Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Review: The Magician King

The Magician King (Magician - Book 2) by Lev Grossman
Publication Date: August 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: Hardcover, 416pp
ISBN-13: 9780670022311

(Received for an honest review from Viking)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Lev Grossman on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Excerpt from
The Magician King
Book Trailer: This is a fan video that' very well done.


Quentin Coldwater should be blissfully happy. He escaped a miserable Brooklyn childhood for Brakebills, a secret and exclusive college for magic in upstate New York. When he graduated he discovered that Fillory, the magical utopia described in a series of children's fantasy novels he never quite outgrew, was real.

Fillory was a far more dangerous place than Quentin could have imagined, and he faced unspeakable tragedies there. But now Quentin and his friends have become the kings and queens of Fillory and under their reign, Fillory is a peaceful kingdom. But Quentin is restless. He hasn't escaped the scars of his past, and the peace and luxury of his life in Fillory will prove more fragile than anyone expects.

After a royal morning hunt takes a sinister turn, Quentin's doubts get the better of him. With Julia, a queen of Fillory and Quentin's high school friend, in tow, he charters a magical sailing ship and heads off to the farthest reaches of Fillory. He is in search of adventure - the thrill and sense of purpose only a heroic quest can bestow. Instead his journey takes them to the last place Quentin wants to be: his parents house in Chesterton, Massachusetts.

Quentin is a magician and a king, but even he can't rescue them from suburban America. Only the dark, twisted sorcery Julia learned in the seedy back alleys of the Brooklyn underground magic scene can put them on the road back to Fillory. But when Julia takes center stage, so too does her story, and with it the secret of the terrible price she paid for her power. As Quentin and Julia follow a trail of clues from Brakebills to Venice to the home of the real-life children who appeared in the Fillory novels, they gradually discover a more sinister, more powerful threat than any they've faced. And they must fight death and despair in a world that is very far from the bright, simple fantasy novels they read as children.


Time magazine critic Lev Grossman takes readers back to the imaginary world of Fillory in the second book in the Magician's series. The Magician King is a fantasy novel that is reminiscent of the works of C.S. Lewis and pays homage to the world of Narnia. Grossman's take on the heroes journey is anything but predictable. His characters are deep and complex and the situations they find themselves in are both realistic and off-the-wall at the same time. Fantasy enthusiasts will fall in love with this novel, while fans of other main stream genres will find something new and unexpected.

Quentin Coldwater and his friends are no longer typical young adults. The are the kings and queens of Fillory. But life isn't all luxury and roses. Fillory is peaceful, with no villains attempting to usurp the throne, no wars to be fought or wrongs to be righted. And it's obvious to everyone that Quentin is indeed restless. When he decides to take his high school friend Julia on a quest into the far reaches of Fillory, Quentin doesn't expect to end up at his parents home in suburbia. It will take more than your average magical abilities to get Quentin and Julia out of this mess. But what Quentin didn't learn at Brakebill's college of magic, Julia learned the hard way in the back alleys. Their quest to return to Fillory becomes more than just a little adventure, as they face death and learn that true happiness isn't easy to come by.

Author Lev Grossman might be a gifted critic but it is becoming more obvious with each book, that he is a talented writer as well. He introduced readers to the land of Fillory in
The Magicians and builds on the complex characters and dynamics in The Magician King. Both novels are exceptionally well crafted literary fantasy. Readers have likened Grossman's work to some great authors from the past, including C.S. Lewis and though I see the similarities, I think Grossman's idea of fantasy is somewhat more grounded.

Grossman uses a lot of fantastic elements like talking animals, but his characters are very realistic. His main character Quentin Coldwater isn't your typical hero. He isn't the attractive, muscular man who gets the girl and rides off into the sunset. He has some real issues and Grossman does a wonderful job of showing just how real Quentin is. He gets tired and restless and he certainly isn't perfect. He doesn't always make the right decisions, he gets mad and ugly at times, depressed and then turns around and gets happy. Normal young adult if you ask me. I liked Quentin. He was unconventional, unpredictable and very entertaining.

Quentin wasn't the only interesting character. I found myself drawn to Julia as well. Her story being the one most explored in this novel. She didn't make the entrance exams at Brakebills like the rest of the gang, her trajectory in life was very different. She learned magic, but not in a clinical safe environment, in the streets and the alleys where it was more cutthroat and you did what you had to do to survive. She's spunky, full of sass and she paid a heavy price for what she learned. Grossman portrays her as a very formidable foe and that was kind of cool.

One thing I love about the fantasy genre, is that the writer has so much room to work. Grossman creates a whole new world in these novels. He gets to build it from scratch and populate in any way he wants. But it has to appeal to the audience. I think Fillory is in theory somewhat like Narnia, but certainly not an exact replica. Grossman has the ability to describe his world in such a way that the reader can see it vividly in their minds eye and understand what he's after. He uses a lot of pop culture references in the book that keeps the reader grounded in their own time, but still a part of an alternative world. In my opinion this book is fantasy at it's best. Realistic characters, extreme world building, and fantastic situations!

The Magician King is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this book 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Lev Grossman is Time magazines book critic. He has written articles for The New York Times, Salon, Entertainment Weekly, Time Out New York and the Village Voice. He lives in Brooklyn.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I was extremely weary of reading this trilogy due to all the negative flack it received because of Harry Potter. After reading through the first one, I was almost positive JK Rowling was cooking up a suit since he used words that were strictly hers such as, "Thestrals." If you can manage to get through the first one, then I highly recommend you make it through to the last. The second book is great and the third is the best in the series.
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