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The Magician King by Lev Grossman

The Magician King (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Lev Grossman

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1,366965,612 (3.83)124
Title:The Magician King
Authors:Lev Grossman
Info:Penguin Group (Usa) (2011), Edition: First Edition, 1st Printing, Hardcover
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The Magician King by Lev Grossman (2011)



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Back in my review of The Magicians, I wrote that you could have a miserably unlikeable character for the sake of writing a miserably unlikeable character and that I wouldn’t mind, just as long as you could give me a reason to care about him or her. While that’s still true, it does really help if your protagonist isn’t a whiny little ingrate and actually shows growth over the course of the novel. I really think that’s why The Magician King worked better for me than its predecessor. Like, a lot better. The ending of the first book gave me hope that I would enjoy the sequel more, and I did.

Things were looking up right from the start, with our story opening with a return to Fillory, the otherworldly realm from Quentin’s beloved childhood fantasy series that turned out to be a real place. He and his friends are now the kings and queens of this magical kingdom, but after a routine morning hunt goes wrong, Quentin and Julia decide to set off across the seas to the far reaches of Fillory to take care of certain matters. But their journey is interrupted by an unceremonious ejection from Fillory back to Earth and the mundane world. Thus begins an epic quest to find their way back, with the fate of all magic hanging in the balance.

I’ll admit it, the first book had its high points, but on the whole I wasn’t too enamored. The wonderful sections featuring Quentin at Brakebills aside, I thought most of the book was directionless and tedious, and I wasn’t impressed with the characters and their attitudes until almost the very end when they discover Fillory and set out to explore it. The thing is, I loved the spellbinding world of Fillory and its amazing denizens, as well as the incredible sights and sounds. When the final pages of The Magicians teased that we may be going back, I was very pleased. That’s one reason why The Magician King worked better for me; the fact that we got to be in Fillory right away was a huge plus.

The second reason is something I’ve already alluded to, that being Quentin has come a long way from the moody, self-absorbed and aimless young man he was in book one. He has grown up a lot between the two novels in my eyes, no doubt in part due to the traumatic events he experienced at the end of The Magicians. His concern for a young crew member and the neglected daughter of a diplomat really touched me; it’s not something I would have expected in a million years from the old Quentin. In this book, he is driven and finds it possible to become excited about the prospects of adventure again, and – shocker! – in the process he became someone I wanted to read more about.

The same could not be said for Julia, however. My one gripe about this novel are her chapters, which more or less alternated with the chapters focusing on the main story. Julia’s tale encompasses her own rise to the world of magic after failing her Brakebills entrance exam, which couldn’t have been more different than Quentin’s academically formal training. Her journey through the underground magical scene is actually quite interesting, though I was initially unsure how it all related to the book’s central premise. What bothered me wasn’t so much her story, but the fact that the role of annoyingly maudlin and dissatisfied character seemed to have been passed from Quentin to Julia, though we do see that she has had to go through a lot of suffering and very difficult times. I could also appreciate how the two lines of thought eventually came together, but felt that her “backstory” was a bit distracting at first.

All in all, however, I was pleasantly surprised by my positive reactions to this book. On the whole, this was a much deeper and complex novel, but also much more entertaining and engaging on multiple levels. I liked how a lot of the world was expanded, as well as the answers to a lot questions brought up by the first book. And that ending! I can’t believe my heart is actually aching for Quentin. It’s very rare for a sequel to grab me, especially since book one failed to do so, and it’s great whenever that happens. I’m really starting to see the appeal behind this series, and this second installment has really made it grow on me. ( )
  stefferoo | Jul 29, 2014 |
This book had a slightly different feel to it than The Magicians, at least in some ways. It still has the sarcastic edge to it and the irreverent attitudes that made me love The Magicians. Always a good thing. But Quentin does not seem quite so angsty, and seems to have grown quite self-aware of his needless angst. Also, The Magicians was a coming of age story paired with the story of coming into the world of magic. It was a book of growing up, discovery and the pain that is encountered along the way. This book was a story of Quentin’s quest and Julia’s backstory, intermingled.

