Monday, March 20, 2017

The Magician King - Lev Grossman

The Magician King
Title: The Magician King
Author: Lev Grossman
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 400
Genre: Fantasy / Fiction
How I Found It: I read the first book.
Date Completed: 3/3/17

Summary: Quentin is getting bored with being a king of Fillory, the magical land about which he fantasized as a child. He knows his life is amazing, but he aches for adventure. In pursuit of this, he takes on more than he was expecting.

What I Thought: The first book in this series, The Magicians, is widely regarded as "Harry Potter for adults." I agree with and propagate that comparison in a lot of ways. The first book really dug into the debauchery of college days in the first half and dismantled any charming, fantastical views of magic (of both the reader and the characters) in the second half. There were definitely parts at which I found myself cringing. Grossman presented a much darker view of magic and its consequences than most fantasy books do. Unsurprisingly, I took a while before picking up this sequel. 

I was not sure I wanted to read the next book at all. I really went back and forth as to whether I wanted to plunge myself once again into the gloom of Grossman's magical world. When, however, the books got picked up and adapted into a TV series, I started watching casually. About halfway through the first season, I was itching to find out where the story goes in the books. The TV show has taken great liberty with timelines, details, and how they present the story compared to how Grossman does in the book. I'll post about the TV show at some point. I have some thoughts. What a surprise, right? Today, though, we're focusing on the second book in the series.

Once again, from the very first moments of this book, I was reminded of how much Grossman borrowed from C. S. Lewis' Narnia series. I like the familiarity, but I do wish he would have come up with a few more original ideas. From four kings and queens hunting a magical creature to sailing across an uncharted ocean on an ambiguous mission to deities in animal form, there are too many identical details for me. Still, it is interesting to hear the familiar strains of Narnia played with haunting, minor undertones. Sure, there is evil and darkness in Narnia, but not like there is in Grossman's world. 

All that being said, the darkness in this book was more magical and less behavioral. Quentin still is selfish and immature at points, but he's grown some. All of the human characters have grown. They aren't just college kids screwing around (literally) any more. They are carrying the scars of their experiences and the weight of their royal responsibilities. The darkest aspects in this book were definitely the flashbacks to Julia's parallel journey. Her plot does a wonderful job explaining and reflecting the emotional emptiness of her search for magic. 

Overall, this felt a lot more like an magical adventure novel to me. The connections to Harry Potter have faded away while the Narnia ones have been amplified. I enjoyed this one more than the first book, to be sure. It felt like one cohesive story and more fully formed than its predecessor in many ways. I liked the ending and I am really looking forward to seeing how Grossman finishes the series in the third book. 

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Probably not, but I plan to read the next one.
Other Books By Lev Grossman: The Magicians

A Reduced Review: The Brakebills crew have grown up some and their story is not more magical adventure than crazy college hi-jinks. It's a good change. 

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