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The Magician King by Lev Grossman

The Magician King (original 2011; edition 2016)

by Lev Grossman

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2,5541483,432 (3.88)159
Title:The Magician King
Authors:Lev Grossman
Info:New York : Penguin, 2016.
Collections:Your library, To read
Tags:grp-fiction, for-adult, grp-sff, series

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The Magician King by Lev Grossman (2011)

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    The Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish (charlie68)
    charlie68: Same sort of magic teenage vibe.

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Trigger warning: This book contains rape and intense adult sexual situations.

Book two of the Magicians series was a bit harder for me to get through than the first. The whole skipping back and forth between worlds felt unnecessary to me. There is a lot to enjoy here, if you love the Chronicles of Narnia, this is basically a take on Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I enjoyed the fillory parts, well-imagined, creative, unique takes on magic. Lots to love in this world. The MC Quinten feels less like an asshole and more like a well-rounded character. I was glad that Eliot found his place in the world.

Again, had major issues with the female characters and their treatments. The rape scene was unnecessary, unjust, obtuse, and felt like Grossman was blundering through developing a female character. I am moving on to read book three with guarded apprehension. ( )
  hlwalrath | Aug 21, 2018 |
Quentin and his friends have settled into their roles as the kings and queens of Fillory, into lives of indolent purposelessness -- it turns out Fillory pretty much runs itself -- and the gaping hole of grief left behind by Alice. Quentin, as usual, hunts for ways to fill it, and when you live in a magical land, what better way than a quest? This is a slightly better Quentin than we’re used to though, not yet stripped bare of his entitlement and bad emotional habits, but softened into a more empathetic figure by the reality of loss.

The quest pays its share of homages to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but this time around the story is less concerned with deconstructing our childhood fantasies than it is with gradually robbing Quentin of all of the crutches he’s used to avoid dealing with his depression and grief, and taking responsibility for his actions. Woven between the modern-day Fillory chapters are flashbacks to how Julia fared after her rejection from Brakebills, and her magical education is a blistering contrast to Quentin’s tale of privilege. She fought tooth and nail for every scrap of power and knowledge, and his role in setting her on the path that took so much from her is one of the responsibilities Quentin finally has to acknowledge.

The Magician King is a more fantastical book than the first, and unlike The Magicians we aren’t viewing these fantastical elements solely through the perspective of a clinically depressed protagonist who can’t take any wonder from them, so at times it feels more upbeat than its predecessor. It still doesn’t paint a patina of romance over the fantasy, though. Quests don’t guide you on your way to your happily ever after; quests mean that people die, and it’s neither meaningful nor glorious, it’s just death, and at the end your reward is perhaps to put right what you broke in the first place, to do the right thing even if it takes everything.

I felt the relative lack of character growth in The Magicians was a pretty realistic and solid portrayal of how depressed people function, or don’t as the case may be, but I can understand why it was so frustrating for a lot of readers. The Magician King delivers the payoff. There’s little of the old Quentin left by the time we say goodbye on an almost literal cliffhanger. The premise of the first book is neatly summed up in one of his hard-won realisations:

Everything was chance and nothing was perfect and magic didn't make you happy, and Quentin had learned to live with it, which it turned out that most people he knew were already doing anyway, and it was time he caught up with them.

Julia still walks the more interesting path of the two, though. It’s funny how the character whose immediate situation after the Brakebills rejection is so deeply fucked up is also, in some ways, the character who has it the most together. She understands that Quentin’s unrequited love for her and any bitterness it engenders is his problem, not hers. She refuses to be gaslit by Brakebills. She understands her own value and potential in the face of crushing circumstances. Her initial magical growth is really hard to watch because in some respects, I wanted to cheer her on for having the strength to repeatedly reject her perceived reality rather than allow a privileged institution’s attempt to assert itself as the sole authority over her future, but it’s more like watching a junkie tear their life apart in search of their next fix than some proud uprising against the Man. She’s a faster learner than Quentin when it comes to understanding that there’s a point where you have to look at your life, say it’s enough, and supply your own happiness, but they both bring about their own tragedies in getting there.

I think for people whose issue with The Magicians was Quentin’s lack of growth and the lack of a counterpoint to his privileged viewpoint, The Magician King would be a substantial improvement. It has a stronger narrative structure, more dark humour, and a more compelling variety of characters whose struggles do a lot to put Quentin’s in perspective. It’s probably still not going to convince you to love the series if you didn’t dig the first book’s commentary on escapism, though. For readers who loved The Magicians as much as I did, The Magician King is a worthy successor that journeys out of the darkness and into the light.

