Kemper's Reviews > The Magician King

The Magician King by Lev Grossman
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Aug 24, 11

bookshelves: 2011, favorites, fantasy, magic, alt-universes
Read from August 13 to 20, 2011

If Quentin Coldwater stumbled on a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, he’d constantly complain about how heavy it was and how the coins didn’t fit in any vending machines and why couldn‘t they have just put the money into a nice cashier‘s check that he could have fit neatly in his wallet and then deposited in the bank?

In the first book, Quentin was a brilliant but disillusioned teenager who found life a boring slog and desperately wished that things were more like his favorite fantasy series set in a magical land called Fillory. (Think Narnia.) Quentin seemingly hit the fantasy geek jackpot when he learned that magic was real, and he was admitted to an exclusive school called Brakebills that trained magicians. Yet he constantly found himself disappointed that he never achieved his idea of true happiness even after graduating. When a classmate discovered that Fillory was real and a path to it, Quentin seized on the notion that going to Fillory was the only way he’d ever finally be complete. Unfortunately, Quentin learned the hard way that there‘s a big difference between reading about adventures and actually finding yourself in magical battle where various beasties are trying to kill you.

The Magician King picks up several years after that. Quentin is now one of the kings of Fillory and lives a life of ease and luxury with his friends. Of course, Quentin is never satisfied with a bird in the hand even when he’s relatively content, and he volunteers to go on a diplomatic mission to an island so he can seek the two birds he just knows are out there in the bush. His desire for a ’real’ adventure leads to him returning to Earth and finding that his wish for a high stakes quest have just come true. It’s much more than he bargained for and the consequences are enormous.

I loved The Magicians with it’s unique twist of what it’d be like if there were magic in the real world, but it seemed like a love-it or hate-it book with my friends here on Goodreads. And I totally understood why some readers could not stand Quentin at all. Here’s a guy who catches the biggest break in nerd history and yet he’s never satisfied and grateful for the opportunity he has.

In all honesty, I was starting to hate him pretty good through the first half of this book myself. It seemed like Quentin had forgotten everything he’d suffered and learned in the first book, and he was once again an obsessed nerd who is convinced that he’d be happy if he could live like he’s in a fantasy novel. However, that changes about halfway through with several big plot developments that I won’t spoil, but by the end of this one, I completely dropped my earlier reservations.

It also helped that Grossman is obviously writing Quentin to be an obsessed pain in the ass early on, and that he has several characters call him out on it. There’s a particularly nice bit where Quentin has traveled to Europe on Earth, and he has a moment of clarity where he realizes that he wrote off the real world when he’d seen almost none of it.

One of the things I also loved about this one in is the backstory of Julia, a former high school classmate’s of Quentin’s who had failed the Brakebills entrance exam, but went on to find another way to learn magic. If they were musicians, it’d be like Quentin went to study at Juilliard, but Julia learned in garage bands and punk clubs.

I can’t mention the stuff that occurs towards the end that made this book so cool to me and left me stunned by it’s conclusion. If you didn’t like The Magicians, this probably won’t change your mind. However, if you did like the first one, you’ll probably enjoy this book, especially it’s moving and incredibly dark third act.
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Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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Stephanie I'm reading this one right now....


message 2: by Cera (new) - added it

Cera I just read the first one and am dying to read this one, but must make it to the library. Or give in & buy it for my Kindle, but I think I'm going to want to own it.


message 3: by Dorothy (new)

Dorothy Interesting. I may have to put it and the previous book on my TBR list.


message 4: by Kim (new) - added it

Kim I read the sample of The Magician and really liked it, I just can't bring myself to spend 12.99 for a Kindle book...:(


message 5: by Richard (new)

Richard Guion Interesting, I read the first 50 pages and could not stand Quentin. I also don't like Fillory that much. It seems like the novel gets better so I will return at some point.


Covingtoncat73 Yeah. I loved it, especial
y Julia's story.


Cody Knuth Good read but I liked the first better. Julia's story drove the plot for most of the book and the cynicism and depression really wore on me. But, the cool(?) thing is that I started to feel it with her. Has Grossman ever been admitted to a psych ward? Because I was sure nothing could be explained that way without having lived it. I consider myself a happy person, but I was googling anti-depressants halfway thru Julia's downward spiral. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the book a lot, this is a testament to Grossman's writing, which won out over the story in my opinion.


Kemper Cody wrote: "Good read but I liked the first better. Julia's story drove the plot for most of the book and the cynicism and depression really wore on me. But, the cool(?) thing is that I started to feel it with..."

Yeah, it's not happy good times reading, but I found it compelling. If you go out and read Grossman's blog on his website or interviews with him, he's written quite a bit about the behind the scenes stuff on the books.


Cody Knuth Yeah, his blog really is a great way to go behind the scenes. And, he's been updating more frequently in the past year which has been awesome.


Heather I love your opening paragraph about how Quentin would find fault somehow with even a pot of gold. Love it. Oh! And I just realized that your pic is Evil Abed. {giggling}


Kemper Heather wrote: "I love your opening paragraph about how Quentin would find fault somehow with even a pot of gold. Love it. Oh! And I just realized that your pic is Evil Abed. {giggling}"

Thanks! I'm gonna go try and cut Jeff's arm off in a minute.


Nancy Spot on review. It took me a year to read this book because the beginning was so depressing, but the end knocked me out. So glad there's one more book coming though.


message 14: by Tri (new)

Tri I had the book for quite a while now. I guess it's been more than 6 months now. I loved the 1st and was afraid the 2nd would be disappointing as most sequel does. I love Quentin as he's basically only being human. I think it's time to unwrap it now. Thanks!!!


message 15: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia You mean it takes one and a half books to for Quentin to start growing up? I thought the first one was supposed to be the coming of age book. Ugh.


Kemper Cynthia wrote: "You mean it takes one and a half books to for Quentin to start growing up? I thought the first one was supposed to be the coming of age book. Ugh."

Yeah, I was irritated at first because it really seemed like Quentin forget everything that happened in the previous books because of his childish attitudes, but then the second half of this one is such a cold splash of reality for him and such a great story that I got over it.


message 17: by M (new) - rated it 4 stars

M This book reminds me alot of a book I read awhile ago from an unknown author named Maseman. It was also very good


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