The Magician King by Lev Grossman
The Monday after Thanksgiving in 2015 I found myself alone in an unfamiliar state and a day of travel looming ahead without a single book in my possession. Flying out to Michigan, I had resorted to reading books on the library’s phone app and decided, while convenient, it was definitely not my preferred way to read. Perhaps someday I’ll invest in a Kindle or Nook but at the time, I was desperate. So, without any other ideas, I headed to Barnes and Noble, a place I feel at home regardless of what city I am in. Next thing I knew, I was trying to justify buying three new books and a fancy journal. After some internal debating and a quick look in my wallet, I narrowed it down to two books in the beginning of The Magicians series by Lev Grossman. I managed to finish the first, The Magicians, on my travels and started the second, The Magician King right away. And then the rest of the holidays hit, Netflix summoned, and it was a lost cause for the rest of 2016. Hence, when I decided to tackle a reading challenge in the New Year, The Magician King was quite a natural choice as my first novel to read.
The Magicians series is a fantasy series about, you guessed it, magicians. Unlike many fantasy tales however, the series is based for the most part in modern day New England and follows the life of Quentin Coldwater, a student at the magical college Brakebills. The Magicians ended with a climatic magical struggle and promises of many more adventures to come for the characters. Okay, fair warning, spoilers ahead for at least The Magicians. I’ll try to keep spoilers, especially any for The Magician King, to a minimum! Now, perhaps the reason I let The Magician King fall to the wayside temporarily is because I found the beginning to be a bit, well, whiny. You have Quentin who seems to have achieved his life long dreams and become quite literally a king in the magical world of Fillory and yet he still isn’t satisfied. The beginning of the book sets this up quite clearly with him moping around and following his inner dialogue of how unhappy he is. Don’t let this deter you though because once I picked up the book again and read further, his moping around becomes a pretty important plot point as he actually gets kicked out of Fillory accidentally and must find his way back. Naturally, chaos ensues and the adventure is one.
For any of those who read The Magicians, you may remember Julia, who is more of a side character. One of the aspects of The Magician King that I enjoyed particularly is that it broke away from just Quentin’s perspective and gave us chapters from Julia’s point of view. For the most part, her chapters followed what happened to her concurrently with The Magicians story line. This, as well as various travels throughout Earth by the main players, gave much more of an insight into the magical world as a whole and helped to give the entire series more substance. I thoroughly enjoyed Julia’s chapters and she grew on me as the book went on and her backstory was revealed.
As for the ending, without giving to much away, it follows a similar pattern to The Magicians in that the readers are led to believe one thing but up comes a twist. I loved it. One of the great things about Lev Grossman’s writing is that he doesn’t leave gaping plot holes abound. Small, seemingly insignificant scenes or characters come to play an important part as the adventures move forward. This can be seen in Julia’s character alone. In The Magicians, she is a side character whose interactions with Quentin merely seem to show how far attached he has become from his previous, non-magical life. However, in The Magician King, it become obvious how important her role in the magical world is. It tickles my heart when authors write those types of events and characters in. The universe they write feels more whole and realistic and I could lose myself in it entirely.
Overall, my first new novel of 2017 was a hit in my books. It didn’t exactly break from my normal fantasy ridden bookshelf, but it was a refreshingly different take on the fantasy genre, mixing magic with modern day society. Taking it to another level, it hit right at home with me as a transitional story of Quentin trying to find where he belongs and is happiest in the world (or worlds in his case). As a somewhat recent college graduate still technically in my early twenties, I could say I’m in a similar position, just, sadly, not in a land full of magic.
Anyways, on that deep, metaphorical note, on to the next book. Since Lev Grossman was kind enough to finish the series before I picked it up, I am going to go ahead and finish the trilogy with The Magician’s Land. On a non-book related note, The Magicians was actually turned into a tv series somewhat recently so in between my readings while I’m off doing other tedious essential tasks, I may watch that. If anybody has seen it, let me know what you think! I’m wary of books turned to movies or tv series, but I’m always willing to give it a chance.
See ya on the flip side.
(image from Wikipedia)