Well I definitely couldn’t stop reading at the end of The Magicians, so here are my thoughts on The Magician King! So many series have a second book slump and I was absolutely floored that this sequel was even better than the first.
Bookish Quick Facts:
- Title: The Magician King
- Series: The Magicians, #2
- Author: Lev Grossman
- Publisher & Release: Viking, August 2011
- Length: 416 pages
- Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for fans of modern/contemporary fantasy
Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:
The Magicians was praised as a triumph by readers and critics of both mainstream and fantasy literature. Now Grossman takes us back to Fillory, where the Brakebills graduates have fled the sorrows of the mundane world, only to face terrifying new challenges.
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.
The Magician King is a grand voyage into the dark, glittering heart of magic, an epic quest for the Harry Potter generation. It also introduces a powerful new voice, that of Julia, whose angry genius is thrilling. Once again Grossman proves that he is the cutting edge of literary fantasy
I will do my best to keep this spoiler free.
So you guys know that I loved The Magicians. There was no sophomore slump in this series as Quentin, Elliot, Josh, and newish characters Julia and Poppy now have to save Fillory (and the entire multiverse) from the end of all magic.
First off – I loved Poppy. I would have paired her up with Quentin any day and she taught him a lot about optimism and perspective. Quentin finally identified “home” and was willing to fight for it. I loved when he embraced his sorcery and role. He learned what it takes to not only be a King, but a hero, and was willing to sacrifice everything for Julia at the end. Even if he had known the price I think he would have said yes.
That said, I am probably the only one but I don’t sympathize with the Julia story. She had it rough but she should have dropped it after failing the Brakebills exam. When she got a second chance to return to normalcy and rejected that too – she made her choice.
The book got absolutely brutally grimdark towards the end as the hedgewitches essentially got what they asked for when knocking on the gods’ door. They endangered magic everywhere and were just idiotically out of their league. I would have liked to know more about why the Free Trader Beowulf clan members weren’t chosen for magic school to begin with, what was the test really looking for? They were so smart yet didn’t seem to consider the consequences of their actions
Their journey was interesting both philosophically and from a religious standpoint. It was fascinating to follow their train of thought on religion as an objective study, translating to magic ….. but … I have to wonder what exactly they were thinking, to go from not trusting anyone to setting up a huge summoning which a total stranger presented! For being such geniuses they really did not think their plan through, and then the world went grimdark.
No spoilers but it takes a lot to make me cringe, and I was cringing. I read an interview where Grossman stated that he thought the most broken people made the best creative works, and translated that into magic for the story. The characters make so much more sense now.
All in all: I loved this one. I liked the hedgewitch magic theory vs. religion, even if their levelling system was stupid. I liked Quentin’s character growth. I liked the humor. I liked Josh’s comeback. The magic was huge, dark, and wild in this one.
Mark Bramhall is once again a fantastic narrator as well. I think with the humor and swearing and inflection, so much inflection, the audio narration brings a lot to this book. I liked closing my eyes and envisioning Quentin storming the watchtower. The end was wonderful too. I think he does a great voice for Elliot, Josh and Quentin, and brings a lot of excitement and sorrow where appropriate.
Here are a handful of my favorite quotes:
“You didn’t get the quest you wanted, you got the one you could do.”
Grossman took a bit of time exploring what it is to be a hero
“Maybe this was one of those times when being a hero didn’t involve looking particularly brave. It was just doing what you should.”
Probably Quentin’s single biggest moment of character growth. Gosh I loved his protectiveness towards Eleanor and Benedict
“You’re saying the gods don’t have free will.”
“The power to make mistakes,” Penny said. “Only we have that. Mortals.”
An amazing bit on the gods – what is greatness if they can’t love their creation? Magic! Quentin loved magic, he deserved it! He would fight for it!
“It’s true,” Eliot said. “Statistically, historically, and however else you want to look at it, you are almost never right. A monkey making life decisions based on its horoscope in USA Today would be right more often than you. But in this case, yes, you were right. Don’t spoil it.”
Elliot’s story ARC warmed my cold little soul in this one too. He’s found his place, his assertiveness, he’s taken charge of his home, and he’s as hilarious as ever.
The only other thing too is that I really love both alternate cover editions, I don’t just like TV covers but look at Julia! It’s beautiful
That’s enough rambling, in a few weeks I’ll have my thoughts posted on the final installment of the trilogy!
4 replies on “The Magician King (book thoughts) by Lev Grossman”
I just reread this review and what you said (below) has made me add this to my March TBR.
“The book got absolutely brutally grimdark towards the end as the hedgewitches essentially got what they asked for when knocking on the gods’ door. They endangered magic everywhere and were just idiotically out of their league.”
Sounds too good to pass up!
Nice! This sounds like a fun series.
I’m happy you’re enjoying the series and the second is just as strong as the first!
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I love when second books come strong. Glad you’re enjoying this series.