Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

The Magicians told the story of Quentin, his times at magical college Brakebills, and the dazed and confused years after graduation. It's basically a grown-up, more angst-ridden Harry Potter. The sequel, The Magician King is in some ways even better.

At the end of the first book, Quentin and his friends defeated the Beast in the magical land of Fillory, though at great cost. As the second book starts, they are ruling Fillory as kings and queens. Unfortunately, Quentin isn't content to be the king of this magical world he has dreamt of since childhood. It's incredibly consistent with his character from the first book. He wasn't content being an overachiever with a promising future, he wasn't content with his relationship with Alice. It's kind of infuriating, but understandable. He wants something more, even if he can't express exactly what that something more is.

Quentin decides that what he needs is an adventure, so he sets off to visit some distant island that hasn't paid its taxes, ever. Once there, he stumbles upon a quest to collect the key that winds up the entire world. When he actually gets the key and turns it, he finds himself back on earth, right outside his parents' home. This wasn't quite the adventure he anticipated.

Of course, Quentin being Quentin, he is immediately unhappy with returning to earth and must return to Fillory by any means possible. He is joined in his earth adventure by Julia. In The Magicians, Julia had been Quentin's big crush. She also took the exam for Brakebills, but she failed. Anyone who failed was supposed to have their memory wiped, but it didn't take with Julia. She knew there was something she could have had, something missing from her life. Now she is somehow different, she uses powerful magic and doesn't use contractions.

Intermittent chapters in The Magician King tell about Julia's path to becoming magical, a hedge witch as Quentin calls her. They visit the half-way houses and magic underground where Julia first learned spells. Quentin's reaction to all this is absolutely delightful in its snobby pretentiousness. He reminded me of nothing more than Ted Mosby.

In the end, Quentin ends up with an even greater quest. There's gods and keys, a whole big adventure to save magic. Still, I can't imagine that Quentin is happy with how everything ends up, though Quentin isn't ever happy anyways. My favorite part of The Magician King is how it doesn't strictly focus on Quentin, the Harry Potter of the story. It wanders off and lets us know what happened with Ron, Draco, and even Dudley, the one magic doesn't choose. You realize that even the sidekicks want to be the hero of their own story, that sloths are awesome talking animals, and that sometimes you need to be happy wherever you happen to be, Quentin.

I received an advanced ebook of The Magician King from NetGalley. The book will be available in stores on August 9th.

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