John's Reviews > The Magician King

The Magician King by Lev Grossman
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's review
Jan 25, 2013

did not like it
Read in March, 2012 — I own a copy

A huge step down from the first book. Yes, the first book was quite obviously in large part an effort, inter alia, to deconstruct/reinterpret the famous Narnia books, but Grossman was largely successful in keeping this reasonably organic to the novel. That way you could appreciate that aspect if it appealed to you but the narrative still functioned as an engaging and original story in its own right. Here, however, Grossman's storytelling feels rather more too-frequently derailed by his desire to go out of his way to show how HIS fantasy is just oh so terribly LITERARY, don't you know - not like that other stuff. This is in definite and unflattering contrast to a writer such as Gene Wolfe, who is simply good enough to tell fantasy stories with literary aspects and elements organically woven into them. Grossman generally seems more to try to thrust them into his narrative whether they quite fit or not; hence my impression that he appears to be driven by some kind of compulsion to prove something in doing so. Regardless, these inorganic and not infrequently rather unbelievable (and don't give me that "but it's fantasy!" crap - fantasy has as much of an obligation to remain internally consistent as any other fiction) intrusions of pretension certainly detract from the narrative and generally render the book a far less worthwhile read.

Grossman's unsubtle disdain for Christianity is put on flagrant display as well. As I generally dislike it when authors editorialize on religion (why should the characters get to obtain answers with so much more certainty than all the rest of us? and why - oh, just by pure coincidence most likely - do those answers turn out to be so generally consistent with the author's own apparent views on the merits of religion?), this did not aid in endearing the book to me either. At times Grossman's approach to the topic felt so ham-handed I felt for a few moments a little as if I was reading some kind of mirror-universe atheist version of the Left Behind books. I don't think Tim LaHaye (and is there another guy? I don't recall, and can't be bothered to look it up) ought to be taken as a literary role model - not even as an inverse. Overall just a tremendous disappointment that I regret wasting my money on purchasing.

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Michelle Spot on. The self-aware literary aspects and over-the-top anti-religion themes were too much.

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