The Magician King by Lev Grossman
Series: The Magicians #2
Also by this author: The Magicians
Published by Penguin on 2011-08-09
Also in this series: The Magicians
Return to Fillory in the riveting sequel to the New York Times bestseller and literary phenomenon, The Magicians, from the author of the forthcoming The Magician's Land. Quentin Coldwater should be happy. He escaped a miserable Brooklyn childhood, matriculated at a secret college for magic, and graduated to discover that Fillory—a fictional utopia—was actually real. But even as a Fillorian king, Quentin finds little peace. His old restlessness returns, and he longs for the thrills a heroic quest can bring. Accompanied by his oldest friend, Julia, Quentin sets off—only to somehow wind up back in the real world and not in Fillory, as they'd hoped. As the pair struggle to find their way back to their lost kingdom, Quentin is forced to rely on Julia's illicitly-learned sorcery as they face a sinister threat in a world very far from the beloved fantasy novels of their youth.
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.