rings. Grossman takes all the quest story staples and focuses them through his lens. Not only does Grossman tell the story of Quentin rising to the occasion and stopping his rampant douche-baggery, he also tells the harrowing tale of Julia's own rise to magical prowess after her failure during the Brakebills exam. Where the first book is essentially a coming of age story, this one is a pair of quest stories.

I have to admit that I wasn't completely sold at first. Neither thread of the story seemed to be moving very fast and Julia's tale wasn't really grabbing me. Then it all clicked and I was hooked, devouring the book in two extended sittings.

Quentin rises above his roots in The Magician King, finally becoming someone we actually like reading about. As for Julia's parallel tale, I'll save that for my spoilers section. Grossman explores the various quest story tropes and simultaneously crafts a grand quest story of his own. More on that in the spoilers section.

Grossman did a ton of world-building in The Magician King. The Neitherlands were explained, Fillory was fleshed out, and lots of things lurking just out of sight were hinted at. All of it was well integrated with the rest of the story and I didn't feel like I was being slapped in the face with it.

Poppy was by far my favorite of the new characters. I liked how she called Quentin to the carpet over ignoring the real world in favor of Fillory. I also liked that she and Quentin didn't immediately stumble and fall into each other's genitals.

Julia's tale was a poignant tale of loss and sacrifice. While I wasn't too keen on it at first, it became my favorite part of the story after a while. Her new friends were an interesting bunch. Too bad about what happened to them. See the spoiler section for details.

One thing I continue to love is Grossman's magic system. It's grown a bit from its Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell roots. The notion that magic is the leftover tools from when the gods created the world is repeated and expanded upon.

The spoiler section:
(view spoiler)

In conclusion, if you dug the first book and don't like your sequels to be "Second verse, same as the first," you'll probably enjoy The Magician King. Go out and get it right now!
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Reading Progress

08/13/2011 page 85
21.0%
08/14/2011 page 358
90.0% "I can't imagine how this is going to be wrapped up in the next 42 pages."
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Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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message 1: by Ben (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ben Babcock Ooh, I look forward to your review. I'm debating whether to put this one on my list. I recently read his short story "Endgame", which is set in the same universe and slightly mollified me toward Quentin.

"Once again Grossman proves that he is the modern heir to C.S. Lewis, and the cutting edge of literary fantasy".

^ I find the above part of the book's description offensive on so many levels.


message 2: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent The Magician King shipped this morning. I should have it by Thursday. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I'll probably devour it by Monday or Tuesday.

As a GR friend of mine nicely put it, Quentin is the guy who wins the lottery and immediately starts bitching about how much he's going to have to pay in taxes.

I've never read the Narnia books and I'm rolling my eyes at the C.S. Lewis comparison.


message 3: by Ben (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ben Babcock Dan wrote: "As a GR friend of mine nicely put it, Quentin is the guy who wins the lottery and immediately starts bitching about how much he's going to have to pay in taxes."

I find this particularly humourous because here in Canada, we don't pay taxes on lottery winnings. :D (So much for being tax-crazy socialists!)

Dan wrote: "I've never read the Narnia books and I'm rolling my eyes at the C.S. Lewis comparison."

I'm sure you've picked this up from others, but Fillory is a postmodern deconstruction of Narnia. So I don't really follow how Grossman can be the heir to Lewis. He seems to be more a response.

"Endgame" intrigued me because the main character is a woman magician who is playing essentially the real-life equivalent of a magical MMORPG. And Quentin swoops in just as she's about to win the quest she's on and asks her if she wants to do something more, which kind of makes me hope he's come up with a plan. But the description of this sequel doesn't sound that promising.


message 4: by Dan (last edited Aug 08, 2011 11:43AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent Grossman and Lewis (if he were able) would agree with your assessment.

I've deliberately avoided anything related to The Magician King to avoid spoilage. I have high hopes for The Magician King and hope Grossman doesn't provoke my wrath...


message 5: by Ben (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ben Babcock OK, you've persuaded me to give this one a chance.


message 6: by Jason (new)

Jason This will be one of my next reads even though I felt that the Magicians was fairly bland and quite overrated.


message 7: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent Jason wrote: "This will be one of my next reads even though I felt that the Magicians was fairly bland and quite overrated."

I liked The Magicians but this one feels more like a traditional fantasy novel and I think more people will enjoy it.


message 8: by Lyndz (new)

Lyndz Thanks Dan, I will have to check this one out.


Eric I was already pretty excited about this book, now I'm even more so. Great review.


message 10: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent Eric wrote: "I was already pretty excited about this book, now I'm even more so. Great review."

Thanks. It didn't disappoint, although it took me a little while to get hooked.


Kemper Dan wrote: "As a GR friend of mine nicely put it, Quentin is the guy who wins the lottery and immediately starts bitching about how much he's going to have to pay in taxes.

Whoever said that was obviously brilliant...


message 12: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent Kemper wrote: "Dan wrote: "As a GR friend of mine nicely put it, Quentin is the guy who wins the lottery and immediately starts bitching about how much he's going to have to pay in taxes.

Whoever said that was ..."


He's one perceptive curmudgeon.


 Danielle The Book Huntress (Angels Weep For Goodreads) I'm glad that Quentin has grown up as a person. I think he had potential in the first book. (view spoiler) Thanks for the review. It solidifies my decision to keep reading this series.


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