The Magicians was probably my favorite book last summer, and I was looking forward to the sequel. Yet this novel left me cold, in a way I can't quite articulate. I loved the first half of The Magicians (the Brakebills chapters) so much because everything there felt very real -- Grossman spent some quality time world-building. Here, I felt like I was constantly grappling for footing. Maybe it's because the characters jumped through so many portals, but I just never got quite the same sense of where everyone was that I felt in the first installment.
The Julia chapters were especially lacking. Perhaps it's emblematic of her state of mind -- she felt floating and detached and the reader feels the same by proxy. The whole journey, epic as it was supposed to be, lacked the magic of the first novel.