Review from Bookette.net ( )
  Snumpus | Jul 4, 2018 |
This is the sequel to [b:The Magicians|6101718|The Magicians (The Magicians #1)|Lev Grossman|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1313772941s/6101718.jpg|6278977] and the second book in the trilogy.

My previous review of [b:The Magicians|6101718|The Magicians (The Magicians #1)|Lev Grossman|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1313772941s/6101718.jpg|6278977] explains everything that I enjoyed about the book, and all of that praise rings true for the second installment as well. Fillory was still an interesting world to explore, and the many jokes about it were greatly appreciated. One of the things I liked most about Fillory in this time around was how utterly unexpected the bulk of it was. This is the Fillory that adheres to the Old Magic, rather than the rules that we have come to expect from a fantasy novel. This is the raw stuff, the sacrifice that is demanded of a person and reeks of being unfair. Yet, in the end, it is fair. There's always a balance to be maintained.

Julia's story, which irritated me in the first read-through now and then, I loved this time around. The pacing felt more appropriate, and often I found myself more drawn to her quest than Quentin's. I feel like I may have read the book too quickly the first time, and only now that I slowed down in a second read-through could I truly appreciate everything the author was doing.

The ending, likewise, sat much better with me than it did the first time around. Everything fit, and everything worked, and in the end my only regret was that I couldn't immediately jump into a reread once more.

Yet there's still one more book to go, and this one I've not yet read before... ( )
  Lepophagus | Jun 14, 2018 |
I think I liked the first book slightly more than this one, but this was a very worthy sequel. Captivating, and Grossman nailed the ending. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
I just re-read this and has to skip the chapters with Julia at Murs. Ultimately I liked it, but I have to ask myself why I would finish a book replete with unlikeable characters. Again. ( )
  cindiann | May 3, 2018 |
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“Everybody wanted to be the hero of their own story,” Quentin declares, framing the novel’s theme in neat miniature. But by the end of “The Magician King,” he comes to realize that he just might not be. It’s a harsh lesson, and one that, in keeping with the preoccupations and innovations of this serious, heartfelt novel, turns the machinery of fantasy inside out.
added by melmore | editNew York Times, Dan Kois (Aug 26, 2011)
...a spellbinding stereograph, a literary adventure novel that is also about privilege, power and the limits of being human. The Magician King is a triumphant sequel, surpassing, I think, the original. I can't wait for the next one.
Echoes from The Chronicles of Narnia [...] continue to reverberate, but Grossman’s psychologically complex characters and grim reckoning with tragic sacrifice far surpass anything in C.S. Lewis’ pat Christian allegory.
added by melmore | editKirkus Review (Jun 28, 2011)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lev Grossmanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bramhall, MarkNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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We shall now seek that which we shall not find.
—Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte D'Arthur
For Sophie
First words
Quentin rode a gray horse with white socks named Dauntless.
This would be his quest: collecting taxes from a bunch of backwater yokels. He had skipped the adventure of the broken tree, and that was fine. He would have this one instead.
Quentin had an obsolete sailing ship that had been raised from the dead. He had a psychotically effective swordsman and an enigmatic witch-queen. It wasn’t the Fellowship of the Ring, but then again he wasn’t trying to save the world from Sauron, he was attempting to perform a tax audit on a bunch of hick islanders. It would definitely do.
That water must be ninety percent E. coli, and the rest was probably diesel fuel. This was not a body of water intended for swimming in.
Fortunately Poppy turned out to be excellent at this kind of cross-country dead-reckoning navigation. At first they thought she must be using some kind of advanced geographical magic until Josh noticed that she had an iPhone in her lap. “Yeah, but I used magic to jailbreak it,” she said.
When you get to that level of power and knowledge and perfection, the question of what you should do next gets increasingly obvious. Everything is very rule-governed. All you can ever do in any given situation is the most gloriously perfect thing, and there’s only one of them. Finally there aren’t any choices left to make at all.” “You’re saying the gods don’t have free will.” “The power to make mistakes,” Penny said. “Only we have that. Mortals.”
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Haiku summary
The boy is now king
Happily ever after?
Fate has other plans(Jannes)
How much would you want

to give up after a quest

to be a hero?


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In the land of Fillory, Quentin Coldwater, now a king, feels restless, but after a royal hunting excursion ends on a sinister note, Quentin and Julia, a high school friend and a Fillory queen, charter a ship and set sail for adventure--which sends them straight to Quentin's parents' house in Massachusetts, where they uncover a new threat more dangerous than anything they have faced before.… (more)

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