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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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1,7851173,935 (3.86)148
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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English (116)  French (1)  All languages (117)
Showing 1-5 of 116 (next | show all)
I liked Grossman's previous book in the series and I liked this one, but I have to say that his style leaves me a bit cold at times. Nevertheless, he betrays a allusion-ladden aspect prone to sentences like the following (which happens to summarize much of the plot): "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." ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
Audiobook narrated by Mark Bramhall
Book two of the Magicians trilogy takes us back to Quentin and his friends who are reigning over Fillory. Initially, all seems calm. Quentin is bored and apathetic and driven by desire to find a quest that will bring meaning to his life. When an opportunity presents itself for Quentin to go to the edge of Fillory to examine why the inhabitants of a small island have failed to send taxes, Quentin jumps at the chance for adventure. What starts as a journey to collect taxes, ends as a quest into the heart of magic in an effort to save everything that is meaningful to Quentin.

For the most part, I liked this book much more than the previous one. Unlike the first book, the characters in this story experience growth over time. Quentin is much more likable and certainly more mature. I liked the way Grossman weaves in two time points: Quentin’s present time quest and the back story of Julia. Julia's story is interesting and heart-breaking. Grossman continues to draw heavily on other works including Narnia, Harry Potter, The Once and Future King, yet, this book was much more of a deviation from those stories than was book one.

I was really enjoying the book and then I got to the last hour of narration. I feel somewhat stunned and traumatized by the ending. It’s almost as if Grossman doesn’t want you to feel too comfortable with the progression of the story and injects a series of depressing and incredibly dark events. Finishing the book, almost made me feel like I was hit by a tornado. I guess it all fits into his larger intent in writing these books (e.g., not your fairy tale perfect endings). I'm not sure whether I hated the ending or thought it was a clever ending. Either way, it made me depressed and needed to read something light and fluffy. At this point, I’m hooked enough that I need to see how it ends so I'll read the final one -- but with a break to read some happy books.

