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The Magician King: A Novel by Lev Grossman

The Magician King: A Novel (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Lev Grossman

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1,5921084,572 (3.85)142
Title:The Magician King: A Novel
Authors:Lev Grossman (Author)
Info:Viking (2012), Edition: eBook, 362 pages
Tags:fantasy, fiction

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The Magician King by Lev Grossman (2011)



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Showing 1-5 of 107 (next | show all)
The young magicians return to the mundane reality of our world and find they have a need to return the world of magic. Amazing fantasy. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
The Magician King is Lev Grossman’s sequel to the fantasy novel Magicians. Quentin Coldwater, the wizard who traveled to a mythical land Fillory to be its one of its kings in the first book, has gotten past his general morose and has settled into bored complacency. But something is driving him--isn’t he meant for great things? Shouldn’t he be carrying out some giant quest? However, Quentin gets more than he bargained for when he accepts an adventure and finds himself back on Earth—struggling to find his way back to Fillory. This time Quentin is accompanied by Julia, his friend from Brooklyn, who is a self-trained witch, with something dark and painful inside her. Along the way they reconnect with some of the other characters from the Magicians, Eliot (the head king of Fillory), Josh & Penny. Along the way we learn more about the Neitherlands, the gods (and magic), and “hedge witches.” This book is part of a trilogy and I have already put the Magician’s Land on my list to read soon. That was one of the frustrating things about reading this novel almost a year after reading The Magicians—I had to go back frequently to the first book to gather some of the plot and interactions between characters that I had forgotten. The book still presents a combination of Harry Potter, Narnia and more than little of Alice in Wonderland—for the adult reader. My favorite part of the book this time was the journey that Julia experiences and the final conclusion for both Julia and Quentin. 4 out of 5 stars. ( )
  marsap | Jun 8, 2015 |
Quentin still can't get no satisfaction.

This was the main theme of the first novel of the Magician Trilogy (The Magicians). The emptiness in your life follows you even if you accomplish the things you long for. You can't put a square block in a round hole. The Magician King begins with King Quentin still longing for that missing something.

What Quentin gets is a quest—a massive, no holds barred quest for the future of the entire multiverse. The plot is unpredictable and satisfying, at least for the reader. For Quentin, it's another story.

I suppose we'll find out in Volume Three, The Magician's Land, if Quentin ever learns, let alone finds what he's looking for. ( )
  StephenBarkley | Jun 1, 2015 |
A sequel to a successful novel is always a difficult task for a writer. A major dilemma is whether to stick to a successful formula or whether to plough new furrows in an attempt to avoid a sense of déjà-vu; either way risks alienating stern literary critics on the one hand or diehard fans on the other. One strategy is to combine both approaches, and Grossman’s second offering in a trilogy does exactly that: we’re dished up a lot of the same but also a fair seasoning of new elements which fortunately manage to refresh the taste buds.

The Magicians focused its gaze on Quentin Coldwater as he entered Brakebills College, a centre for learning the discipline of magic. We saw how, through an obsession with a fantasy series written by one Christopher Plover, Quentin and a group of fellow Brakebills graduates eventually managed to visit the land of Fillory. However, something is rotten in the state of Fillory, and in combating the Beast (in whom Quentin had inadvertently awoken an unwelcome awareness of Brakebills) great sacrifices have to be made — not only severe injury but also a fate as bad as death. The first novel ends with Quentin, his Brakebills contemporaries Eliot and Janet, plus the frankly rather strange Julia, finding a way back to Fillory, life on Earth having proved rather, well, mundane.

The Magician King opens with the quartet installed as kings and queens of Fillory, on its east coast, literally living the high life at Whitespire Castle. With everything at their beck and call the four monarchs soon find a lack of purpose leads to a sense of ennui, a listlessness the medievals called accidie. What they need is a quest and, as is the way of things, the quest soon finds them. Things are still not quite right in Fillory and Quentin hopes that, with the help of magical creatures, the search for seven golden keys will prove the antidote to all their problems.

However, just as Quentin was the unfortunate cause of disasters in the first book, the true key to what is awry in the second book is down to a magical ritual in which Julia has taken part. Where we experienced events in The Magicians through Quentin’s eyes, now our attention switches between him and former friend Julia. Rejected by Brakebills, she has learnt her magic by unorthodox routes, and her backstory is interlaced with Quentin’s quest. In a clear nod to C S Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Quentin’s journey east towards the rising sun leads him through uncharted waters, through which he enlists the help of young cartographer Benedict and a bodyguard swordsman with the improbable name of Bingle. The end of The Magician King finds Quentin, after numerous contrasting episodes, in a position that he frankly didn’t expect.

That subtle combination of new and old that I mentioned earlier is very much in evidence here. Our interest is not confined to Quentin, a likeable though not flawless protagonist, but takes in Julia, a fascinating if increasingly disturbed individual. Grossman also convincingly mixes in motifs from myth, folklore and classic literature — we have a really very chilling trickster figure, for example, and there’s even a dea ex machine — but it never feels artificial; the narrative maintains a logical sense of progression whilst being grounded in the believable personalities of the two main protagonists. In place of the bildungsroman aspect of the previous book — Quentin’s progress from student to adept status — we have Quentin’s quest; Arthurian romances are specifically referenced (and subverted, as the Malory quote “We shall now seek that which we shall not find” used as epigraph implies) but it’s the journey, not the arrival, that holds our attention.

