Title: The Magician King (Magician #2)
Author: Lev Grossman
Publisher: Viking 2012
Rating: 5 / 5 stars
Reading Challenges: Fantasy; Mount TBR; Fall into Reading
How I Got It: I own it!
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.
I am completely in awe of this book right now. I finished it over an hour ago and am still waiting to decompress. My first thought was “Wow that was harsh” but in a good way. This series reminds me a lot of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. It has some wonderful fantasy elements, but also great discussions on philosophy and religion and life. And they both take a turn for the dark at some point. Yet, the dark made the stories more real, more grounded, even as they are set in very fantastical realms.
With the first book, I got a bit annoyed at Quentin and his whole “I am destined for something greater” attitude. It was a bit too teenage angsty. By the end of the first book, I was starting to get over it, but I still was a little annoyed. In this volume, Quentin grew into his own. He started to truly understand his place in the world (or worlds as the case may be) and I really grew to like him. Plus we meet up with some old friends (and not so much friends) along the journey. I loved seeing the characters deal with new and challenging obstacles. I even started to like Poppy by the end of the book.
My only issue with the book has to do with the format. The abrupt jumps between the present and Julia’s past were a bit jarring. They definitely took some getting used to. I had to keep reorienting myself to time and place. It was messing with my reading brain. Even though it bugged me a bit, I still loved being able to see what happened to Julia while Quentin was at Brakebills and beyond. Her story really brought everything together in the end. An excellent read.