Vanessa's Reviews > The Magician King

The Magician King by Lev Grossman
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's review
Jan 14, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: read-in-2012

I had some complaints with style and pacing, but basically I really enjoyed the predecessor to this book, The Magicians. This one had a good storyline when it comes right down to it but it took at least 100 pages too many to tell it.

When last we saw Quentin Coldwater and his friends (fellow magic school grads Eliot and Janet plus his high school crush Julia who acquired her magic through mysterious means-trust me, we'll delve into that in excruciating detail), they were off to the Narnia-ish Fillory to be joint rulers. In book two, they are bored. Again. Yep, the book starts out on the same ground that killed the momentum in the middle of book one. Quentin and his pals have everything they've ever wanted and the ennui of the easy life is killing them. Soonish enough they stumble upon a mysterious omen and Quentin is off on a quest with Julia that includes an unexpected trip back to Earth.

First of all, Grossman can write well when he chooses to but at other times, he's wincingly informal:

I'm sorry, where did you think you were, motherfucker? Connecticut? There was a considerable Venn diagram overlap between people who lived in Bed-Stuy and people who had motherfucking guns. Fool. Welcome to New Dork City.

This isn't even dialogue. This-THIS-is what frequently passes for exposition.

And speaking of exposition, there is far, far too much of it. The story takes way too much time going somewhere and keeps running aground on trivial details. Quentin and company aren't a very compelling bunch to travel with either. And can I just say, the resolution of the Julia story made me want to hate vomit all over the page.

Despite some interesting developments near the end, this started to feel like a quest that I would never complete. I'm giving it three begrudging stars because I think the story and concept are good-it just falls to shit in the execution. I expect this series will continue but I'm not sure if I'll be there for it. Looking at other reviews though, I seem to be in the minority.

Edit: I'm tormented by how I rated this book as time passes. Does this happen to anyone else or am I patient zero for a new form of internet scrivener OCD? I digress. Three stars=I like. I did not like. So, I'm knocking this down to a more appropriate level.
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Jonathan Thank you for pointing this out. I felt almost the exact same way about the book. I don't even think the informality and poor editing would be a problem if the dialogue sounded like the characters and not Grossman's common speech. Good review!

Vanessa Aw, thanks! It's interesting because people (smart people) seem to like some of the same things I didn't. Particularly with regard to Quentin's constant carping.

And, yes. ALL of the characters' interior monologues sounded like the excerpt above.

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