If people and things make up much of the stuff of stories so too are places, and we are presented with a series of scenarios that help to position us in the otherwise shifting sands of the action. Lands familiar from fairytales (castles, woods and the like) contrast with the dream-like aspect of the quest’s end; quasi-real locations (Chesterton, Massachusetts) and real places (Venice in Italy) jostle with the Neitherlands, the world between worlds that provides the interface between Earth and imaginary worlds like Fillory. The parlous state of the Neitherlands is another clear indication of magical misadventure; Grossman’s description of the various decaying buildings and piazzas are both a counterpart to Venice and to those Renaissance stage set designs by individuals such as Sebastiano Serlio, or those loci conjured up by medieval adepts practising the mnemonic technique of ars memoriae, the Art of Memory.

Neither here nor there: not just an apt description of the Neitherlands but also of the middle instalment of a trilogy. Not quite a standalone, The Magician King nevertheless has a lot going for it. That also means that the final part, The Magician’s Land, has a lot to live up to. ( )
  ed.pendragon | May 30, 2015 |
I'm just not sure Grossman got it with this one. The story just seemed to constantly be missing something. It seemed to have a lot there to offer us but somewhere along the line something failed to deliver. As a positive, i will say that Grossman's writing really does keep you engaged.
Spoilers ahead. But let me admit ahead that a lot of time passed between my reading of The Magicians and my reading of this. It may account for a few of the comments below.
On the surface, Julia’s story offered to be truly fascinating. The premise of an underside to the magical community was interesting, and Grossman did an excellent job making it seem properly shady with a drugy parallel. But something about just felt off. Julia seemed to have something of an inferiority complex regarding Quintin, and this just never seemed to be explored in any significant detail. Julia just seemed so very entitled to magic, and I never really understood why she felt that way. To me it seemed almost as absurd as if I felt entitled to speed because I knew Hussain Bolt. That she become obsessed by it because she knew it existed and she knew it was being kept from her was certainly one motivating factor that made sense. But at some point she simply had to realize that if she didn’t get accepted into Brakebills, there certainly must have been a reason for it. One wonders if she would have had the same reaction to any universities that did not accept her.
The way Julia’s story ended also didn’t seem to work for me. The occurrences were fine, but it felt as if so much detail had been left out of it. To conclude it with a rape scene and not give us any of the information that came after that seems a bit odd. Particularly in consideration of the fact that moments before Julia’s terrible ordeal, she comes to the conclusion that she finally has found happiness with her French connections. She had the right quantity of human interaction she needed to be happy. And then it was suddenly and violently taken away from her. Rather, it was fragmented, and though we know that after what happens it will never be the same, I still felt that there were so many questions left unanswered between the rape and her coming to Filloroy. What happened to the surviving members of her group? Why did she fall out with them, or did they fall out with her? How did she become so bleak towards humanity? Sure, something came out of her during the rape, but was meant to be taken literally? I’d say no, and if it was I’d say it reeked of poor writing. If it was literal, then why did Julia ever bother with Filloroy and the people there to begin with? But more importantly, what happened after the rape? To retreat within one’s self is one reaction, but it seems strange to brush it off as if it was the only response. And particularly considering that she experience another kind of loss at the same moment, I would say she might have been more attached to the other survivors. Either could work as an explanation, but you must write it out for it to have any meaning.
And of Quintin’s story? This whole books seems to dispel whatever lessons Quintin should have learned by the end of the last book (the fine line between boredom, adventure, and consequences), which seems a bit strange at best, particularly considering that this book is little more than Quintin’s see-sawing back and forth between adventure and the desire to be home. One could say that maybe Quintin still has not learned that lesson during this book, but the theme certainly seemed much more masterfully handled in the previous book. What’s worse, the resolution of Quintin’s story feels arbitrary at best; he gets home and is quickly banished for no seemingly good reason. That Quintin takes Julia’s punishment without knowing what it is a bit foolish, and that he seems to justify it seems worse (had he been accepted to Harvard and she not, if that caused a downward spiral would that have been his fault as well?)
Also, if Quintin was ever told what Julia went through, I do not recall it. ( )
  M.Campanella | May 4, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 107 (next | show all)
“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 editionsconfirmed
Bramhall, MarkNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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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Quentin and his friends are now the kings and queens of Fillory, but the days and nights of royal luxury are starting to pall. After a morning hunt takes a sinister turn, Quentin and his old friend Julia charter a magical sailing ship and set out on an errand to the wild outer reaches of their kingdom. Their pleasure cruise becomes an adventure when the two are unceremoniously dumped back into the last place Quentin ever wants to see: his parent's house in Chesterton, Massachusetts. And only the black, twisted magic that Julia learned on the streets can save them.… (more)

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