Ryan's Reviews > The Magician King

The Magician King by Lev Grossman
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Aug 18, 11


Lately, I've felt like we're living in a golden age for SFF.

Maybe this is just because I can't keep up with my "to read" list. I still haven't gotten to Scott Lynch or Joe Abercrombie at all, though I've heard both are great. I haven't read new books from George RR Martin and Patrick Rothfuss, even though I've heard good things. I manage to keep up with China Mieville, but I'm way behind on my Neal Stephenson, Robert Charles Wilson, and ... the list just keeps going.

However, I still made time to read Lev Grossman's new novel, The Magician King. To some extent, I'll admit, I chose this novel because it was quite short for a fantasy. Also, I read The Magicians this spring and was ready to read the sequel. Still, I'm also pretty sure that when we look back at this time, Lev Grossman will be on our list of "must read fantasy authors." He might not top it, but he'll be on it.

Certainly The Magician King will be considered a feather in his cap.

This is a sequel, which is a very tough book for authors to pull off. However, Grossman seems to be taking his cues from the original Star Wars trilogy, and he has produced an impressive installment in an unusual fantasy series, one that does a nice job of expanding on the first story and preparing us for a climactic finish (I hope).

Our hero, Quentin Coldwater, is no longer inclined to complain about not being allowed to pick up power converters with his friends. Instead, he's actually pretty competent, even likeable, and he's prepared to face dragons, defy gods, and save damsels in distress. He has matured into a hero. However, Quentin's mature perspective does not guarantee happiness, nor does it mean that he understands what it means to be a hero.

In Empire, Lucas took the time to separate his heroes so that they can grow. The two narratives build up to a strong conclusion. Here, Grossman brings back Julia, who failed the test to Brakebills. We read the account of how she studies magic in ... alternative settings. Her determination to study and cherish magic makes for a refreshing contrast to Quentin's disillusionment.

The Magician King opens with our heroes, ruling Fillory. Grossman really does have a knack for the fantastic. The castles, the tournaments, and even the clockwork trees manage to recall our childhood love of fantasy while also satisfying our adult need for irony. Ironic or not, Quentin is ready for an adventure, and he and his fellow monarchs have set out in search of the Seeing Hare, one of the Unique Beasts of Fillory. Sadly, it foresees nothing but "death and despair" for Quentin.

You wouldn't think so.

For the most part, Quentin does a fine job of assaulting castles, sailing across the ocean, and fulfilling his quests. There are desolate winter worlds, though, sadly, no swamp planets with Jedi masters... Still, it's great fantasy.

And what an ending.

Carbon freezing is mentioned, though I'm not saying that's what happens to Quentin. But it's pretty good. I suggest you make time to read The Magician King.
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