I branched out from sci-fi for a hot second to FINALLY get this book from the library where it sat on hold for a good four months. I literally got the third book within a day. Who are all these people just reading the sequel?
Back to Fillory we go. Quentin Coldwater is now king of the magical realm, having abandoned boring old Earth with his friends Janet, Eliot, and Julia. Yes, he’s still a bit of a twat. Yes, he’s still very Holden Caulfield. But it’s tempered a little bit more in this novel. He’s grown up some. He doesn’t make so many stupid decisions, he reviews his choices in meaningful ways. In other words, he’s finally hit his late twenties.
And thank God, because I’m not sure I could have stood another book full of him whining when he has magical powers. There’s a crisis brewing in Fillory, and the rest of the world. The old gods are returning, and they don’t care that we love using magic. They’re going to take it back. Quentin and company need to find the seven golden keys to something something. It’s unclear.
The Magician King goes full Narnia versus the very clear Harry Potter narrative of the first novel. And just like the first, it’s a deconstruction of the genre and it’s many cliches. Why are there quests and adventures? Why are they just handed out? Quentin doesn’t seem to care too much, he just had to find meaning in his life and the only way to do that is to do vague quests that accomplish goals but really don’t explain how they accomplish them. Somehow, it hits surprisingly close to home, since I also am an angsty teenager in a grown man’s body.
I can’t say it’s as good as the first one. But it still is intensely creative. Lev Grossman is a fantastic writer. He’s clearly way smarter than me and even though he bashes it through my skull several times a chapter, I still enjoy it. But the same flaw pervades this book that it pervades the first one. How am I supposed to care about characters when I don’t spend any time with them? Julia gets a huge flashback scene throughout the novel (which is good because I completely forgot who she was) and she meets many new important people. And I honestly still couldn’t tell them apart before they suffer horrible fates.
So again, what transpires here could possibly be spread out into two books, to make it more meaningful. But perhaps that isn’t the point. Perhaps I am supposed to be frustrated at the juxtaposition of climaxes and anti-climaxes. Either way I’m going to read the next one.
3 out of 4 stars.