The Magician King (The Magicians #2)
Lev Grossman, 2011
Disclaimer: This is the sequel to The Magicians. It is necessary to read the first book in order to understand what is happening in this book. Some spoilers for The Magicians may appear in this review.
Following their graduation from Brakebills and their adventures in Fillory, Quentin, Janet, and Eliot, along with non-Brakebills magician, Julia, have taken over as kings and queens of Fillory. Although life as a king is pretty much perfect, Quentin can’t help but long for an adventure. So when it comes up that they need someone to travel to the Outer Island to collect taxes, Quentin quickly volunteers himself. But little does he realize that this trip will throw him into an adventure bigger than even he had bargained for.
I’m incredibly glad that I stumbled upon this series. Often referred to as an “adult Harry Potter“, I think that its similarities to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe are what have drawn me to it. (It should also be said, Grossman can get away with the similarities by being so blatantly obvious about it – children finding their way to a magical world through an old piece of furniture, not being able to get back to that world the same way again, two kings and two queens, an animal that rules the magical land, only making an appearance when things are most dire or a task needs to be given out, and I could go on and on). As a huge fan of The Chronicles of Narnia, though, I found these obvious similarities endearing.
The biggest flaw that these novels have, in my opinion, is a lack of editing. The same as with the first book, I found this story dragging through the middle. A strong start, followed by a slow middle, followed by a huge plot twist that gets the story going again. Overall a really enjoyable story, but it’s that middle that could use a little work.
What surprised me most about this particular book was how much I enjoyed reading Julia’s back story. As the only one of the group who didn’t make it into Brakebills, she had her own way of becoming a magician – one that we know very little about going into this book. Interspersed between the present-day adventures, we are given chapters on how Julia found magic and what happened to her to make her a little bit “off”. The reason that I was surprised to be interested in these chapters was that I really hate Julia as a character. I still kind of hate her after hearing her back story, but at least it clears up a few things about why she’s so unlikable.
Overall, I found this to be a great second book in the trilogy. The quest for the keys and the reason they needed to be found was a really clever twist, as well as the way Julia’s story was tied into it. I also really enjoyed the reappearance of a few other characters from the first book. I highly recommend this series for anyone who likes a good magic-based fantasy book – especially those who enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia as a kid. I’m definitely looking forward to picking up the third book to see how Quentin’s story plays out.