In The Magician King, we meet back up with Quentin, Julia, Eliot and Janet serving as Kings and Queen of Fillory. It’s a rather posh and very magical but to be honest, somewhat boring life. Eventually, I think Quentin realized this, because, well, he’s Quentin, so he can’t be happy. And it gives him a reason to start pursuing something else. Something less boring because we can’t tell a story that’s boring, now can we?

So Quentin begins a journey, during which I think he is coping with loss and is probably still trying to find his place in the world. But he also has a quest and that is the real focus of the book. Well, the quest and Julia’s back-story. We get to find out “What happened to Julia?” while Quentin and crew were attending Brakesbill.

I have to admit, I’m a bit torn about Julia’s backstory. It’s not that I minded it, or didn’t like it. I actually really do like her backstory. I just felt like it didn’t flow quite as well as I would have liked. Almost like it was a bit of an interruption. It would have been interesting to have her story in the Magicians as it was happening, instead of flashback chapters in this, but at the same time, it would still have been so separate from Brakesbill, perhaps it would not have worked any better there. It’s hard to say. Her story is so separate from everyone else, I’m not sure there is an easy place to put it. I guess here, we need to know it, so we are getting it as it is relevant. Makes sense, this probably is where it belongs.

Julia’s education in magic is quite a contrast to what we saw at Brakesbill. While Brakesbill is a structured, organized, systematic type of learning, Julia had a very rough edged, back alley type of education. If magical education were art, Brakesbill would be Rembrandt, and Julia’s education would be street graffiti. Graffiti can be powerful, artistic work, but it certainly has a different style and feel to it. It’s the same with magic. What Julia is learning has a bit of a wild edge to it. The whole “street magic” scene is kind of cool. You start out thinking its just a sham, a bunch of misfits gathered in dark basements pretending at something that is actually real in Brakesbill. But, it turns out there is something to them.

If you enjoyed The Magicians, it is definitely worth reading on. I really like the overall story, I am curious what happens next, but I just can’t bring myself to give it more than 3 stars (maybe 3.5 half on a good day) Three stars is still a good rating! And I almost feel like it was the structure that held me back from enjoying it quite as much as the first. So, now it’s time to dive into Magicians Land because I still really want to read on. I’m hoping that with Julia’s story now told, the pacing and flow will work better for me. ( )
  tenaciousreader | Jul 22, 2014 |
This, the second book in 'The Magicians' series tells of Quentin and his friends in the imaginal world of Fillory. Some of the characters have come about their magical skill and knowledge via the channels of academia, while come about theirs in a more illicit manner -- learning from the magical 'underworld', if you will. Together they work to find the source of magic that is Fillory, without which it will cease to exist, and that very source is under attack. As with the first book, 'The Magicians', the tone of this story is dark, the energy is primordial and raw. There are things that can go dreadfully wrong, and they do.

Caution: Swearing and strong language throughout (unnecessary, in my opinion). ( )
  MomsterBookworm | Jul 14, 2014 |
This sequel to The Magicians is definitely not a stand alone book. You have to read the first one to understand the characters & their back stories. However, for the first time, we get to see Julia's back story, dark & sad as it is, as well as her evolution into something much more than the mere girl she started out as. Harry Potter these books are NOT. They are dark, full of choices & regrets, but also full of magic, wonders, & quests. Quentin is the tragic hero of the book, & even though I was really bummed at the ending, it left me mentally screaming UNFAIR, but then again, it drives home the hard life lesson that life itself isn't fair either. It did leave me hopeful for a third installment, to see what Quentin can do next, as well as what Bingle & Julia find on the Far Side of the world..... ( )
  Lisa.Johnson.James | Apr 11, 2014 |
I did not like this one as much as the first book, but it was still entertaining. Sequel to The Magicians, it got a little weird at the end with the god-complex thing, and I did not feel like the ending addressed the whole book. Really love his writing style though, funny and full of 'fucks'.
( )
  wluce12 | Mar 19, 2014 |
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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.
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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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