Note about narration: I listened to this book narrated by Mark Bramhall. I thought he was pretty terrible and at times truly cringe worthy. He does an okay reading of the main story, but when he reads the dialogue, it is awful. There’s a character, “Poppy” who is Australian and his Australian accent was appalling to the point that I wanted to fast-forward through her dialogue (and this is too bad since she was a cool character). These books are about a group of young and irreverent people. I find it odd that they would select an older narrator, and one whose voice sounds so formal. Do yourself a favor and don’t pick the audiobook. ( )
  JenPrim | Jan 15, 2016 |
The Magician King, by Lev Grossman
★★★ ½ (rounding up to 4)
Synopsis: (from the book flap) Quentin Coldwater should be blissfully happy. He escaped a miserable Brooklyn childhood for Brakebills, a secret and exclusive college for magic in upstate New York. When he graduated he discovered that Fillory, the magical utopia described in a series of children’s fantasy novels he never quite outgrew, was real.
Fillory was a far more dangerous place than Quentin could have imagined, and he faced unspeakable tragedies there. But now Quentin and his friends have become the kings and queens of Fillory and, under their reign, Fillory is a peaceful kingdom. But Quentin is restless. He hasn’t escaped the scars of his past, and the peace and luxury of his life in Fillory will prove more fragile than anyone expects. After a royal morning hunt takes a sinister turn. Quentin’s doubts get the better of him. With Julia, a queen of Fillory and Quentin’s high school friend, in tow, he charters a magical sailing ship and heads off to the farthest reaches of Fillory. He is in search of adventure—the thrill and sense of purpose only a heroic quest can bestow. Instead his journey takes them to the last place Quentin wants to be: his parents’ house in Chersterton, Massachusetts.
Quentin is a magician and a king, but even he can’t rescue them from suburban America. Only the dark, twisted sorcery Julia learned in the seedy back alleys of the Brooklyn underground magic scene can put them on the road back to Fillory. But when Julia takes center stage, so too does her story, and with it the secret of the terrible price she paid for her power. As Quentin and Julia follow a trail of clues from Brakebills to Venice to the home of the real-life children who appeared in the Fillory novels, they gradually discover a more sinister, more powerful threat than any they’ve faced. And they must fight death and despair in a world that is very far from the bright, simple fantasy novels they read as children.
In The Magicians, Lev Grossman shattered the limits of conventional fantasy writing by imagining magic as practiced in the real world by fallible and capricious people, without the clear absolutes of good and evil most fantasy heroes steer by. The Magician King sets these young magicians on a n epic quest deep into the dark, glittering heart of magic to reveal the unexpected paradox behind being a hero. It also introduces a powerful new voice, that of Julia, whose angry genius is thrilling and terrifying. The juxtaposition of her rage and Quentin’s yearning creates a novel of resonant psychological complexity and reckoning. The Magician King once again proves that Grossman is a modern heir to C.S. Lewis and the cutting edge of literary fantasy.
In A Sentence: a decent sequel, but overall an amazing series that is seriously earning more and more of my respect.
My Thoughts: At least I’m keeping to my usual standards with this one. Middle books are never my favorites in a series. I don’t care how exciting it gets, I never like the middle books by themselves; they’re just a means to an end. Compared to the beginning and end books, the middle ones are always rated lower on my shelf.
With that said, I still enjoyed this book, and this trilogy is turning into quite a powerful one. There’s something so simple about the plot, yet so real and intense that you get a little blinded by it. It’s kind of like watching Star Wars: A New Hope: the plot is actually pretty darn minimal, but when you look at the overall effect, it ends up being pretty awesome. That’s how I felt about The Magician King: the plot was pretty straightforward, but still, something unique came out of it that you can’t help but appreciate. I don’t know what it is that makes me like this story so much, but there’s something there that puts it above all other stories. Maybe it’s the writing, or maybe it’s how the plot flows. In any case, there’s a certain je-ne-sais-quois about the story that gives it an edge.
I have to say, I loved the character development here. You learn more about Julia, whose story is actually kind of tragic. And you get to see Quentin grow up some more, which is a bit of a relief for those who were annoyed by him previously. Being an empathic reader, I really like 3-D characters; they have to have some depth to them, some amount of complexity and definition that make them come alive, to the point where they look ready to leave the pages themselves and join you in our world (which in the case of this book, they pretty much did). Good character development almost always means good story.
While I’m pondering it, I really did like the writing. There’s something about the style that is simple yet flows very well. The tone of the novel is set very nicely, and you get a good feel for what the characters are experiencing in the moment. I really don’t get how Grossman is able to do it, but he does it, and he does it beautifully. I definitely appreciated the writing, for sure.
There isn’t any wow with this book. In fact, there’s not much of a wow with the series so far. A lot of this stuff in the story you’ve seen some version of it before. But the journey is still immensely unique and fantastic, and that requires a lot of talent from the author. Grossman knows his stuff. Not only that, he knows how to use it!
Would I recommend it to everyone who likes fantasy? Probably not. Some may see this as a Chronicles Of Narnia rip-off, others might find it underwhelming, and still others might hate the book for various other reasons. But it is still worth a read if you’re interested. If you look at the writing technique, and how the elements of the story come together, the story is beautiful and well done. Just be warned; this isn’t a book that you can just pick up and put down whenever you feel like it. Like Julia in her journey to become a magician, you have to be committed to the story, and willing to spend some time with it. Somehow these books are very dense and slow-going; I can’t seem to finish these stories in less than two weeks, which for me is a ridiculously long time to dedicate to a book. Oftentimes when I put the book down, I lost the momentum and had trouble getting back into it. But once you get the inertia going, it’s pretty smooth sailing. You just have to commit.
( )
  Spirolim | Jan 13, 2016 |
Following the trauma of the end of the first book, Quentin and friends are now kings and queens of the mythical land of Fillory, but Quentin finds himself in a kind of malaise anyway. Turns out having everything isn’t as satisfying as you’d think. So he sets off on an errand, hoping to make it a quest, and finds a whole host of problems of course, and surprisingly an actual quest. The plot on this one was a little loose, but I liked rolling along with it - in particular learning more about Julia. ( )
  janemarieprice | Jan 3, 2016 |
Quentin is now living in Fillory. And he is king, or a king, one of four human kings and queens who rule this magical land. In the first book of the trilogy, we saw Quentin accepted at a magical university in New York and finally find his way to Fillory, which he thought was a fictional world from a children’s book.
He is living his childhood fantasy, but he is bored. Life is like living in a 20-star hotel and he is getting fat. Then one day, out hunting the Seeing Hare, one of the Unique Beasts of Fillory - this world is full of magical beasts which can talk or have special powers - a new adventure starts.
The big difference for me from book one of the trilogy is that the action starts straight away. All the setting-up has been done, the background is in place, Fillory is understood, key characters are established. Most intriguing is the presence of Julia, who was Quentin’s love interest in the non-magical world, briefly at the beginning of the first book. Quentin was offered a place at Brakebills, the magical college. Julia wasn’t. But now she is a magician too. She learned her magic the hard way, in the magical underground in the ordinary world. And she is moody and edgy. She talks to the animals, speaks in an old-fashioned cadence, she dresses in black. She is interesting. I liked Julia.
Quentin and Julia set sail on a magical ship, heading for the Outer Island to collect overdue taxes. They end up back in the real world, trapped, and unable to return to Fillory. Of course they manage it in the end, via the underground magic network, trips to Cornwall and Venice, an Australian magician, and a dragon.
This book is three quests, one after another. The action is continuous. I saved books two and three to read while on holiday, and read them back–to-back.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | Nov 12, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 116 (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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Average: (3.86)
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